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Wisconsin Requires Open Source, Verifiable Voting

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the honesty-is-for-sissies dept.

United States 375

AdamBLang writes "Previously covered on Slashdot, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle today signed legislation that "will require the software of touch-screen voting machines used in elections to be open-source. Municipalities that use electronic voting machines are responsible for providing to the public, on request, the code used." Madison's Capital Times reports "the bill requires that if a municipality uses an electronic voting system that consists of a voting machine, the machine must generate a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each elector that is visually verifiable by the elector before he or she leaves the machine.""

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KISS (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395850)


[T]he machine must generate a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each elector that is visually verifiable by the elector before he or she leaves the machine.

And how do we know that the prinout matches whatever counter is incremented within the computer? Being open source makes it tamper-resistent, not tamper-proof. Would it not be easier to just use a paper ballot in the first place? Then any recount could be performed against the actual ballots cast, not as a spot check against computer (glitches|fraud).

Re:KISS (3, Insightful)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395892)

if there is a doubt you ask for a recount and count .... the paper ballots!

duh ..

Re:KISS (3, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395919)


"if". Being that leadership of government is being determined, I'd prefer the actual cast ballots be counted. Canada does it in a few hours with 1/10th the US population (and the public can view the count I believe)

Re:KISS (3, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395894)

What I've always thought would be a good idea would be a computer to help generate the ballot, and then a separate computer to count those ballots.

This offers the advantages of multi-language ballots with brail, audio prompts, etc. And the resulting ballot is standardized so it can be read by both machine and human - and no "hanging chads".

The ballots can then be easily counted by another machine - and human validated as necessary.

The ballot-generating computer never needs to "count" - but it could do so as a spot check against the counting computer.

Re:KISS (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396028)

Check out what Oklahoma uses for a ballot.

Re:KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396119)

Check out what Oklahoma uses for a ballot.

I would, but I'm almost blind and I can't change the ballot's font size, and it won't read itself to me.

Re:KISS (2, Interesting)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396147)

Like EVM2K3 [sourceforge.net] ? :)

Re:KISS (4, Insightful)

mooneyd (233024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396163)

That's exactly how it should be done. Use a touch screen to make your choices, it prints out a op-scannable ballot you can hold in your hand and verify. You then stick it in one of two slots: the scanner slot or the shredder slot. That action will either confirm or reject your vote inherantly. If you reject the ballot, you can go through it again on the touchscreen, otherwise you are done.

And the machines should be developed by national research labratory in a completely open and transparent way. The source code, design plans and manufacturing process would be completely auditable by the public. No corporate control of voting machines. No security through obscurity.

Re:KISS (4, Insightful)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395895)

We can only move in the right direction.. This is a positive step to be sure, and as flaws in this system reveal themselves we will take further steps toward refining the process of preserving intergrity in the voting system.

The perfect democracy is a goal and can never really be perfectly attained... but it serves as a compass to keep us going in the right direction.

Re:KISS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395904)

Huh? What you are talking about could apply to anything. Nothing is "tamper-proof".

If it leaves a paper trail, then it is roughly equivalent to a paper ballot.

So here is my next question, are you stupid? Because I don't like stupid people. And they seem to proliferate here.

Re:KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395978)

OP called it tamper-resistant, not tamper-proof (asso many things will claim to be). What's the point you were making with your first sentance?

"If it leaves a paper trail, then it is roughly equivalent to a paper ballot."

Yes so why not use a paper ballot in the first place, rather than running around the indirect route?

"So here is my next question, are you stupid?"

Are you? Because I can't see much point in your post. It's brung little/nothing to the debate.

"Because I don't like stupid people. And they seem to proliferate here."

Yes they do. How about you help out and think before you post. Then at least if you have a point you can make it in a clear concise way.

Re:KISS (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395918)

I'm all about e-voting, but the way it's shaped up, I'm going to have to agree with you. Everybody fills it out with a #2 pencil, fill in the WHOLE bubble Grandma, then put your thumbprint in the corner, and stuff it in the nice locked box.

Even that probably isn't truly secure in our system. The joker who picks up the boxes will lob a couple in the lake on the way to get them counted.

Re:KISS (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395971)

. . .put your thumbprint in the corner . . .

No.

KFG

Re:KISS (4, Funny)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396022)

To elaborate on kfg's comment..."No. I'd rather not give my employer or corrupt union leader a way of tracing my ballot back to me. I appreciate my status of being employed and only wish to have my bones broken due to a skiing accident."

Re:KISS (5, Insightful)

HUADPE (903765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396029)

Agreed. One of the major tenets of democratic voting is the secret ballot. This is in and of itself a problem with electronic voting because the order of votes can be counted as well as the votes themselves. A determined individual can then match the order and time of votes to individuals as they signed in to the polling place. Non-secret ballots can allow for voter intimidation (will the new mayor fire people who voted against him?)

Re:KISS (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396050)

Mod parent up:

100% Correct
100% American
100% Insightful

Remember that one of the key points in an election is anonymous ballots. The entire point is that someone can't hold a gun to your head (or hold your family hostage, blackmail you, or do millions of other nasty things) to force you to vote the way they want you to. The moment a ballot can be traced back to its owner is the day our entire system will collapse.

Re:KISS (1)

edbosanquet (729289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396003)

then put your thumbprint in the corner,

Voting is supposted to anoymous. If I can be identified back to my ballot then I can be pursuaded to vote by a corrupt official.

Re:KISS (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396014)

...fill in the WHOLE bubble Grandma, then put your thumbprint in the corner

Ahhh, let's hear it for our anonymous voting system...

Re:KISS (1)

joschm0 (858723) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395944)

In addition to the paper ballot or receipt, a listing of all votes cast in a precient should be available after the polls close for the voters to verify that their voters were recorded properly. Of course, the paper receipt would have a randomly generated ID number which the voter to use to look up and verify their recorded votes against.

Maybe eventually we'll have a fair election. The last two were complete farces.

Re:KISS (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396207)

The problem with this is that your boss can ask to see your receipt to make sure you voted for the right guy. Failure to produce a valid receipt leads to your eventual firing for whatever excuse is necessary...

Re:KISS (3, Insightful)

cait56 (677299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395950)

That's why you also need a write-only audit trail produced
before the voter leaves the booth. A second paper copy is
certainly one form of a write-only audit trail.

Keep in mind that paper-ballots were far from perfect.
Counters could and did vote for people who neglected
to fill in for some contests, and/or create extraneous
marks on the ballot to make it retroactively ambiguous.

A print-out with full candidate names is a lot harder
to alter than a pre-printed form with Xs inside of boxes.

Re:KISS (1)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395972)

I think so. When you talk paper ballots people think it's just paper and pencil/pen, but it would be possible to use a computer to fill the ballot while allowing visual verification by the voter (helpful to prevent filling out the ballot incorrectly or to provide accessibility features).

The advantage to computers is that if they aren't tampered with and are implemented properly, they should provide a more accurate count than manually processing the ballots. Nice in theory, anyway.

Re:KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396140)

-- Dr. Spock, stardate 2822-3.

Dr. Spock? He's dead. I don't think he'll be coming up with new quotes.

Re:KISS (2, Insightful)

blazer1024 (72405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395998)

Voting systems are only as good as the people administering them. Even with the most super-secure systems, if you pay/kill off enough of the right people, it doesn't matter what the vote really was. Especially if you screw with random polling on television so it *looks* like the vote is going to head in the direction you want it to, as well... nobody's going to question the local news station's informal polls anyway.

If all that fails, just get plenty of dead people to vote. That what they do here in Albuquerque anyway.

Re:KISS (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396006)

The idea is that the printouts are saved just the way paper ballots would otherwise be saved, and if a recount is needed, you go back to that paper and thus any recound is performed against the actual ballots cast.

Re:KISS (3, Informative)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396042)

Being open source makes it tamper-resistent, not tamper-proof.

Somebody, probably not me or you will compile the final code to be run on some computer that we don't know the details of anyway. That somebody may know how to alter the code, maybe not.

I know of no way that a computer recount could happen without a paper trail.

Would it not be easier to just use a paper ballot in the first place?

I don't see how this is so difficult. Each voting place I've been to scratches off your name when you show up to vote off of a roster of registered voters, and there should be a total count of those registered which should equal the number of pieces of paper in the ballot box.

There can be simple large scantron type cards that are immediately sorted into something like X party, Y party and Z party, and maybe "other". These can be quickly gone though and if there was an X in the Y party box, something might be fishy. If the Z party box weighs more than the X party box which has more than Y, then Z won. It could counted if mass is that big of a controversy.

In this country, people have the right to anonymously vote for a particular candidate, but not to vote anonymously. It is known when you vote, and for good reason so that dead people don't go around voting over and over again or even live people.

What is so difficult with counting nominal data these days?

Re:KISS (2, Informative)

skiflyer (716312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396209)

What is so difficult with counting nominal data these days?

It's not difficult to count nominal data these days, it's difficult to verify (to yourself and outsiders) that no one along the way has been able to modify the count. In the paper ballot days, a simple recount is what was offered, this addresses mistakes, and malicious counters who lie about what they tallied. But it doesn't help with ballot stuffing or tossing the box into the river... so then you could have the ballots inspected, and a committee would check for comparisons between vote totals and vote sign ins, and so and so forth.

One of the major difficulties with electronic tabulation is that if you keep it super simple, there's no great way to go back and verify. Everything is at the word of the computer.

As far as your scantron solution, that's great for a single ballot initiative, but last time I voted we had well over a hundred... do I fill out a hundred cards?

Re:KISS (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396085)

The entropy of the human soul is unavoidable, but Open Source can help minimize the damage.
Re your sig:
How can you quote Lemmy without any Motorhead attribution? (He said, realizing that he wasn't crediting Devo in his own).

Re:KISS (3, Insightful)

oni (41625) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396089)

Just off the top of my head, I would say:
Give the voter a receipt that consists of, 1) a long randomly generated ReceiptID, 2) a plaintext record of the vote (as in, "you voted for Kodos"), and 3) a cryptographic signature.

So in other words, I have a peice of paper that I get to take home with me and on that peice of paper is written:
------ Begin PHP Signed Text -----
ReceiptID 243524534523423454345234234
Voted For: Kodos
------ Begin PHP Signatre Block -----
(signature here)
------ End PHP Signatre Block -----
------ End PHP Signed Text -----

After the election, you can publish the ReceiptIDs and vote records on a website. Anyone who wants to verify the authenticity of the election can tally all the votes themselves. If I want to make sure that MY vote counted, I can look it up. If I see that they changed my vote, I can come forward with my reciept. I can't change my receipt because it's crytographically signed. Nobody can find out who I am because my reciept number has nothing at all to do with me, it's just a random unique number.

(why is it that this stuff always seems easy to us slashdotians? Why do corporations always make it so complicated and broken??)

Re:KISS (4, Insightful)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396183)

The problem with a receipt is that it can then be used to make sure you voted a certain way.

corrupt boss: Joe, have fun voting, and be sure to bring back your receipt so I can know how you voted and decide if I'm going to fire you. Oh yeah, and if you don't have a receipt, I'll fire you.

Re:KISS (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396184)

This is a horrible idea, because it makes your vote public. This means you could buy votes -- ask people to show them the receipt with the unique ID and verify which way they voted. We have a secret ballot system for a very good reason.

Re:KISS (4, Insightful)

sam1am (753369) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396188)

As has been mentioned elsewhere; this is a bad idea, because you could be "persuaded" to share your receipt number with someone else, who could use it to verify you voted a certain way.

Guy sets up booth taking receipts that prove a vote for candidate A, you get $10.

Or more insidious, your boss tells you you need to vote for candidate A. In order to obtain your next paycheck, you must show your receipt that you voted for candidate A.

Once you leave the polling place, you should not be able to verify your vote to yourself or anyone else.

(Now, if you took that receipt and dropped it in the ballot box on the way out of the polling place, that's another story)

Re:KISS (1)

jgc7 (910200) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396096)

And how do we know that the prinout matches whatever counter is incremented within the computer?
Audit the machines.

Would it not be easier to just use a paper ballot in the first place?
No. It makes more sense to have a person input their vote on a computer and verify it on paper. Letting people fill out a ballot however they want and then having a computer try and interpret and count the votes doesn't make much sense. Think about the hanging and pregnant chads or butterfly ballots that confuse old people.

Parallel systems? (1)

addbo (165128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396142)

Couldn't they do what many organizations do when implementing a new system and run them both in parallel until they're sure the new system is working as it's supposed to?

I mean since this thing generates a verifiable paper ballot... then have humans count the ballots for a few elections and see if it matches the computer generated total... if they do match (or come really close... like within 0.001% or something) then you have verified that the system is working and that you can trust it for further elections without requiring a human count.

I don't believe they should trust the system totally right out of the box... and with a human count for the first few elections it'll help transition in the technology and allow people to become comfortable with it. You may still want to do random human counts on various ridings to see if the computer is still producing accurate results after the full human count phase. But reducing the human portion of an election helps to produce more accurate and efficient results. (And ultimately the costs required to hold each election...)

Re:KISS (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396170)

Correct. The paper ballot is still modifiable or "lost" if need be (it's just more difficult). Since it travels with the same person that collects the electronic votes there's not a whole lot of safety here.

However, it's better than nothing.

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395854)

First Post!

This should not be news. (0, Flamebait)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395859)

...but sadly, it is.

Re:This should not be news. (1)

lilmouse (310335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395900)

This is a celebration annoucement!

--LWM

Re:This should not be news. (0, Flamebait)

User 956 (568564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396174)

I think the real question here is, why does Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle hate America? And Freedom?

And Babies?


Common sense? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395860)

Common sense and open source prevailing? In America? Surely not!!

That's great, but (5, Funny)

LodCrappo (705968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395861)

unfortunately you will still have to vote for either a republican, a democrat, or someone who will lose.

Re:That's great, but (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395903)

Yes, but once Wisco goes open source it will be better than what it is currently: vote for a republican or someone who will lose.

Re:That's great, but (1)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395943)

Except that Kerry won Wisconsin in 2004.

Re:That's great, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396005)

Not if all the balots were counted. :)

Re:That's great, but (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396181)

Ah, but every vote on one of these babies is a vote for open source ;)

ABOUT GODDAMN TIME! (3, Insightful)

Mattness (636060) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395866)

Paper receipts should be a no brainer, as should be open source software for voting machines. Too bad this isn't occurring in every state, yet. Or is it? I am an ignorant person about this topic. Someone enlighten me.

Re:ABOUT GODDAMN TIME! (2, Funny)

SilverspurG (844751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395911)

will require the software of touch-screen voting machines used in elections to be open-source.
Likely, the moment the lobbyists get their move on this, open source will be redefined to be source code printed on punch cards submitted to the state archives under an NDA to be kept in a vault next to Hoffa's shoes and The Ring of Power.

The printed receipt is fine. Governments have known how to manipulate those for centuries.

Re:ABOUT GODDAMN TIME! (3, Informative)

General Fault (689426) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395928)

Nor should a voting system require a multi-function operating system like windows nt. Really, do we need something with more power than nasa had 10 years ago just for the ++ op of voting? See the solution that India [sepiamutiny.com] came up with. Cheap, simple, verifiable and easy to copy. Honestly, how many Mhz do you need to count a vote and how many MB do you need to store a tally?

PAPER RECEIPTS ARE BAD! (2, Informative)

justanyone (308934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395947)


There are two meanings for "paper receipts":
1. paper ballot which is the actual ballot, kept by the county clerk / election officials;
2. paper receipt, kept by the voter, proving they've voted and indicating who they voted for.

The latter concept is VERY BAD. It would encourage the ability of someone to buy an election by paying money or favors to someone in exchange for their receipt proving they voted for someone in particular.

This is the reason we have secret ballots - to make vote-buying quite difficult if not impossible.

Re:ABOUT GODDAMN TIME! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395985)

You have to be careful with paper ballots because the voter might have been asked to show their vote to someone else after leaving the polling station (eg, they may have been coersced into voting a certain way in order to get a ride back to the senior center...)

Some electronic voting places require that this paper not leave the voting precinct. But some places have been very lax on that security detail.

Yeah, for Verifiable Vote Fraud (1)

lax-goalie (730970) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396018)

Sorry, "paper receipt" is just a bad idea, despite how popular it is among some. Here's the next step: the paper receipt goes to a party boss so you can collect the payment for your vote, or to your boss or union rep to prove you voted the "right" way so you can keep your job.

Flame me if you want, but I've been a candidate, so I have a vested interest in the issue. As long as the machine doesn't say "Diebold", I'd rather take a chance on some totally improbable conspiracy to rig electronic ballots. That's way less risky than a return to old party machine politics.

Re:Yeah, for Verifiable Vote Fraud (1)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396196)

That's way less risky than a return to old party machine politics.

In the old days, getting elected was all about who had the most money to pay off voters. Now, it's about who has the most money to pay for media. At least under the old system, the voters got something besides good intentions and empty promises.

Re:Yeah, for Verifiable Vote Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396203)

I think you miss the point...

The voter votes,and the computer prints out a receipt. The computer themn prompts the voter - "Do these look right to you?" If no, then re-vote.

If yes, the system tallies the vote, thanks them and instructs them to place the printed copy of their ballot in a box - just like with a regular ballot.

If at some point officials think there is any sort of problem with the voting software, they still have a verified copy of who the voter voted for.

As long as we have the code... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395876)

... it does not matter what's used in the executable.

Thank you very much (2, Interesting)

stevenm86 (780116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395884)

This is exactly what people have been saying all along. It is not a good idea to trust the numbers that the machine keeps track of electronically somewhere. Some sort of paper trail is definitely a good idea. Even a simple line printer that sits in the back of the room somewhere, printing a short summary of every cast ballot would work because it provides a paper trail that can be verified by a human.
Question is, why aren't other states doing this?

Re:Thank you very much (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395963)

Eh. What if the machine changes every 50th vote, so it's wrong even in the paper trail?

Either the process needs to be wholly transparent and heavily audited, or we need to move back to paper. I just flat out do not trust these companys who make the machines. Every damn one of them is crooked.

Re:Thank you very much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396015)

"he machine must generate a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each elector that is visually verifiable by the elector before he or she leaves the machine"

You are an idiot.

Re:Thank you very much (1)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395968)

Cost.

Unfortunately, (4, Funny)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395886)

There's also a provision that the voting machines be made out of cheddar.

Re:Unfortunately, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396061)

What?! Such a blatantly cheesist act cannot be allowed. Just because cheddar is the most popular choice does not mean those who like other cheeses can be ignored. I, for one, refuse to use anything but a colby jack device.

We don't need to allow swiss though. Those people are just freaks.

Re:Unfortunately, (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396084)

Hell yea. And attended by milkmaids of German and Dutch descent.

-everphilski-

Uh oh! I see the next calamity approaching! (5, Funny)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395891)

So instead of people who can't figure out how to punch the proper hole, now we'll have people pushing the wrong button, accidentely pushing the "Are you sure?" prompt's "OK" ....

Oh wait, whew, Wisconsin, not Florida...

Re:Uh oh! I see the next calamity approaching! (2, Funny)

sucker_muts (776572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396136)

This one?
Link. [ebaumsworld.com]

Re:Uh oh! I see the next calamity approaching! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396197)

fuck ebaums

This is amazing (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395896)

Municipalities that use electronic voting machines are responsible for providing to the public, on request, the code used.
This isn't like North Carolina requiring that the source be placed in escrow, they're actually requiring it be available to the public.

I can't wait to see what http://www.blackboxvoting.org/ [blackboxvoting.org] has to say about this one.

It means they won't have to jump through fucking hoops just to test the machine (like in California)

Re: This is amazing (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395962)

> This isn't like North Carolina requiring that the source be placed in escrow, they're actually requiring it be available to the public.

Though it won't make much difference if they also decide to ignore the new law when no vendors offer anything compliant.

Doesn't precude bar codes (2, Insightful)

justanyone (308934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395899)

There seems to be (happily) no preclusion of printing bar codes indicating the choices underneath the names of the candidates. This should allow for rapid and accurate scanning and counting. Ballots can be verified by hand or other (possibly 3rd party) means to prove that the bar codes equal the name on the ballot.

This will speed up and make more accurate the counting vs. OCR of the candidates' names.

Re:Doesn't precude bar codes (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396128)

Um damn it for the first time in my life (on /. anyway) i'm putting in my tinfoil hat. If you rely on barcodes how are you going to know the barcode corrosponds to your candiate of choice. What if they use candidate 1's bar code for both canidates? What about write ins?

Machine *and* Final counter ? (1)

PHOOsun (935753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395906)

So the machine I/O will be avalible for examination ?

What about making the whole system from there through to the final count automated ?

Or is it still going to need a few recounts to be seen to be "fair"

making humans do the work of computers is silly!

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395909)

This seems to be one step in the right direction hopefully they can avoid legal fiascos this way but does making it open source really help if the software is already reviewed? I suppose it cant hurt.

diebold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395916)

Diebold is getting right on this... : p

Nonsense (5, Interesting)

bheading (467684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395927)

It hardly matters if it is open source. Who will compile it before it is uploaded to the machine ? Who will check that the correct software is loaded ? Who will check the guy doing the checking ?

Automated vote counting of any kind - electronic or mechanical - makes fraud considerably easier, puts a mystery shroud around the counting process and as such is incompatible with democracy. In the UK we count all the votes in our elections within 12 hours including the odd recount. Why are Americans obsessed with diluting their democracy by using machines to do it ?

Re:Nonsense (2, Interesting)

Whafro (193881) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396025)

the board of elections in your local municipality (depending on state, etc) is responsible for choosing the machines and the software. These are either elected officials or are appointed by elected officials, and therefore responsible for representing your interests.

The Board of Elections is responsible for ensuring that the correct software is loaded, and you, as a voter, will check the Board of Elections.

Elections don't just happen, they are overseen by people you put there, directly or indirectly.

The open source element just ensures that even if the Board of Elections has no idea about what the computer code is actually doing, that the greater community will be able to make that check and balance.

With a punch card or even a mechanical voting machine, you can see and understand how it works. By making the code for these machines open source, that same consumer/voter check and balance is being provided-- or, at least, that's the idea.

This does not address the other tampering that can happen. If you want to ensure that your elections are clean and untampered, then make sure you pay attention next time your local board of elections is up for appointment or election.

Re:Nonsense (2, Interesting)

bheading (467684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396175)

the board of elections in your local municipality (depending on state, etc) is responsible for choosing the machines and the software. These are either elected officials or are appointed by elected officials, and therefore responsible for representing your interests.

Presumably they're elected in a vote which will be counted by one of the electronic machines they've bought ? What makes you convinced that corruption or (more realistically) incompetence cannot interfere with the result of an election ? Do you think your elected representatives would have the skills to, say, recompile code or get checksums to confirm that the correct load had been installed, and that no tampering had taken place ?

Elections don't just happen, they are overseen by people you put there, directly or indirectly.

You're talking as if elected representatives are infallible and incorruptible. They aren't.

In the UK, if I am a candidate in an election I can watch each vote being counted, right there in the countroom. I don't have to trust a bureaucrat who doesn't know what he is doing to make sure the count is done properly. Because I can see the votes, and they are not hidden in the bowels of a machine or of a computer, I can be personally assured that no attempt has been made to disenfranchise my voters. How can you even begin to provide that guarantee with automated vote counting ?

With a punch card or even a mechanical voting machine, you can see and understand how it works.

I don't get why you guys are coming off with this kind of response KNOWING how in Florida 2000 we all got to see how it did NOT work, and how people got confused or thrown off by their poor understanding of how it DID work. Through what may be deliberate fiddling, or more likely incompetence, the ballot paper in parts of Florida made it potentially unclear to some people who they were voting for, and unclear to those counting the votes who the voter had actually voted for. That is what I call a total farce, and it couldn't have happened if the election had been conducted using a simple sheet of paper with a handwritten X scrawled next to the chosen candidate.

Re:Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396027)

You could say the essence of Democracy is choosing if we want those systems or not. Electronic voting does not necessarily dilute democracy any more than hand counting does. There are provisions to make sure hand counting produces accurate results, similar provisions can apply to machines. Granted, there is always the factor of human error even when machines are doing the counting and there is the occasional faulty machine. I think the point of making it open source is one step towards eliminating some of those errors. You'll never have a perfect system but you can continue to keep troubleshooting your system so everyone is satisfied.

Re:Nonsense (4, Funny)

killmenow (184444) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396102)

Why are Americans obsessed with diluting their democracy by using machines to do it ?
Shhh! It's easier to control the populace this way. Now shut up!

Re:Nonsense (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396167)

Automated vote counting of any kind - electronic or mechanical - makes fraud considerably easier, puts a mystery shroud around the counting process and as such is incompatible with democracy. In the UK we count all the votes in our elections within 12 hours including the odd recount. Why are Americans obsessed with diluting their democracy by using machines to do it ?

I don't disagree with you at all. I will, however, add that the difference in population size may have something to do with the US wanting to automate things.

I'm also unfamiliar with the UKs various measures et al that are put to a vote. In the US, a RIDICULOUS number of things are put to ballot.

as long as the fraud is in electronic voting (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395936)

the competing non-fraudulent technology will have to be electronic.

it's how the human brain works. electronic is seen as the next step.
so the good guys have to be electronic too.

if people try a completely different route, that entire class of technology is going to be ignored.

it's idiotic but true.

Paper Trail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14395965)

Isn't voting supposed to be anynomous for those who wish so?

non-american heratic :-)

buried in the legalese (4, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395970)

the bill requires that if a municipality uses an electronic voting system that consists of a voting machine, the machine must generate a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each elector that is visually verifiable by the elector before he or she leaves the machine.

Of course buried in the legalese was the rest of the bill:

The vote-tallying software shall be closed source and shall be owned in whole by Diebold. As such, the printed ballot shown to elector may have no bearing on actual vote recorded. Names may be substituted based on (1) party of candidate (2) intelligence of choice (3) corruption in district (4) time of day (5) OR if you live in Palm Beach or Broward County, pure whimsy. Additionally, elector may be fined or audited based on vote case, or in extreme cases, placed on the National Do-Not-Fly list and scheduled for investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

To what extent? (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14395976)

Will the BIOS and firmware also have to be open source? Maybe this move will give some hardware manufacturers an incentive to start providing this.

Sing it! (1)

PMuse (320639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396007)

Hallelujah!

(The above is not to be construed as an endorsement of any particular religion, or religion in general.)

Things are moving along... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396008)

Once we have a reliable computer voting system politicians will become redundant. Instead of voting for a president we can vote AS presidents (and senators, and representatives, and mayors, and so on). I have a friend who strongly believes the USA will become the first true democracy by voting itself as such in the 2012 elections....with all that has been happening, I think he might be right.

Sounds great ... (0, Troll)

SengirV (203400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396044)

... provided we stop all the dead from voting Democratic as well.

Re:Sounds great ... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396133)

They just make up for the minority citizens who couldn't vote because of the lack of voting machines, thugs at the door, etc.

Still not that great (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396052)

What would really be nice for secure voting would be a system of encrypted voting. Everyone writes their vote to a small disk or USB dongle twice: once cleartext, once encrypted with a public key. On Election Day the dongle is plugged into the open-source voting machine, which increments the vote-count of the appropriate candidate based on the cleartext version and associates the encrypted vote in a database with the voter's identity.

If at any point the vote needs to be verified or the voter contests the way their vote was registered said voter simply decrypts their encrypted vote with the necessary private key. Doing so violates the principle of the secret ballot, but unfortunately that's what must be done in order to verify that a vote was registered correctly, unless you simply run the election over again.

Re:Still not that great (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396091)

If I may correct myself, using public key cryptography would allow vote tampering in this case. A single, private key should be used.

Democracy run amok! (3, Funny)

second class skygod (242575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396073)

They're acting as if they want to avoid rampant abuse and fraud. While it sounds great, I don't think America is ready for such a radical notion.

-- scsg

Re:Democracy run amok! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396149)

Dont you fret, I doubt there will ever be an election where America will avoid a law suit or scandal with regards to the voting system

The greatest democracy? (1)

jaclu (66513) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396080)

Carma burning time ;)

I find it somewhat amusing that the country that brags to the world that they are such a great democracy, are having such a hard time to perform something as basic and simple as a vote without the citizens suspecting foul play and cheating all the time...

Isnt it some kind of generel error with a system when the major issue is not what to vote on, but if the voting process wasn't rigged?

Of course its good that the citicens can keep control on the elections, but why not just handle it like most of the rest of the "democratic" world, vote with paper notes, and have a public count for each election-locale where representatives from all parties who wants, can monitor the counting process.

That way there cant be any suspicions of rigged results - everything is public, and nobody can cheat.

Somehow I realy dont see the point in making elections electronic, since all machine-stored results is based on a chain of trust, since that trust doesnt exist, why not stick to paper?

Re:The greatest democracy? (1)

jollyroger1210 (933226) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396159)

Hey, the Romans in Sparta had no problems with just using beans. The only way to cheat was to knock ove the basket/jar with the beans in it, hoping to knock out a few of the oponents beans. Thus, the term "don't spill the beans".

What about .... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14396081)

The article states that "any device used". To me that implies that each county is responsible for deciding which machine they use. Is the state making sure that any system used also uses a standarized format for the results?

Also, just because you publish some source, that is no guarantee that that was the source that went into creating the binaries that are being executed. Are they going to use a mechanism to verify that a vendor publishes the exact source? Are they going to force vendors to react to bugs found within a specific timeframe. After all, someone examining the source could find a problem and potentially use it as an exploit, this usually isn't an issue because you're banking on someone else also finding the problem and being open/honest about it, but for something like voting, is that good enough? It seems like a lot of focus is being given to it being open source, but is ignoring other software deployment issues.

Federal Mandate Time (4, Insightful)

Kefaa (76147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396100)

Can someone explain why we can standardize street signs and the amount of sugar allowed in school lunches but we cannot get a standardized election system?

After the 2000 election debacle, we had money thrown at the states to "fix the problem." So we ended up with 35 different solutions.

A simple federal mandate - the voter must be verifiable, their vote must be able to be able to be authenticated after they leave the booth, in the event of a recount and the system can be fully audited. Instead, we have systems with no paper trails, questionable vendor operations, and seemingly contradictory election results.

We can make millions of secure stock sales, bank transfers and on-line purchases daily, and we cannot get a vote counted and auditable? The people who produced these machines should be fired for stupidity and forced to return our money.

Upper Midwest FTW (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396104)

Wisconsin was also the state that delegated district boundary duties to a third party, to try and prevent Gerrymandering. I live in Minnesota, and I can say with some certainty that there must be somethhing up here that makes us slightly saner than the rest of the country. And I'm glad.

It's only a matter of time... (1)

Kesch (943326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396138)

So when will we begin seeing extensions for our voting machines?

Not really Open Source (3, Informative)

hweimer (709734) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396160)

From TFB [state.wi.us] :

5.91 (19) The coding for the software that is used to operate the system on election day and to tally the votes cast is publicly accessible and may be used to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the operating and tallying procedures to be employed at any election.

This is somewhat less than what is usually meant by the term "Open Source" [opensource.org] . But it seems that at least voting machines running a completely closed operating systems are ruled out.

Not the count, but the recount that's important... (2, Interesting)

Ramses0 (63476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396166)

"""How do you recount? Election results must be reproduceable by a human afterwards, especially if a virus or spyware got into the election results (either on purpose, or with malicious intent). Open Voting has this part figured out by producing a paper ballot that can be validated without the use of a computer, or you can use a computer to check it faster."""

http://www.robertames.com/blog.cgi/entries/links/v ote-hacking-2004.html [robertames.com]

Links have broken with time, but here's an updated link to Open Voting...

http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/modules.php?na me=FAQ&myfaq=yes&id_cat=11&categories=Security%2C+ Resiliency%2C+Integrity%2C+Reliability [openvotingconsortium.org]

Their systems are reallly neat and they've had a lot of smart people looking at the problem. I've not been involved in it, but have read some of their documentations, and promised myself that I'd speak up and give them google-juice anytime voting came up. Some highlights:

    - Commodity hardware / software

    - Open source code

    - Paper "receipts" that can be verified by:

        * Sight

        * Barcode

        * Audio / Visual

        * Separate "reader / recounter"

    - Accurate computer counts (ie: select count(*) from votes group by person)

    - Paper trail for recounts (re-count manually or computer assisted the receipts), with useful information hidden in the water-marked receipts (kindof like scantron stuff, where both computers and humans can read it). ...all in all it seems like a pretty good system and like I said they've done a lot of thinking about it.

--Robert

Teriffic! (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396168)

The voting mechanism will be smarter than the candidates!

SO . . . say I'm a sysadmin living in Florida and related to Dubya . . . d'ya suppose I could just noodle the count a teensy bit . . . no? How 'bout losing some of those packets, especially the ones with dangling or pregnant electrons? No? What are you, a damned democrat or something?

Sorry folks, you can't get rid of corruption that way; you can only make it pick up and move somewhere else (read: some other element of the electoral process). Build a better mousetrap and nature keeps answering with better mice.

George Bush did <blink>not</blink> steal the last election! As long as nobody looks, it's okay, right? After all, we had a "paper trail" from that election, but we still couldn't figure out what actually happened. The courts wisely held that collapsing the wave function was unconstitutional.

We're all adults here - I don't need <SARCASM> tags, right?

They bother voting in Wisconsin... (1)

kalbzayn (927509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14396214)

I thought they just gave the job to whoever the Democrat is.

Should be interesting to track the change, though. I have relatives in Wisconsin that are very set on voting, but are not computer friendly at all. Getting them to make the change should be entertaining. There comfort level is based on the old system, and any change about something they view as important as voting will make them very nervous. But, they are in small enough of an area to where they will probably be using paper for quite a while longer.
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