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OSS Election Systems Desired, but Not Ready

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the more-than-ready dept.

182

An anonymous reader writes "Even though many American voters are ready for open source systems at the polls, Newsforge (a Slashdot sister site) has an interesting story about why open source may not be ready for the polls. From the article: 'The only open source e-voting effort that Rubin [an e-voting expert] noted was the Open Voting Consortium (OVC). "I don't agree with everything they are doing, but they are all about transparency and open source," Rubin said. OVC President and CEO Alan Dechert says it would take a large investment of time and money to provide an alternative to traditional e-voting systems vendors, but he says an effort known as Open Voting Solutions (OVS) is looking to do just that.'"

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182 comments

OSS ready for the polls (0, Flamebait)

kc0re (739168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864083)

You know, I am an OSS guy as much as most of the people on Slashdot. I would love all software to be free, but then companies wouldn't make any money.

But if closed source polls can't get it right, what makes us think that OSS polls can? Again, I'm a big OSS advocate, and I would love to see OSS in the role for everything under the sun.
I don't think the public would know, however, if people were using OSS polls or a closed source poll. Nor do I think they would care...

but I would be willing to be that they would be more secure than their closed counterparts
I know i have read somewhere of someone hacking a voting machine..

But it all falls back on the basis of all software problems. The (software|hardware) is only as smart as the person operating it.

Re:OSS ready for the polls (1)

110010001000 (697113) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864100)

OSS would get it right cause there would be millions of eyeballs looking at the code and many more coders than Diebold! OSS always produces superior solutions.

Re:OSS ready for the polls (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864188)

I would have thought that the fundamental problem with closed source, in this particular application (not in general), is the fact that it is closed source. For elections to work it is important that the entire process be open to scrutiny. If something goes wrong, you need to be able to look through and find what/where... even if the only remedy is to say "bug x in function y of the source code makes this result invalid, we need to vote again using a different system (eg. paper)". But if the source is not available for scrutiny, you can't do this... you can look at the results and say "that's a bit odd", but you can't trace back to probable cause. This is precisely what closed source software can never get right, whereas OSS does by definition

Re:OSS ready for the polls (3, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864199)

But if closed source polls can't get it right, what makes us think that OSS polls can?

The difference is that, with an OSS voting system, if there's a problem with the code, the public will (be able to) know about it.

Compare that to Diebold and ask yourself how likely it is that they'd be forthcoming with crucial details if and when something goes haywire with their electronic voting machines.

Re:OSS ready for the polls (1)

Catbeller (118204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864792)

"The difference is that, with an OSS voting system, if there's a problem with the code, the public will (be able to) know about it."

How? How do you know the code running on any particular machine or within any process in the system hasn't been temporarily tampered with? How do you monitor the states of every function in the system in real time? How do you know if your monitor isn't being fed fake data?

You can't lock up a system if a motivated someone wants to subvert it, and knows what he's doing.

Paper ballots. Hand counted with two witnesses, one from each party. Or more. Totals tallied on paper and totals forwarded and verified in the presence of suspicious witnesses. Recounts at will, not when a margin becomes too small. They count by hand in Canada and other places, and all ballots are totalled within hours, and there aren't any problems. What the hell do we need computers for? (Ans: to cheat.)

I don't forsee the Republicans being voted out of total national power until those machines are decommissioned. They won't let themselves be kicked out. There's too much money at stake, trillions of dollars. Does anyone think that those who staged a poll riot in Dade county will blink at flipping a few districts Republican in key races? You think men who staged a war will care about the morality of staging an election?

Re:OSS ready for the polls (5, Funny)

jaseparlo (819802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864312)

The (software|hardware) is only as smart as the person operating it.

The same could be said for democracy...

Seriously, how can this be relevant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864328)

If the choice is between a free, as-perfect-as-can-be, open source voting solution versus Diebold... who do you think'll get the job?

This is a human problem.

Prostitute Schedule for Mar. 5 at the MBOT in SF (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864425)

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Open source and elections (1)

RudyValencia (728937) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864085)

I think that if open source software is used in elections, it will reduce ballot stuffing, political party bias by contribution, and possibly make elections fair for all involved, from candidates to voters.

Re:Open source and elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864142)

Do you live in Haiti or something?

In most of the western world, ballot stuffing is rather hard to do, even with simple paper & pencil voting sytems. Open source would not affect this practice either way, as it's a really inefficent way of rigging elections.

Open source also has nothing to do with changing the fact that some political parties have more money than others.

It also won't make the elections any more fair or unfair than they already are. The only thing that it may bring is some transparency to the process. Exposing frauds is not the job of open source.

Hippy in office (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864086)

NO. I love freedom too much to trust the pinks and the reds with my vote. The current system has worked perfectly so far, why change it?

Paper Ballots? (5, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864087)

What's wrong with paper ballots? They work great in Canada. We even have election results within a few hours, at most. As far as I can tell the only "downside" is that paper ballots are hard to rig elections with.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

nbcjr (797555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864101)

try using paper ballots with 200 million votes... Doesn't look too good.

Re:Paper Ballots? (4, Informative)

PenGun (794213) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864144)

The method used in Canada scales very well. What you have is this.

  Each voting district has an elections officer who assembles the hardware. Then groups composed of all parties do the actual work of taking the vote and counting the results. All the parties involved are at the count and it's pretty well impossible to spin the result.
  As this happens at an individual poll level it will scale effortlessly. We get our hand counted results about 3 -4 hours after the polls close.

  It'll never catch on in da USA as it makes it pretty well impossible to cheat.

      PenGun
    Do What Now ??? ... Standards and Practices !

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864158)

I think the problem is the timeliness of getting returns. People want election results fast. So, like everything else in politics they want it fast and easy, not slowly and accurately.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864163)

I think the problem is the timeliness of getting returns. People want election results fast. So, like everything else in politics they want it fast and easy, not slowly and accurately.

They can't wait a few hours?

Re:Paper Ballots? (2)

ToasterofDOOM (878240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864194)

That's us Americans you're talking about. How often have we been patient or reasonable?

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864220)

Well, the politics comment was my cyncism getting the better of me...

But let me put it this way. I live in Ohio. There was a precinct upstate who didn't turn their tallies in until 9 am the next morning after the 2004 elections. This made the news, in other counties (such as mine). They were repremanded by state politicians about how this was unacceptable.

Re:Paper Ballots? (4, Insightful)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864195)

> People want election results fast

I disagree.

We may be told that we want results fast, but really we want them accurate.

Go ahead, ask anyone: "Would you rather have poll results within an hour of the polls closing, with a 50% chance that they would be wrong, or have them within 3 days with a 0.00001% chance that they might be wrong?"

You can play with the times and percentages a bit, but I would bet cash money that most people want accuracy & precision, not speed.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864251)

That's a really bad way to frame this issue. The answers you get from asking questions like that are always going to be skewed in favor of the point you're trying to get at. I strongly believe however, that when elections are taking place, the pressure being placed on election boards are to make sure the job is done as fast as possible. Correctness of the results is hard to check, and is done infrequently. Speed however, is plainly obvious to everyone.

I guess i would put it this way:
This is an issue of sociology and organizational structure, not an issue of how people respond to when polled.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

??? (35971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864225)

Ummm... The returns do come in fast... The last election, we knew who our prime minister was going to be before the polls closed on the West Coast. Hand counted paper ballots are a highly scalable solution because counting is highly parallelizable. You don't have one team counting 200 million ballots...

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864286)

It can be highly parallelizable. If you have the man-power to staff it. I don't know whether all polling stations can. I'm not arguing that it's a bad way to do it. In fact, i agree, it's hard to forge. (Heck, i'm probably moving to canada in the next year or so, so believe me, i'm not slamming the system)

I do however think that it would be hard to get people to impliment such a system, and i'm trying to give you reasons how people might quibble.

Elections are complicated, even the simple things can get really broken. Again, another example, here in central ohio, polling stations which served a lot of people (the inner city ones) ended up with a severe shortage of voting machines. This is a really easy oversight to fix (which is why there were so many accusations of rigging), but it still went drastically drastically wrong. And i also agree that just using pen and paper might have averted such a stupid problem, but my point is that murphy's law is always in play during events like elections, which have so many moving parts.

Re:Paper Ballots? (2, Informative)

??? (35971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864367)

Elections are complicated, even the simple things can get really broken. Again, another example, here in central ohio, polling stations which served a lot of people (the inner city ones) ended up with a severe shortage of voting machines. This is a really easy oversight to fix (which is why there were so many accusations of rigging), but it still went drastically drastically wrong.

Referring to this as an oversight is tremendously rich, given that the County elections boards and the Secretary of State's offices were advised of this potential problem repeatedly prior to the election and took no action to correct it. Furthermore all of the precincts affected by this problem happened to be precincts that voted for the opponent of the candidate for whom the highest ranking state elections official (Sec of State) held the position of co-chair of re-election campaign.

BTW, in Canada, we generally discourage elections [wikipedia.org] officials [wikipedia.org] (with the weight of the law [elections.ca] ) the practice of engaging in partisan activities (like, say, acting as co-chair of the election campaign of one of the candidates in the election you are running).

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864413)

Hey, preaching to the choir here. I voted for the guy who lost. Hell, i campaigned for the guy who lost. On top of that, i voted for the ballot measures in 2005 that were designed to remove the Secretary of State from the governance of elections. The problem is, and the republicans are right to say this, but the democrats who were to oversee things like the distribution of voting machines totally dropped the ball. I blame the Ohio Democratic Party more than anyone else. Cause i already assume that republican politicians are all crooks.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

modecx (130548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864668)

Yeah, and with this system, it's quite possible to get results from the entire east side of the country just at the polls are closing on the west side! If wanted faster results, you'd have to bring back Johnny Carson so he could do the Carnac the Magnificent bit.

Personally, I think election coverage by the polls should be regulated such that news stations can only carry information about local elections at least until every polling place has closed--and everyone can spaz out... If we can't get a beer from a bar that's too close to a polling station (so it wouldn't be possible to buy a vote from a drunk), then the shitheads on TV shouldn't get the chance to buy votes from the morons out there, either. It's come to the point where people are influenced to vote depending on how the person they want to win/lose is projected to do, at any given instant during election day.

I'd also be happy if people who voted would somehow be eligable for a reasonable tax break. That would bring in tons of people alone... But it wouldn't ever happen... A tax break that actually stood a chance of helping the poor and middle class? Not a chance.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864297)

They use paper ballots in the UK with a population of 60 million. The issue is not the number of voters, its the number of elections. In the US there are frequently ten posts up for election, sometimes more. Then there are ballot measures and so on.

Counting paper ballots is not a big issue, we use bank tellers. I have run elections with several thousand people voting, it is not a huge issue. The general election counts are run in essentially the same way.

I am very skeptical of this particular OSS project. Not because I don't believe in publishing the actual code running on the machines running the count. I think that part is a no-brainer. Publishing the source is a small part of OSS though. The big problem is how you set up an audit trail without losing the secret ballot. Without that how do you know what code is running on the machine?

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864311)

Out of curiousity, how many people do you have staffing any given election/vote count?

Re:Paper Ballots? (1, Flamebait)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864521)

Out of curiousity, how many people do you have staffing any given election/vote count?

I don't recall, 30 or so per constituency but it certainly varies.

The main thing about paper ballots is that there is no variation in the ballot access by precinct. There is no way to pull the type of corruption the GOP pulled in Ohio, Ken Blackwell deliberately underequiping the polling booths in student areas so that there were people waiting to vote at 2am. There is no way to pull the type of corruption that Katherine 'faceache' Harris pulled in Florida where the optical scanning machines had different programming acording to whether the precinct was white or black. In the white precincts the machines sounded an alarm if the ballot misread and the voter got another chance. In the black precincts the machines just silently accepted the paper without making any response.

The way that elections are really stolen is to suppress turnout. Harris had an operation that was 'purging' the electoral rolls of people who had the same names and skin color as convicted fellons. The contract was awarded no bid to a crony.

Clean elections should not be a party issue. It looks to me as if the GOP is about to get burned really bad. There are 15 or so members of Congress likely to be taken out by various scandals, only one of which is a Democrat (from Louisiana natch.). Those 15 are all from the same districts at the center of the election fraud disputes and involve many of the same people. Harris is about to drop out of the Senate race in Florida now that it is clear she lied in her response to the Wade scandal. In Ohio the wife of Noe, the guy at the center of the 'coingate' scam was at the center of the election fix.

The type of people who fix elections are the type of people who take bribes and kickbacks in office. As a result of the sleaze scandals during the Major government Tony Blair has just celebrated his third election victory without even the hint of a challenge from the Conservative party. The same could easily happen in the US, even a polarized electorate can tip very heavily.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864628)

Well, point of note, there was only one precinct where people were waiting until 2 AM, which was at a single small college that's kinda out in the boondocks (i have friends who went there), so i'd say that the 8 hr thing was rather anomalous. The large bulk of the problem took place in the cities, and disproportionately in places that had high population density (which happens to also correlate to poorer areas of the cities, and more democratic leaning populations). But even if you ignored the 8 hr waiting time, if you have polling locations where people are waiting between 3 and 5 hours to vote, there is indeed something seriously wrong.

I'd also like to see more information about Noe's wife being involved in the election set up, because that is not something i have ever heard, and i pay a good deal of attention to reputable news sources in ohio. Noe himself was involved in illegal campaigning for Bush/Cheney '04, i know that for a fact.

Regardless, there are some checks and balances in our horribly complicated election system, and i still fault the Ohio Democratic Party for not even going so far as to use the tools that they had available to them.

Finally, i don't think the republicans are going to get burned. I think that some semblance of what passes for sanity around here will return, because the republicans have fucked things up so terribly. That doesn't mean that republicans won't still have power, or that they still won't be able to lie cheat and steal, it just means that they can't do it so brazenly, or so obviously. It's still a winner takes all system.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864873)

The big problem is how you set up an audit trail without losing the secret ballot.

There's a cryptosystem to handle this (somebody fill in the name here).

Basically, you get a receipt with a code on it. It's one half of a pair. The administrator of elections gets the other half of the pair (in a log, for instance). Together, the two parts of the pair can recreate your ballot. Apart they're useless. So, you can't sell your vote, and the official can't determine how you voted, but if the election needs to be validated it can be.

The trick, I suppose, is you can't directly re-count the election without everybody bringing in their receipts. And what happens if somebody dies on the way home from the polling place, they wash their pants with the receipt in the pocket, etc? It's probably impossible to ever fully re-create an election. So this is a trade-off if you want to use voting machines but don't trust them or the people administering them.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

Quantam (870027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864108)

Hello? 2000 was an even bigger fiasco than 2004, and 2000 used paper ballots. To this day many people say the 2000 election was rigged.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864128)

Hello? 2000 was an even bigger fiasco than 2004, and 2000 used paper ballots. To this day many people say the 2000 election was rigged.

Not the stupid punch card ballots with the hanging chads. Pen and paper. In Canada during federal elections, anyone can supervise the vote counting. It's almost impossible to rig elections that are held this way.

Re:Paper Ballots? (2, Insightful)

stubear (130454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864283)

We have this thing in the US called States Rights. Voting systems are picked by each district, not on a Federal level and you'd have a very hard time forcing thousand of districts to replce their current systems. Some out of spite and stubborness, others out of financial hardship, and probably a mix of the two with the rest. The US Constitution was written to appease the States and as such the Federal Government could not appear to take too much power over their little feifdoms. Things like this are the result of this decision our forefathers made, for better or worse. Perhaps you should try to understand this concept and why it came about before you bash the US.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1, Flamebait)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864303)

That's a bunk argument. So many states rights issues have been overruled by the federal court system. And, specifically, there have also been noises made about mandating a federal standard for federal elections. I'm quite sure that principle is not going to win out in this sort of discussion, as in many others.

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

MochaMan (30021) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864388)

We have this thing in the US called States Rights. [blah blah blah blah]. Perhaps you should try to understand this concept and why it came about before you bash the US.

That's all fine and good, except you totally failed to actually address the question. What is wrong with paper ballots? They work fine in Canada and many other countries, and they seem to historically have fewer problems than other alternatives.

That in mind, to address your two main concerns:

1. You point out that they can't be mandated at a federal level. I'm confused as to how this is relevant. At some level a system has to be chosen. The parent is questioning the value of choosing an e-voting system regardless of the level of government.

2. You seem quite upset that the parent poster criticised the US. I really enjoyed the bits about your forefathers, and the bits about the state and federal governments not getting along; very passionate -- good effort all round! I guess the only bit I found disconcerting was that the parent poster never mentioned or implied anything about the US, just about electronic voting systems... which can be found in many countries.

Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864347)

Black-box voting machines are complicated. Who knows if you can trust them? Who knows if your vote actually counts?

Canada has been using paper ballots for as long as I have been voting. I see no reason to change the system because it works pretty well. Fraud is still possible, but difficult. Using machines to vote and to count votes would only introduce new ways to subvert the system.

Re:Paper Ballots? (2, Interesting)

SpectralDesign (921309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864452)

Not to post simply to be disagreeable, I think paper ballots (or at a minimum, a paper-trail from electronic voting devices) are certainly preferable over some of the other options that have been tried...

but you should keep in mind -- the entire population of Canada is less (nearly half, as a matter of fact) the population of only California...

I'm fairly certain that has some bearing on the ability to rapidly process the paper ballots :)

Re:Paper Ballots? (1)

seifried (12921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864578)

No it doesn't. You have 10 times as many people voting. You also have 10 times as many people working the polls and counting ballots and whatnot. End result: the same amoutn of time. Getting 10 times more people to work elections in a country with 10 times more people... geee. that'd be the same percentages as here. You people suck at math.

Due the Math! (1)

SpectralDesign (921309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864778)

According to Google, whom we all know never lies --

USA Population (via cia.gov) - 295,734,134
Canada population (via stat-can) - 32,569,394
caveat - I don't have Flash6 so this number is actually the projection for July 1

What this means, as any /.er could tell you is that the population differential is actually 9.080123935, not 10. But of course these numbers are based on statistics, and are prone to error, so YMMV.

In the 2006 Canadian election of the Prime Minister, preliminary results indicated that 64.9% of registered voters cast their ballot.

Based upon 2000 census figures, 42.45% of the U.S. population voted in the 2004 election. Note that this is a percentage of the entire population, not of just eligible voters. Now of course, this opens an other can of worms, because while this number claims to be inclusive of the entire population there must be tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or more) of un-accounted-for illegal immigrants, but that's a minor issue -- I only raise it to reinforce the point that the 42.45% figure is not exactly accurate. All that as it is, it would seem to be the highest voter turn-out in decades, but you might just chalk that up to ballot-stuffing and not actual living people casting their personal single votes... Who's to say with the hodgepodge of various voting standards and closed-source electronic voting systems in use throughout the States.

Now, when it comes to how many poll workers there are in each system, I admit my ignorance. You seem to be claiming some expertise on the matter, so please, do enlighten us!

No matter how you cut it though, if you assume an equal per-capita number of poll workers to eligible voters, it would *seem* that perhaps the States does in fact have an edge over Canada, so why can't they produce accurate and uncontested voting results as rapidly as Canada? That, sir, is a question for someone else to answer, because frankly, I don't give a rat's-ass.

And for a final matter, you seem to be referring to me as a resident of the States, but I am, as far as I can tell, living in Canada, sir. Shall I conclude that "you people" jump to conclusions? (where-ever-the-hell-you-are-from?)

you disenfranchise people! (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864488)

Paper is no good because we "need" to let people vote in 42 different languages. Understanding what the candidates promise is not a prerequisite for voting.

Paper does not self-validate. What if somebody messes up? They get disenfranchised! We "need" to ensure that every moron can just play with the ballot until it is valid.

More seriously, paper is hard to reprint when a candidate dies a week before the election.

Some people with poor eyes need HUGE letters.

Plus, e-voting is all high-tech, so it must be good.

Re:you disenfranchise people! (1)

ztane (713026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864865)

Heh. In Finland we just write a 1 to 3 digit number inside a circle with a pencil. If you are stupid enough to not write a valid number, your vote does not qualify.

The disabled, the confused, and the stupid (3, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864697)

A blind citizen given a paper ballot has to get someone to help, raising problems of confidentiality and trust.

A computer UI can, in principle, be made easier to follow than a crowded piece of paper. Googling for "butterfly ballot" will get you an example that turned out to be important. A computerized ballot can do validity checking and spare the counting system from having to divine "voter intent" from a double-voted or unreadable ballot.

Those are the only real advantages I've ever seen mentioned.

Australia (5, Informative)

Kangburra (911213) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864105)

Here in Australia we have a system that works, and has been used already.

http://www.softimp.com.au/index.php?id=evoting [softimp.com.au]

Re:Australia (1)

barefootgenius (926803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864409)

Hate to say this mate. But all the paper trail, open source, accountable, triple times goodness isn't gonna help them a bit if all they have to choose between is someone backed by a some corporations vs someone else backed by some other (maybe the same) corporations.

What ever happened to the political protester comes to power. Haven't any of their presidents spent their youth being locked up fighting the government, staging marches, standing up for whats right? Well, on the bright side maybe the yanks will listen to us next time we say the guy that are voting for is an idiot.


(By the way, thanks for protecting New Zealand. You're pretty much our only hope since the government down here decided to decimate the defense force. Lots of love, try not to burn your country down by throwing a ciggi out the window or something...)

Re:Australia (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864561)

Here in Australia we have a system that works, and has been used already.

It's also worth noting that the eVACS system is free software under the GPL and you can get the source, and some more info, at the ACT Electoral Commission site [act.gov.au] .

Relevant to the article!

Oh right. (0, Troll)

DogDude (805747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864111)

Oh, right. Hackers putting together beige-box PC's running Linux and this simple software are going to get to install voting machines. Riiiight. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. Nice idea, but pretty damn silly, nonetheless.

Re:Oh right. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864249)

Oh, right. Hackers putting together beige-box PC's running Linux and this simple software are going to get to install voting machines. Riiiight. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. Nice idea, but pretty damn silly, nonetheless.

Oh, right, troll. Proprietary vendors putting together shiny snake-oil security with closed source software and security by obscurity? Riiight? We already tried that one. You're also repeating very old "hackers/hobbyists" FUD and should try something new and intuitive.

Re:Oh right. (2, Insightful)

santaliqueur (893476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864294)

so are "hackers" going to be the ones writing the document formats for the commonwealth of massachusetts? troll much?

Easy formula (3, Insightful)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864121)

For public safety, I say we require three things from electronic voting systems:

1. Open source. We need to be able to trust these systems and how can we do that without being able to examine the code behind them?
2. Paper records kept for the government. Just in case there is a trust issue, this is a backup method for the recount.
3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

So easy. I am all for having the convenience and speed of electronic voting, but I cannot for the life of me understand why we must give up the benefits of paper ballots at the same time, and even improve on them (as in the paper copy for the voter).

Re:Easy formula (4, Insightful)

??? (35971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864247)

1. Open source. We need to be able to trust these systems and how can we do that without being able to examine the code behind them?

Indeed, I concur

2. Paper records kept for the government. Just in case there is a trust issue, this is a backup method for the recount.

So long as these records contain a human readable indication of an individual voter's intent, and were verified by the voter at vote-time.

3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

Absolutely, uncategorically, under no circumstances. Proof of vote makes wholesale coercion, vote-buying and vote-selling methods practical.

Agreed (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864782)

So long as we are all understood that the government copies must not contain any indication of who cast the vote.

However, I am still concerned about the potential for observation. If there are electronics in operation, there is an increased risk of an observer having some kind of receiver capable of decoding the waste radiation from the voting box.

I know that tiny cameras and mirrors could theoretically be placed to catch the inside of voting booths, but there is an order of magnitude more probability of discover using those kinds of tools.

Sexy as electronic voting is, I think it's one of those great ideas that should not be implemented, period.

On the other hand, we should be able to afford ballot counters at every polling station. That might be something to consider, since it would reduce the opportunity for lost ballots on the way to the county or parish offices. If the voting judges run the counter in small batches, they could even spot check some batches by hand.

Re:Easy formula (3, Informative)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864419)

3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This used to be the standard, until they caught on to Big Business asking their employees to show them their voting receipt to make sure they were voting for the right candidate. Especially around the turn of the century, this became an effective way to abuse immigrant workers, who had little choice in employment and didn't know much about the political system.

Have the voter hand carry sealed printout to box (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864845)

3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

The only way this would be viable is if you were to be able to hand carry the paper output (in something to conceal the choices, of course!) over to a locked ballot box within the area after examining it in the machine - just as done with paper based voting. When the day is done, you count both totals separately, with the electronic count performed separate from the paper count, with full transparency. No personally identifying information on the printouts, just the selections made as it was done before electronic voting.

A third record in the form of a printout would be retained as it is currently done with electronic voting for the current purpose. This would be kept separate from all other records and only used in a recount. Not perfect, but the idea is that you're going raise the bar high enough to increase the visibility of any attempts, and the amount of resources to pull anything off. You arent going to stop the dedicated, but you'll certainly be able to find a lot more low-hanging fruit.

The machine could be running different code. (1)

dsandler (224364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864594)

1. Open source. We need to be able to trust these systems and how can we do that without being able to examine the code behind them?
Disclosed or open source is critical, but not sufficient, to be able to trust the system. Assuming you've already verified that the disclosed code is totally trustworthy (a big assumption), you need to also convince yourself that the electronic voting machine in the polling place is running that exact code.

"Trusted computing" might be a bad idea for desktop PCs (where the user should have total control of the software running on it), but it might be a really good idea for voting machines (where the entire software stack must be kept under very careful control from the moment the machine is configured and certified right up to election day).

moderate the parent post down, hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864847)

this poster is a fool; he knows not, yet he things he does - shun him, for he is dangerous

Huh? (4, Insightful)

femto (459605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864122)

The article itself states (and other comments have pointed out):

"Successful open voting systems that are cheaper, easier to manage, and more transparent than proprietary systems can be found in Australia, Canada, Estonia, and other places."

Perhaps the author meant to say:

"no American vendor offers open source software and systems that are ready for voting."

Re:Huh? (2, Interesting)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864644)

What I don't understand is why they are waiting around for a vendor? Take the money you would have given diebold, pool it with all other states that would have done the same thing, hire people, get it done.

You can also create a private company and buy a significant percentage of shares in it and sell the system to other states or countries. There are all sorts of govt-private partnerships all over the world like this.

Australian (2, Informative)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864124)

EVACS started open source under the GPL - but closed the source at a later point.

http://www.elections.act.gov.au/EVACS.html [act.gov.au]

It is made in Australia, and I was of the impression has been used in elections already.

LetterRip

Re:Australian (2, Informative)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864140)

and from a previous slashdot article,

[QUOTE]Within the world of electronic voting, though, eVACS (for "Electronic Voting and Counting System") has been a rare success story both for open source development methodology and for the benefits that electronic voting can offer. The first generation of eVACS (running on Debian Linux machines) was developed starting in March 2001 in response to a request for bids by the Australian Capitol Territory Electoral Commission (ACTEC), and it was done on a budget of only AUS$200,000.

(The Australian Capitol Territory includes Australia's capitol city, Canberra, as well as surrounding suburbs and Namadgi National Park.)

Besides a respectable list of features driven by ACTEC's initial requirements (like support for 12 voting languages, and audio support for blind voters), eVACS has an advantage not enjoyed by many electronic voting systems: it's been successfully, uneventfully used to gather votes in a national election. The election in which it played a part went smoothly, and the eVACS system itself functioned as hoped.[/QUOTE]

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/08/04/19 51202&mode=nocomment [slashdot.org]

Get some decent candidates (0, Flamebait)

RedHatLinux (453603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864131)

before you worry about how the votes are counted. Seriously, given that most candidates are basically carbon copies of each other, with only token differences, there no real motivation to vote.

I've voted in every election held since I turned 18,but the only reason I do that is avoid hearing "If you didn't vote, you can't complain", which is an assinine theory, given I pay taxes and served in the military, but hey, it's always funny when I get asked why I was flipping a coin while voting.

Re:Get some decent candidates (1, Troll)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864198)

This is a silly thing to say. There are massive differences between all candidates. Their policy platforms may not be drastically different, but the character of their administrations, the people they surround themselves with, and the process by which decisions are made are vastly different. Al Gore, and George W. Bush had very similar platforms, but i don't think anyone disagrees that the War on Terror would have turned out very differently had Gore been rightfully installed as president.

Re:Get some decent candidates (1)

Quantam (870027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864237)

It's funny you should mention that. About a week ago I found http://crp.org/industries/list.asp [crp.org] , did some investigation, and posted the following summary of interesting points on another site I visit: - The Republicans received $20 million from oil/gas companies, compared to $5 million for Democrats. This sounds significant, but it actually is only significant in how small this amount is (considering how many people say the Republicans are in the pocket of the oil industry). This amounts to 2.3% of the Republicans' campaign donations for 2004. - Democrats receive a MASSIVE amount of finance from law firms and lawyers - $149 million, or 16.6% of their total finance, compared to $59.9 million for Republicans. This is by far the single largest industry (and the one with the biggest difference in contributions) that I've found. - There is no significant difference between the two parties in terms of contributions from lobbyists. - Republicans received $195.8 million the finance/insurance/real estate industries, compared to $136.8 million for Democrats - Democrats received $111.8 million from single-issue activists, compared to $68.8 million for Republicans - Democrats received about 2.5% more finance than Republicans ($900 million for Democrats, $880 million for Republicans). - Democrats received $53.6 million from labor unions, compared to $7.7 million for Republicans. This prompted such replies as "same shit, different pile" and "I think you've just summed the near entirety of political science" (in reference to the previous quote). If you think one party is morally superior to the other, or that the character of members of one party is superior to those of the other, reality will crush your misconceptions.

Re:Get some decent candidates (3, Informative)

Quantam (870027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864248)

...my apologies for forgetting Slashdot used HTML formatting for posts by default. Let me repost that entire post, since it's nearly unreadable.

It's funny you should mention that. About a week ago I found http://crp.org/industries/list.asp [crp.org] , did some investigation, and posted the following summary of interesting points on another site I visit:

- The Republicans received $20 million from oil/gas companies, compared to $5 million for Democrats. This sounds significant, but it actually is only significant in how small this amount is (considering how many people say the Republicans are in the pocket of the oil industry). This amounts to 2.3% of the Republicans' campaign donations for 2004.
- Democrats receive a MASSIVE amount of finance from law firms and lawyers - $149 million, or 16.6% of their total finance, compared to $59.9 million for Republicans. This is by far the single largest industry (and the one with the biggest difference in contributions) that I've found.
- There is no significant difference between the two parties in terms of contributions from lobbyists.
- Republicans received $195.8 million the finance/insurance/real estate industries, compared to $136.8 million for Democrats
- Democrats received $111.8 million from single-issue activists, compared to $68.8 million for Republicans
- Democrats received about 2.5% more finance than Republicans ($900 million for Democrats, $880 million for Republicans).
- Democrats received $53.6 million from labor unions, compared to $7.7 million for Republicans.

This prompted such replies as "same shit, different pile" and "I think you've just summed the near entirety of political science" (in reference to the previous quote). If you think one party is morally superior to the other, or that the character of members of one party is superior to those of the other, reality will crush your misconceptions.

Re:Get some decent candidates (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864539)

Reasonable people can disagree about the single-issue activists, labor unions, and possibly finance/insurance/etc.

It's damn hard to argue that litigation is good for our society.

Always vote for the opposition (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864393)

it's always funny when I get asked why I was flipping a coin while voting.

That's actually a bad idea, as random voting affects both main parties equally and hence is really a vote for the establishment.

A far more effective approach is to always vote for the opposition. This makes life very tough for politicians during the 50% of the time when they are most dangerous, ie. when they are in government, because they will spend a lot of time on the defensive to try to avert the turnaround at the next election. Thus occupied, they will have less time to perform their usual damage.

Always voting for the opposition is in effect a vote against the two-party system, and sends the message that politicians are shit and their actions entirely without merit --- which of course is exactly right.

Re:Always vote for the opposition (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864610)

Always voting for the opposition is in effect a vote against the two-party system

No!

Voting for the biggest opposition party is a vote *for* the two-party system. If you dislike that system, you should vote for a third party. It's a snowball effect, because the more people that vote for smaller parties, the more viable they look, and the more people will vote for them.

Why do people belive OSS == trustable? (5, Insightful)

jaywee (542660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864132)

Can anyone explain me how can I trust OSS running box more than the one running closed software? How can I verify that the software running in the box is the same I verified? How can I be sure the cpu isn't mangled by some foreign goverment? (Since most hw is now made on taiwan..) What's wrong with paper ballots?

Re:Why do people belive OSS == trustable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864843)

How can I verify that the software running in the box is the same I verified?

Compile from source.

How can I be sure the cpu isn't mangled by some foreign goverment?

At best all they can do by such a method is to crash the system. It's practically impossible for a CPU to manipulate a program in any meaningful way when the software is implemented after the hardware.

What's wrong with paper ballots?

Paper ballots are excellent. I'm all for keeping paper ballots. Paper ballots don't crash, can't be hacked from the internet, etc.

Re:Why do people belive OSS == trustable? (2, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864878)

(Mandatory reference) Reflections on trusting trust: http://www.acm.org/classics/sep95/ [acm.org]

Spot on! Another question: How can you trust the net card (there was post not long ago about IPMI, and the potential for hiding complete remote control backdoors in network interfaces).

Then again, how can you trust humans to count perfectly?

What's wrong with paper
Nothing! Absolutely nothing. As much as my mom suggests I should write my masters or Ph.D thesis on "on-line voting", I relly think this is one of the areas where correctness is just too important to ever trust networked computers (which, afaict, is a strict requirement). Also, there's a lot of long-haired issues: how do we make sure each voter can vote at most once? How do we make selling votes difficult (My best guess: through social ways, i.e. education)? How do we make sure each vote is anonymous, yet at the same time make sure each voter can vote at most once? These are just hard problems in my mind.

In effect, since it's the foundation of democracy (for those nations that are still at least somewhat democratic, i.e. excluding the USA), we need to treat this as safety-critical systems. That includes the provability (and proof!) of correctness, one-time pads for encryption and all that rigamarole.

No. Please. That's the one area where a two-mile bike ride plus waiting in line to put a cross on a piece of paper really pays off well. Stick with the primitive technology here, due to the advantages of being primitive.

Re:Why do people belive OSS == trustable? (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864966)

Nobody said "OSS == trustable", you've created a straw man.

OSS is just more trustable as it's harder for the software writer to, accidentally or deliberately, pull a fast one.

There are still many potential problems that need to be addressed, as you and other posters have noted.

Open source is everything that closed source is. Plus the source is available.

---

Don't be fooled, slashdot has many lying astroturfers [wikipedia.org] fraudulently misrepresenting company propaganda as third party opinion. FUD [wikipedia.org] too.

Paper trail (3, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864151)

I don't care how "open" or secure a system is, I want a paper trail.

We make photo kiosks. Every time someone places an order, we print a receipt. The receipt printer is one of the most reliable pieces of equipment on our systesm. We have about 60 employees. If we can do it, I see no reason why you could not have a voting machine print a paper receipt with your voting selection on it along with a unique, encrypted number. On the way out, the voter places the receipt (or paper ballot, if you will) in the drop box. Once the election is over, if everyone is satisfied with the results, the paper ballots are discarded. If there is a challenge, the paper receipts are counted and compared to the digital count. There should not be much of a difference. If the difference is enough to change the outcome, I'd say go with the paper count. However, if voting fraud is an issue, it will not be a small margin. It is doubtful that someone will try to fraud for only a couple of votes and there should never be more pieces of paper in the box than digital votes cast.

This will allow for a challenge, investigation, and is the only way to provide for a recount.

Re:Paper trail (4, Insightful)

??? (35971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864279)

However, if voting fraud is an issue, it will not be a small margin. It is doubtful that someone will try to fraud for only a couple of votes

Then clearly, you underestimate the skills and resources of your adversary. It is precisely small margins that are concerning. Remember, a small margin of votes can be changed in a close race without producing statistically significant differences from polling (and exit-polling) to raise suspicion. Such small changes, well placed, can have a significant effect on the overall race.

If you think that people do not have the skill to predict where small vote count frauds will make a difference, you need to visit the "gerrymandering" page on wikipedia, particularly the "Gerrymandering computer technology" heading.

Re:Paper trail (2, Insightful)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864713)

In the last two election there was a statistically significant variance between exit polling and actual vote. In any other election, in any other country this would be a sign of voter fraud. In america nobody even cared.

Let's face it you could out and out rig the machines and nobody would care. This is america only 35% of people eligable for voting even care enough to stop by the polling place on the way from work.

many americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864152)

by saying many do you mean the 250 many who run linux on the desktop?

Privacy?? (4, Insightful)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864157)

I haven't really read how this e-voting works, but if it means you can log on to a website and vote from home, wouldn't that make your vote not anonymus? What would happen with the log of your IP, your vote could be traced back to you.

I like paper ballots because they don't get traced back to you, once you put it in the box you have no identity.

Re:Privacy?? (1)

dsandler (224364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864670)

The "e-voting" here refers to the use of electronic voting machines (specifically Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) [wikipedia.org] machines, which tabulate votes internally on digital storage). In particular, the "entrenched" DRE systems described in TFA typically offer weak (if any) resistance to tampering with the digital vote tallies, and they usually don't provide any auxiliary non-electronic verifiable record (such as a "voter-verifiable" printed ballot: a piece of paper which you can visually confirm represents your intent, and which you then place in a separate box for tabulation).

Add to this the fact that the software in these voting machines is kept secret from the general public, so it's difficult for outsiders to vouch for the correctness and robustness of the programming inside. In short, a voter has little reason to believe that the vote she thinks she cast on election day was accurately recorded and counted by these systems.

Internet voting is a whole other ball of worms, in part because of exactly what you describe: loss of anonymity and possibility of vote coercion. Anonymity can be preserved in part with strong crypto (reducing the packet-sniffing adversary to knowing that you voted today, but not for whom); vote coercion is very, very hard to avoid (someone can always stand over your shoulder with a blunt object and "encourage" you to log on and vote a certain way). This is why polling places exist: to give voters a safe, private place to cast an anonymous ballot.

Should be part of more sweeping election reform. (1, Interesting)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864259)

I'm of the opinion that we should reform our entire election process nearly from the ground up. Trash the electoral college [wikipedia.org] and the plurality voting system [wikipedia.org] and implement the Condorcet method [wikipedia.org] instead and have everyone's vote count equally, regardless of their geographical location (assuming eligibility to vote on a particular ballot to begin with).

All voting machines should be open source and the systems should be utterly transparent. All machines should provide a paper receipt and ballot, to allow individuals to easily verify their selections and in the event that a manual recount is needed, for whatever reason.

Our elections are at the foundation of our democracy. If they are broken or flawed, our entire system of government is flawed. Reforming our elections to do everything humanly possible to make it so the system accurately reflects the will of the elecorate should be one of our nation's very highest priorities.

Re:Should be part of more sweeping election reform (1)

yawn9 (848734) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864446)

I didn't read the whole thread, but here are my suggestions for any kind of voting machine:

1) To prevent fraud, you must swipe your drivers license or other acceptable government issued ID to gain access.
2) To prevent tampering and uncounted votes, have sensors on the machine that will detect if a voter is leaving the booth. If he leaves without submitting his vote, save his session and dump the machine back to the login screen. Play an audible message and alert an election official to let the voter know what happened

I had a few more, but I can't remember them now.

that would ruin us (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864577)

As it is, cities and big states suck up money for expensive pet projects. Political candidates mostly ignore the middle of the country. The electoral college system helps fight this.

(and no, it isn't right or good, because this perpetuates and increases the inequality)

With the electoral college, your vote is MORE likely to count. ("count" being that it tips the scale, such that voting the other way would have changed the result) This is a matter of math.

What we really need to do is break up a few of the largest states and perhaps merge some of the smaller ones. Split California 8 ways, Texas 5 ways, etc.

If I recall right, the number of electoral voting regions should be much higher. About 8000 (the square root of our population) is probably best, assuming you stick to one level.

Re:that would ruin us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864622)

Plus people forget that pure democracy always results in a fascist state. You are seeing that in the US now because both sides have forgetten we are a REPUBLIC not a democracy. Democracy always results in "tyranny of the majority". And we're setting Iraq up big time for this problem.

Re:Should be part of more sweeping election reform (1, Insightful)

Jack Schitt (649756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864695)

I wrote this all out in notepad without spell check of any kind. I barely even proofread it.

This is my idea of a reform:
---
electronic balloting system:

user arrives at poll place
receives magnetic card with one-way hash of ssn.
user swipes card in cardreader at ballot box
this initiates the voting. touch screens or pushbuttons, etc
no records are kept at all at the ballot box.
Votes are immediatly printed twice via a standard receipt printer in human readable format.
There is also an XML translation of the vote with a checksum at the bottom.
A barcode uniquly identifies the vote.
Another barcode uniquely identifies the voter. (but not personnally identifiable)
User retains one copy of the vote and submits the other copy.
Both copies are identical and either (but only one) can be submitted.
Submitted papar-vote's barcodes are scanned to make sure that this voter has only voted once.
Voter is capable of making several paper ballots. All ballots would have same voter barcode, but different vote barcodes.
Voter is only allowd to submit one ballot, even if several were made.
At no point, other than receiving the voter mag-card is the voter identified by name or social security number.
At poll close, ballot is optically scanned (the entire ballot, on a flatbed scanner).
The ballot is electronically recognized (OCRed) and the XML section is decoded.
If the checksum matches, the ballot is electronically counted.
If the checksum does not match, the ballot is rejected electronically and must be manually entered by unbiased election officials.

All paper ballots must uniquely identify the voter without revealing who the voter is
All paper ballots must be individually uniquly identified in the event of a manual recount
All ballots also contain a date and time of when the ballot is printed.

Manual recount:
Because one voter can create multiple ballots (in case they change their mind, to prevent voter intimidation, etc). The ballots are uniquely identified. The voters are also uniquely identified. All ballots have two id barcodes on them.

If the results are disputed, the first step is an electronic recount.
The next step is a manual recount.
When fraud is charged such that the ballots in possession of the election officials cannot be trusted, the copies that the voters retains can be photocopied and mailed to the election officials. Only the copy that was submitted at the polling place should be submitted because an electronic record of submitted ballots (identifying the voter id and the ballot id) exists and the ballots will be checked upon receipt. If the paper-vote that is mailed has a different vote id than the record of the vote id, the voter is notified and may (if needed) recast their ballot.

Voter responsibilities:
It is the voter's responsibility to check the printed ballot against the vote they made on the ballot box. If they differ, they should try again, posibly with a different machine.
It is also the voter's responsibility to make sure the ballot's barcodes are scanned when submitted and afterward inserted into the ballot bin that is eventually sent to election officials for certification.

Missing paper ballots:
When ballots are submitted, the barcodes printed on them are scanned. This creates a record on an offsite database that contains ONLY the following information: The voter id, the ballot id (unique to voter, not globally unique), the date/time submitted (set by the offsite database), the polling place, and the station number. Each station is operated only by one worker per shift, the station must be logged into and out of by the worker.

(Based on a particular station)
In the event of a missing ballot, the ballot is ignored.
In the event of several missing ballots, the ballots are ignored and the poll worker responsible is fined.
In the event of a large number of missing ballots, ALL voters at that particular polling place are asked to photocopy and mail in their copy of the ballot. The workers at the polling place may be fined or charged with elections fraud.

If, system wide, a huge number of paper votes go missing, the entire election is invalidated, all responsible are fined punativly and fined for the cost of the election, and are charged with election fraud. The election results can not be trusted and all voters, system wide, are asked to photocopy and mail in their copy of the paper ballot.

Extra paper ballots or missing electronic ballot records:
In the event of an extra ballot, the vote is first validated as unique, and if so, counted.
In the event of several extra ballots, the ballots are counted as above and the poll worker responsible is fined.
In the event of a large number of extra ballots, ALL voters at that particular polling place are asked to photocopy and mail in their copy of the ballot. The workers at the polling place may be fined or charged with elections fraud.

If, system wide, a huge number of extra votes 'appear', the entire election is invalidated, all responsible are fined punativly and fined for the cost of the election, and are charged with election fraud. The election results can not be trusted and all voters, system wide, are asked to photocopy and mail in their copy of the paper ballot.

Voter intimidation:
To prevent, for example, a voter's employer from saying "Vote for candidate A or don't come back to work on Monday," a voter can create a different ballot that reflects the voter's employer's choice that is NOT counted. Because the fact that the vote was submitted is not marked on a duplicate ballot, a would-be voter intimidater would have no way to tell a submitted vote from an unsubmitted vote.

Voting Machines are a Waste of Money (3, Insightful)

Soong (7225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864269)

It's cheaper to count them by hand. [bolson.org] A full county wide voting machine system costs a lot of money, a lot of money that could buy a lot of ballot counting labor hours.

I love a technofix as much as the next geek, but computerized voting machines are not the technology for now.

open source software in voting? (3, Funny)

iamwoodyjones (562550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864289)

VOTER: "Okay need to vote...here we go...."

VOTER: "Huh, it's a command line terminal...Okay..."

Looks at people running the voting place

VOTER: "Excuse me. How do I vote....?...Uh huh...'ls'? Uh huh...'RFTM?' What does that mean...Oh I see. Thank you very much"

ls

VOTER: "Okay there's a file in here called README and INSTALL. I'll look at README first."

after some time...

VOTER: "Seams to be something about a pissed off guy named Richard and something he humps called a GNU...Okay. I'll take a look at INSTALL instead here"

VOTER: "Generic install instructions....something something something, configure....something something make? Okay worth a shot"

configure; make; make install

....
Checking for sed.....ok
Checking for awk.....ok
Checking for kernl...
........

30 mintues latter
Checking for libyourmom....ok
Checking for libkitchensick...Found Emacs....ok
Checking for ruby on rails....
ruby on rails not found...
ruby on rails not found.??
ruby on rails not found.??!!!!!!
RUBY ON RAILS NOT FOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ruby on rails is the latest h4x0r dood!!!!!
Install Ruby rails AJAX0r!!!!

VOTER: "Son of a....!"

Working now in the Australian Capital Territor (1, Redundant)

child_of_mercy (168861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864292)

We've got an open source electronic voting system in the Australian Capital Territory, it's been used in two elections.

Details and code here [act.gov.au] .

The worst part about OSS election software... (3, Insightful)

EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864332)

The worst part about OSS election software is that someone else runs 'make', you run 'make install', but the install process installs too much crap and trashes some of your local files.

Then, you try to 'make uninstall' but the process fails halfway through and so you're left with a system in an unknown state, with rogue files hanging out everyyear.

But as Thomas Jefferson said, it's doubful that your current system will remain stable forever. Every once in a while you need to Reinstall the Operating System.

Re:The worst part about OSS election software... (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864422)

There's this thing called packages.... they bundle software together to prevent clobbering files. Very handy. I wonder if windows will ever support them?

This is ridiculous, it really is. (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864341)

Look. This is America. The nation that led the world in technological development for two hundred years, put men on the Moon a couple of times and invented the personal computer, and now we're saying that we can't even develop a machine that can count reliably???!!! Please. This is not, repeat not a technological issue. It is a political one, pure and simple.

The only reason that implementing a transparent, auditable electronic voting system is such a problem is because there are certain people that have a vested interest in making it a problem.

I agree. (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864832)

There are only a few criteria:


  • You must be able to prove that every valid vote was counted exactly once - no more, no less
  • You must also be able to prove that fake ballots cannot be injected into the system
  • You must finally be able to prove that valid votes cannot be deducted from the system for the required length of time


These are a bit trickier than just building a machine that can add 1 to a column, but not THAT much harder.


I would ascribe every digital ballot paper with a hash value that uniquely identifies that paper and would be hard to forge. eg: Have each ballot paper marked with a serial number, then digitally signed by the electoral authorities.


Each voter's voting card would have a totally random public encryption key on it, plus a number. On going to the voting machine, the card would first tick the person off on the list of people who had voted. After casting the votes, the machine would encrypt the ballot paper with the encryption key, then it would append the number to the end. The electronic ballot paper would then, after a random delay, be sent back to the central repository via an SSL connection. The machine would keep no tallies and no records whatsoever. Nor would the local office. It would all be central. (The local office could count votes cast, though, as it would be useful to compare against votes decoded.)


The central system would use the number to select a relatively small set of private keys. It would try each key in turn until it found the key that unlocked that ballot paper. That private key would then be deleted. The unlocked ballot paper would be placed into a secure database. The number of valid votes identified would be counted and publicly published in real-time.


Just to be absolutely certain what is meant here, the database must be write-only from the central system and must be in a tamper-proof environment. Once all ballots are uploaded, it will then perform the count and download the results, ALL of the decrypted ballots and ALL of the encrypted ballots.


That way, anyone can perform a recount and although it would be a monumental task to validate the votes, it could be done. This system is pseudo-anonymous, not truly anonymous, using a VERY large base to make anonymity effective. The upshot is that if a random sample of voter cards were gathered (anonymously!), it would be possible to show that each of those cards matches to exactly one encrypted vote and one decrypted vote.


This shouldn't be necessary, as most of the avenues for fraud have already been eliminated. The effort to fraudulently enter a vote in this system would be extraordinary, as it would require breaking the ballot paper generation system, the encryption key system AND the decryption system, in order to be transparent. Failure to break all of these would result in the votes being rejected by the unbroken component.


I don't think an actual voting system need be this complex, but that's not the point. The point here is that it is possible to imagine a system that is (a) Open Source and (b) so damn-near impervious that it would be cheaper to just buy the person who'd been elected than rig so much as a single vote.


Has this been done? Probably not. Could it be done? Sure. Give me a couple of weeks, a few smart-cards, readers, kiosks and a tamper-proof computer case. There should be no difficulty in writing a system that would be close to iron-clad for the next 50-100 years, with so close to zero chance of tampering that it's just not going to happen.


If an OSS election system group has the hardware and would like to play with this scheme, I'd be happy to write it for them.

Counting is not the problem here. (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864841)

It really is not the problem. It's what can be done while the counting is in process, and whether or not a non-technical person can confirm the count, and such.

Large invest of time and money? WHY? (1)

OzPhIsH (560038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864436)

"OVC President and CEO Alan Dechert says it would take a large investment of time and money to provide an alternative to traditional e-voting systems vendors, but he says an effort known as Open Voting Solutions (OVS) is looking to do just that.'"

How much capital does an originization really need to code up a secure counting machine? I just don't get where all these costs are coming from. The thing is just supposed to simply count. How hard is it? A couple of geeks should be able to do it in an afternoon in their free time, especially when they don't have to waste their time implementing all those backdoors.

Balloting Programs are Trivial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864442)

A balloting machine has to be one of the easiest things to write period.

Each candidate gets a counter. When a vote is cast for a candidate increment counter by one. When the polls close, display the count for each candidate. Then the adminstrators go to each machine records the numbers and adds them together.

The ONLY part of the balloting proceedure that needs any speed up is the counting of the votes, that is the only part that is time consuming and error prone.

You don't need to network the machines to get an automatic accumulation of votes. That would actually be a bad idea.

The only non-trivial part of the entire electronic voting machine thing is the mechanical aspect that makes sure one voter doesn't vote more than once.

Who's ready? (5, Insightful)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864466)

"... open source may not be ready for the polls."

Is closed source ready for the polls?

Basic stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864526)

Counting data is the most basic task a computer can perform, a VIC20 could do this more reliably than these guys can achieve.

Why does it need to run on an OS at all? Wouldn't it be more economical/stable/secure to run this embedded?

What's the holdup? (1)

pherthyl (445706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864800)

Am I completely out to lunch or could a 100% bug free e-voting system be written in half an hour and 100 lines of PHP?

I just don't get what the holdup is. I'll help out whoever wants to build one and write up the functional specs:
1. Present list of choices
2. User picks one
3. Present confirmation
4. Print paper copy for confirmation #2 and recount purposes.

Re:What's the holdup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14864827)

er, you're an idiot; do some reading about the problem domain and come back in a year without having your head stuck up your behind

Something stinks... (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864900)

Seems rather strange that the richest and most powerful country in the world can't afford decent voting systems (whether free or not). There are plenty of really smart people in the USA, good in crypto, systems, architecture etc. So the talent is there.

As for the money: this is the same country that has spent BILLIONS in Iraq for dubious reasons (the official reasons kept changing, so they can't have been the real reasons).

I heard one of the US Gov's "reasons" was to have democracy/free elections in Iraq, but that can't be the real reason since the US Gov was very obviously not pleased when there was democracy/free elections in Palestine and Hamas got elected ;).

I don't know what is really going on with the USA, but I doubt that the main issue is whether a voting system is OSS or non-OSS.

With all this "globalisation" being hyped as such a great thing, maybe the US should outsource their elections to India, and have UN observers for free to observe stuff. ;).

After all India is arguably the world's largest democracy (1 billion citizens). I bet if they had results as ridiculous as "more votes than voters", "negative votes" heads would _literally_ roll. They somehow have managed to get a decent chap as Prime Minister ( Dr. Manmohan Singh seems to be well-respected by most).

If I were a US citizen I'd _demand_ that all the people involved in supplying or approving crappy election systems be charged for _TREASON_.

After all, the USA keeps saying democracy is so important etc.

Prove it with actions and not bullshit.

Inspection is not enough. (2, Interesting)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864959)

From the article:

""Companies could still maintain intellectual property rights, so that they are the only ones who can sell it, but members of the public should be able to inspect it," Dill says."

Not only does maintaining "intellectual property [gnu.org] rights" not preclude others from distributing copies of the software for a fee (as anyone who understands Free Software licensing already knows), merely inspecting the software is insufficient to get real work done in a way that is beneficial to the public.

I served on the Champaign County election equipment advisory board—an appointed board made up of representatives of businesses and political parties from Champaign County, Illinois. Over months in the past couple of years this board weighed a few machines from a variety of vendors so that we could make a recommendation to the elected County Board who would then make the final decision and sign the appropriate contracts. We were told at the first meeting that we were only to consider machines from "approved vendors" but in the end we learned that even the machines we were considering had not yet all been approved by the State of Illinois. It was just a means of narrowing the allowable debate, effectively excluding a variety of vendors who probably never knew we were seriously considering voting machines.

I knew early on (and did my darndest to convince my fellow board members) that we want complete source code to the machines we'd buy so that we could make repairs and improvements while enjoying the benefits of global competition. Locally we have lots of talented computer programmers, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is in this county. It is a shame to waste all the talent we have by getting into a monopoly.

Politically, there are good reasons to need the source code too: it's your machine paid for with your tax dollars, so you should not be restricted from getting it fixed when it breaks, running it any time you want, and not just inspecting what it ostensibly does. But we should also not constrain ourselves to the features the machine has today. Locally, we could switch from a first-past-the-post to some kind of ranked voting system (like instant run-off or some Condorcet system) for local elections. But so long as we can't get the vendor to do what we want and as long as we can't help ourselves because we're choosing to buy into a monopoly for support (which is what you do when you get proprietary software), we have an additional restriction to overcome with our voting machines—we can't switch to the voting system we want because the proprietor won't let us and we can't afford to simply switch to another set of machines.

I discussed Free Software voting machines on Counterpunch [counterpunch.org] .

Run a programming competition! (1)

Espressoman (8032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14864999)

A polling application is just the kind of problem you could see in a programming competition. Why doesn't someone with some whoopass cred and some cash put together a competition. You'd get a bunch of people working towards a great goal (correct implementation of an important part of the democratic process), transparency and public input (after the functional framework is complete). I know that the software is only part of the problem, but perhaps a competition would stimulate a bit more public participation.

Graphical Voter Interface (GVI) (1)

RussP (247375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14865014)

http://russp.org/GVI.htm [russp.org]

GVI, The Graphical Voter Interface, is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for voting, suitable for use in private or public elections. Although it could be adapted for online voting, it is currently intended only for conventional "precinct" voting. For security reasons, GVI does not require that the voter have access to a keyboard. It can handle write-ins and multi-language elections, and it can automate voting along party lines. GVI can be used for Condorcet Voting and Instant Runoff Voting, which allow voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. It can also be used for Approval Voting, which allows voters to select more than one candidate.

And it's FREE in every conceivable way!
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