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Group Sues To Stop German E-Voting

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the we-don't-like-them-either dept.

The Courts 92

kRemit writes "The German hacker group Chaos Computer Club today sued the German State of Hessen to prevent the use of electronic voting machines (Google translation) in the upcoming elections on January 27. This comes as a follow-up to the Dutch initiative 'We don't trust voting machines,' which succeeded in banning the same type of voting machines in the Netherlands."

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Ha! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21949978)

Whoever said hackers couldn't be useful?

Re:Ha! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950142)

Thats very rich comming from a child beater

Re:Ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950168)

'beat', eh? that's what they're calling it these days?

Re:Ha! (1)

Starburnt (860851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950266)

I think he means 'beat off'.

Hacker v Cracker (1)

SillySlashdotName (466702) | more than 6 years ago | (#21953592)

Hackers are frequently useful. Crackers are seldom if ever useful.

Re:Hacker v Cracker (1)

darenw (74015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21959590)

I would mod this "Quaint" if i could. 99% of the general public doesn't get the distinction and probably never will. "Hacker" has gone the way of other fine old words. If someone from the 19th Century suddenly materialized here and said they were having a "gay old time" they would hear a few snickers. All we need a new word to mean what hacker used to mean.

Re:Hacker v Cracker (1)

multisync (218450) | more than 6 years ago | (#21960482)

99% of the general public doesn't get the distinction and probably never will. "Hacker" has gone the way of other fine old words


So I guess we should all just start calling our monitors the "computer" and the box that actually contains the computer the "hard drive," since 99% of the general public thinks that's correct? Oh, and I'm trying to download a program in Excel, when what I really mean is create a spreadsheet?

No thanks. I think I'll just continue to educate people who don't know any better as to what these words really mean, which can only lead to a better understanding of these mysterious machines they've had thrust upon them. There is a difference between language evolving, and the haphazard use of jargon, simply because no one has taught the person using it the proper word to use in a given circumstance. Simply giving in and letting people babble on nonsensically only leads to confusion.

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you can tamper with paper votes (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950000)

but it is cumbersome, slow, small in scale, and hard to hide

on the other hand with electronic voting (and to a lesser extent mechanical voting), you have an order of magnitude more attack vectors. you can also do a lot more damage with the slightest of effort, quickly, with a lot of volatility and potential for permanent obfuscation, destruction, or scrambling and outright manipulation. you can cover your tracks well too, and you can quickly survey the landscape and tweak votes in ways that are hard to sniff out later

paper voting is totally transparent to everyone involved. electronic voting is opaque. there is no verification, nothing of substance. nothing to see or touch

electronic voting is probably one of the greatest threats to faith in democracy in the 21st century. not a joke in the least

we need to lose this really bad idea asap

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (-1, Offtopic)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950044)

On the other hand, when was the last time the population of America elected a President? Never. [wikipedia.org] So what does medium matter? It's all for show anyway.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (2, Insightful)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950128)

Yes, but Germany is in Europe. ;)

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 6 years ago | (#21954200)

Which is pushing through a constitution (oh sorry i meant "treaty") that will put into place a permanent unelected EU president and staff, enable a majority of countries to push through legislation upon countries who do not want it, force a EU foreign minister, make many countries give up their seats on the UN security council and mess with independent states legal systems with the increase of powers for an EU supercourt. All this would be bad enough, but now with the german minister Angela Merkel's memo [blogs.com] explaining how they would force it through without referendum by changing its name around a bit and forcing it through.

Say hello to country altering EU laws being passed through behind closed doors folks, its about to get ugly.

Dont get me wrong though, im not Anti-EU, it has some wonderful benefits as far as business, travel and work is concerned, its justs its new power grabbing attitude worrys me.

[/rant]

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950154)

1. This article is about Germany, not America.
2. In America the voting machines are not only used for presidential elections, but also for congress, state and local elections.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950074)

One thing I expected around the 2004 election was a virus/worm that randomly changed the values in Access databases. Don't change the schema, don't delete rows, just change the values that was in there. Not changing the schema and not deleting stuff would make it relatively unnoticeable for as long as possible.

If it used a 0-day exploit, and had a way to get through NATs (piggy back on a website request or something), then you couldn't trust any tallies or votes done on anything that touched the internet.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

MorderVonAllem (931645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950098)

What about the machines that validate the paper votes? (I claim to know nothing about this) But are those computer systems or mechanical systems? If they're computer systems what's to prevent people from hacking them, lack of access?

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950188)

The party that lost will hand count the votes and if their numbers don't match the machine, all votes are recounted.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (2, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950192)

Machines that count paper votes can be tested by manually counting a sample. If the sample differs significantly from the mechanical count, you have a problem. You could cheat this way, but not by much.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

huge (52607) | more than 6 years ago | (#21952890)

If the sample differs significantly from the mechanical count, you have a problem.
If sample differs at all you have a problem. Vote counting shouldn't be a "pretty close approximation", it should be exact. Number of votes need to be exact.

You shouldn't be able to cheat at all in elections. You cannot ignore something because you could only cheat "a little". If it comes to a close call every single vote counts.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

fugue (4373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21960362)

I disagree. Vote counting is always a "pretty close approximation." Not just from the fact that machines and humans both fail in different ways, but also because some voters will be unexpectedly sick on election day, or be killed in traffic accidents, etc. Some will not be voting based on correct, complete information (in fact, that describes us all). Worse, some will change their minds at the last minute for trivial or irrelevant reasons. These people are, literally, noise that makes the whole process stochastic anyway, and it would be hard to argue that precisely counting random votes really matters.

Furthermore, if there are two parties and the election results are close to half and half, then I suspect that at least one of the following must be true:

  • The parties are so similar that there is no obvious difference between them.
  • The parties represent interests that are split evenly enough that, in the opinions of the voters, either has equally much (or little) to be said for it as the other.
  • Or, as in the USA in 2000 and 2004, the country has allowed so much of its population to become moronic unthinking sheep that the country is completely fucked anyway.

A representative democracy will, almost by definition, get the president that it deserves.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (2, Interesting)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21953828)

Machines that count paper votes can be tested by manually counting a sample.

same is true of e-voting. Do you know the path of the results from the paper votes to TV results? History shows their are so many ways found to hack paper ballots, be it creative printing, creative handling, or messing with phone lines used to transmit, or losing a box, or even substituting a box for another (you give the real voters the counterfeit ballots, and boxes. You fill in the real ballots and boxes.)

With e-voting their has to be so many more avenues to detect cheating if done correctly. For example, you could contract out a dozen completely independent server implementations, they all should agree to the vote (which is impossible with paper) You let people choose a key, and send them a Public encryption string, they encrypt their private string along with their votes. That way a concerned voter could have a piece of their ballot packet that is verify-able, without the "sell-able vote" privacy issue.

What you probably can't do with a E-Voting machine is make my Grandparents feel like their vote is being counted. (or even much of slashdot apparently) Now I can't make up the whole system in a slashdot post, other than to say it is theoretically possible to have no dead trees, and fully verifiable results, and manually counted samples is easy (example you would choose trusted individuals who re-use their keys, and re-check their voting results from multiple locations. and by trusted, I just mean trusted to not change their vote to make the system look bad.)

Now by e-voting, I don't mean using your same windows PC, that 10% are own3d a hundred times over, that part I don't know. But those smarter than me will find something, be it a usb addon...

Theoretically possible? Yes. (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21958574)

Theoretically possible, however, doesn't have much to do with any implementation that I've heard of. More of them seem designed to specifically allow election results to be faked than to produce honest results.

Fundamentally, the problem is that if the mechanism for counting votes is hidden, then the results can't be trusted. It could, potentially, pass every test but when a crucial date rolled around, or a switch was set, it could act in a very different way.

And it's not just the program. Every step of the procedure needs to be verifiable. It *should* be publicly verifiable, but at a bare minimum it's got to be verifiable by hired observers who aren't beholden to the participating parties.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21951192)

Paper votes are hand counted by a commitee of at least 3 people in each polling station, then the results are transmitted by the head of that commitee to the next higher tier in the chain (depending on the scale of the poll). The ballots are stored for an extended period of time, to allow a recount.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (0)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951532)

There are no "machines that validate the paper votes". The paper votes are counted by people. Usually, the candidates themselves, each with one representative.

How it works: The ballot papers are emptied into the middle of the table. Everyone pulls out all the papers with a figure "1" next to their name, counts their pile and writes down the number of votes. Everyone then passes their pile of papers to the left, counts the ones from the person on their right, and so on. When each person has counted each pile, everyone compares their counts. If all agree, the result is announced; if there is any disagreement, the counting is repeated until all parties are satisfied. If necessary, eliminate weakest candidate and count up votes with a "2" next to each name, and so forth until we have a winner.

None of the candidates trust one another, which is enough by itself to ensure that everyone behaves fairly.

And Yet... (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950214)

...the idea is being pushed all over the US. Either someone thinks this is a good idea and is pressing on regardless, or someone knows this is a bad idea and is pushing it through because they have ulterior motives.

The way things are going at the moment I wouldn't be surprised if either or both are eventually proven true.

Heroes (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950220)

Didn't anyone see that Heroes episode? A determined team of black hats could accomplish all that easily enough, and with enough noise in the ballots to make fraud statistically fiendish to detect.

E-vote tampering is not science fiction. It's an inevitable fact.

Scale matters. (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950222)

Quantity has a quality all its own.

Many people seem to have the mistaken impression that electronic voting doesn't change anything fundamental about vote fraud, it just changes how it happens. But, if the change is big enough, it becomes qualitatively different as well.

You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950236)

Once again, every time this topic comes up, the answer is always *paper ballots*. I feel compelled to point out that the entire reason there are electronic voting machines throughout the USA is because *we had a big problem with paper ballots in Florida*. The problems with paper ballots are almost the sole reason electronic voting is being persued. It's clearly *not* transparent and *not* straightforward - there are STILL people going over the ballots trying to get a different result and people are STILL arguing about "hanging chads" and stuff like that. Not to mention the numerous election "irregularities" that happened and continue to happen with paper ballots over history.

        The points about electronic voting are largely valid (the technical points, not the conspiracy drivel) but the theory that paper ballots represent some sort of perfect world are just foolish and fly in the face of the numerous demonstrated problems

            Brett

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950268)

Whoah there. Not all paper ballot systems are equal. In ireland, people use voting slips that are written on, not ambiguously punched. And hand counted locally, with adversarial counters (i.e. people of all party affiliations checking eachothers' counts). And the voting system is proportional representation, more complicated to count, but they still manage (the american/corporate-affiliated irish government of the time tried to introduce electronic voting the election before last, and failed due to the machines' demonstrable insecurity and unreliability).

Ireland has less people you say? True, but it still has millions, it's about the size of a US state. And these things scale well! They're amenable to hierarchical decomposition! Vote local, count local, subsubtotal, subtotal, total => result.

Human voting is a human process, and computers should stay the fuck out of it. It's incredibly more difficult to bribe _everyone_ involved in a human-counted election than to change a few lines in a closed-source unverified voting machine.

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (2, Interesting)

Lunzo (1065904) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950308)

Mod parent up (Insightful/Informative).

Australia uses a similar system for casting votes and counting. Ticking or numbering boxes with a pencil is way different to having a machine punch holes in a paper ballot, and avoids any hanging chads or any of that crap.

As for scalability of counting, in Australia we get the election result on the night (except for seats which are incredibly close) a few hours after polling booths close.

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950370)

in Australia we get the election result on the night (except for seats which are incredibly close) a few hours after polling booths close.

Not always true:
- Owning to our penal-colony heritage, pencils are often stolen early in the voting day, resulting in delays
- Sometimes, a dingo will eat the ballot-boxes, delaying counting while we wait for the dingo to pass the ballots through his system

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

It'sYerMam (762418) | more than 6 years ago | (#21955984)

As my high school deputy-head said at the time, "Here in England, we just get a big black crayon and mark a big black X," with a neanderthalic demonstration. Keep it simple, stupid!

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21995438)

And the voting system is proportional representation, more complicated to count, but they still manage

I'm a fan of paper, but you're wrong to say that the proportional representation system is more complicated to count -- it's simpler. There are more parties, sure, but fewer separate decisions. My ballot (in the US) can have as many as 80 separate choices on it, because we vote for individual positions at the city, county, state and national level all on one ballot. In addition there are city, county and state ballot initiatives as well as retention votes for judges and some other appointed officials.

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (4, Insightful)

chebucto (992517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950318)

A few points:

- Florida did not simply use paper ballots; it used mechanical voting machines to punch those ballots.
- Paper-punching machines are needlessly complicated, opening them up to unique kinds of disruption. Their performance in Florida may have been deliberately degraded: there are allegations that substandard paper was sent to that state by a voting-machine company for use in the machines (read more here [votetrustusa.org] )
- In voting, the simplest is the best: paper + pencil for the voter; trustworthy citizens for the counting. This is what we use in Canada; a country of 30m people, and we are able to announce election results the night of the election. There is universal trust in the voting process - though not, I am sad to say, in politics in general :)

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#21953826)

In the Sunderland South constituency in England, in 2001 they counted 30,000 votes in 43 minutes. Each year they try to count them as fast and as accurately as possible, and they apparently do a great job.

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21958660)

Pencil is a bad choice. My preference is bingo markers, but any indelible ink is reasonable. Sharpies are good, but expensive. Bingo markers were specifically designed for the job, and make nice round dots.

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950666)

No. Florida had very poorly designed ballots that used a bizarre machine to mark them. Most paper ballot systems don't suffer from the problems of Florida, because they are not needlessly complex. What's wrong with a simple voter-writes-with-ink-on-paper system?

Re:You are ignoring the key issue that led to this (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951552)

The problem was that in Florida, the ballots were marked by machine, and counted by machine. The crux of the matter was that the machines were not behaving properly.

The way to eliminate the problem of machine unreliability is to mark the ballots by hand and count them by hand.

Florida System Machine vs Human (1)

AJ Mexico (732501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21978174)

I live in Florida, and I've used the old and new system. The problems with the punch card system were caused by the humans not the machines. The much-derided punch card system had many features that were better than many newer voting systems.
  • Votes left an indelible paper trail (you can't reattach a punched chad).
  • The voting machines were extremely simple, requiring no electricity.
  • The votes could be easily read by machines at a central location. (Standard punch card readers -- not so common anymore.)
The problems occurred because,
  • Some voters are idiots.
  • There was no agreement in advance about how to conduct a recount.
I never noticed the slightest problem with how to mark my ballot: just move the slider to the candidate of choice and push down to punch the ballot. But, there are a lot of idiots, and no system is completely idiot proof.

As to the recount, all this hanging chad business could have been prevented if they had agreed in advance to conduct recounts by machine. It's a binary decision -- the machine either registers a vote or not. The machine is not arbitrarily trying to "determine voter intent".

The new system in my county also seems like a good one. Voters mark a paper ballot with a black pen. You mark the oval, much like standard multiple-choice tests. The ballots are counted immediately by machine, but the paper ballot drops into the box, saved in case of recounts. Ballots with conflicting marks are kicked back right away so the voter can be offered another ballot. But, I'm sure some idiots will screw up this system also.

Florida voting problem... Not. (1)

Lost Penguin (636359) | more than 6 years ago | (#21952154)

The only reason Florida had any vote problems was Jeb Bush wanting his brother elected.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950320)

Problem in the US is that if we do not have results before midnight Eastern time a winner will be announced anyway, as was done in 2000. Do you really think the country can handle announcing Hillary as the winner at midnight and then at 2:00 AM saying "just kidding, John McCain is really the winner?"

Do you believe the government is in such good control of the news media so see to it that this doesn't happen?

In some countries it takes two weeks to announce the results. How come we can't be patient in the US?

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950392)

I can't handle John McCain being announced the winner no matter *how* it happens.

Sure, he's principled and honest. His principles are just opposite mine.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950688)

Uh, why wouldn't this be possible with paper ballots? Even with hand-counting, it's possible to get results within hours. There's also no reason electronic voting wouldn't delay the results, given the uncertainties and numerous problems with the machines. A reliable system like paper is much more likely to get quick and accurate results than an unreliable system.

Re:you can tamper with paper votes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21953718)

Have you ever been to a developing country like Zimbabwe or recently Kenya and heard how the politicians easily rig elections even with the paper ballots and all the controls in place?

Predictions (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950022)

My predictions for comments on this article:

1. Two words that I will see over and over again "Paper ballots" and arguements for them.
2. Many people bashing the American voting mess.
3. Another word... Diebold.
4. "The Canadian system is better because..."

For all of these generic posts and more, check out the history of Slashdot articles concerning the issue.

NH Primaries Voting Franchise Monopoly (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950046)

NH (and most of the rest of New England) doesn't seem to mind [bbvforums.org] about its own digital voting being in unaccountable private hands, as it wields its totally disproportionate influence on the voting of the entire country.

As simple as I can say this... (4, Informative)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950082)

Hessen, and the rest of the Germany too, listen up! Pardon my German, but... DAS ELEKTRONISCHE WAHLEN IST SCHLECT!! Did you get that? Electronic voting is bad! I don't know how many discussions, lawsuits, and protests that blast e-voting's many shortcomings it is going to take before they become what they should be, landfill fodder.

Seriously, at best they are a waste of money. At worst, and probably most likely, they add all sorts of new vectors for corruption in a process that is inherently corrupt. Listen, most sane people realize that instant election results are not worth the dangers involved with excessive automation of the process. Keep to Occam's razor. The simpler the system the better. Pen and paper are ideal, but a punch card system is a fair choice as well.

All the arguments are hashed and tired. There's no sensible reason to move to electronic voting. It doesn't magically increase turn-out. It's expensive. I needn't go on. However, if anyone on the elections board or whatever decisional authority over elections is reading this, this is a good starting point [schneier.com] for comprehending the e-voting situation as it stands as a piece of the larger issue of elections in general.

SAGEN SIE NICHT ZUM ELEKTRONISCHEN WÄHLEN!!

Re:As simple as I can say this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950162)

ACHTUNG!

ICH BIN EIN BERLINER!

People know, Politicians not (1)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951510)

I live in Germany and kept track of the voting machine controversy here. The problem is not that people want voting machines, but that politicians want them (properly because they get money from manufacturer or want to be modern or are impressed by them). When hacker groups (like the CCC [www.ccc.de] ) prove that voting machine are hackable, those politicians just insist they are not. They don't even try to argue, they just trust the manufacturer so much.
In this case, they want to use voting machines that the CCC has already proven to be insecure [heise.de] . Luckily this time this is news for mainstream media and not just heise (German slashdot equivalent)

Off Topic: About your German: the word is "schlecht" not "schlect"; and "sagen Sie Nein zum elektronischen Wählen" (say no to electronic voting) not "sagen sie nicht" (say not) :-)

Re:People know, Politicians not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21952178)

It's nice that you correct the parent's German, but by God, "properly" when you meant "probably"?
You're also insulting slashdot by putting heise on the same level. heise is overrun by trolls.

English Version Available (5, Informative)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950118)

Why link to a crappy Google translator version when a reasonably good english version of TFA [www.ccc.de] is available? There are big flags at the top of the article, one for Germany, and one for English. I suppose the submitter didn't realize that funny blue and red flag was for Great Britain and meant English.

Re:English Version Available (2, Insightful)

nem75 (952737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21952092)

There are big flags at the top of the article, one for Germany, and one for English. I suppose the submitter didn't realize that funny blue and red flag was for Great Britain and meant English.

Which just goes to show once again that in web design representing different language versions by flags is a bloody stupid idea.

And yes, this is off topic, but the above can't be pointed out too often, so I'm willing to take that karma hit.

Re:English Version Available (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21952284)

That's just an excuse for stupidity.

Re:English Version Available (1)

It'sYerMam (762418) | more than 6 years ago | (#21956034)

Hey, we had the language first; we get the flag! ;-)

Re:English Version Available (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21952472)

It's really stupid to use country flags for languages. That flag would be appropriate if it linked to a nationalist computer club in the UK.

Re:English Version Available (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21953512)

It's better than what I've often seen: a bunch of links such as
[english] [french] [spanish] [german] [dutch] [japanese]

I confidently predict that at least one AC will not be able to spot what is wrong with this.

Re:English Version Available (1)

V for Vendetta (1204898) | more than 6 years ago | (#21954042)

Why link to a crappy Google translator version when a reasonably good english version of TFA is available?

Because perhaps at the time he submitted this news to /. no english version was available? I know a lot of (german) sites which publish the german news story as soon as it's available and than later on translate (part of their) stories into english.

Re:English Version Available (1)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 6 years ago | (#21955476)

You raise a good point. Instead of blaming the submitter, I now blame the editors!

Voting in the netherlands (0)

TOI_0x00 (1088153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950158)

It is however to be noted that most polling stations use Electronical voting machines in the Netherlands.

Voting machines or voting computers? (1)

raboofje (538591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950974)

Indeed, the group is called 'Wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet' ('we don't trust voting computers').

The fact these devices are not simple mechanical aides, but complex, impossible-to-verify black-box computer systems is stressed.

Re:Voting in the netherlands (1)

broomer (209132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21971440)

Not anymore we don't...
All references to voting machines are scrapped from our voting regulations (dec 10 2007) and all electronic voting equipment have their validation revoked (sept 2007)

Electronic paper voting? (4, Interesting)

pv2b (231846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950164)

There's generally not much wrong with paper voting, as long as the process is totally transparent, but there are a few ways you can cheat with paper voting, but generally it's a pretty good system.

There are a lot of smart people asking -- how can we make electronic voting as good as traditional voting with slips of paper? What if that's the wrong question? What if instead, paper voting could be made *better* with the advent of electronic technology?

There was an article a week or so back describing some place printing ballots on demand. What if paper ballots were printed on demand, but the people printing them are the voters? A machine could be hooked up to print a ballot when a voter presses the correct buttons, and would only print out one ballot per voter. The ballots themselves would also have a barcode on them with a code certifying which machine printed them. The printers would count how many ballots were printed, and if that number doesn't match the number counted, that'd signify a problem -- either the machines were tampered with, or the physical ballots.

Now, that'd still make it possible to print excessive ballots from a printer, but then the number of votes wouldn't match the number of voters, and thus, number of votes cast.

To fix that, you could use some kind of public key cryptography system. In order to vote, you are sent a voter registration card, which contains a single-use private key on a 2D-barcode, which in turn is signed by whatever authority compiles the eligible voters list. That private key in turn is used to sign a message that simply says "I voted" and nothing else. That would eliminate the possibility of faking lists of who voted, except if the private key itself was falsified to start with, or if multiple such keys were assigned per person.

But that's okay. Now there are only three possible attack vectors (that I can think of) -- key falsification (only possible if you're part of the authority that issues voter identities), key theft (possible if you rifle through the mail of whoever's identity you want to steal), and vote changing (would require tampering both with voting machines *and* with paper ballots).

The key theft threat can be mitigated by rigorous identity checks -- posession of the proper private key should not be sufficient to vote -- some kind of ID should also be neccessary, and the key falsification threat can be minimized by *very* rigorous inspection of whatever authority issues said keys, and the vote changing scenario is made more difficult than it used to be.

Now, such a system would probably never be implemented due to cost concerns. But it'd probably be better than the paper voting we have today, and it wouldn't break the secret ballot, nor would it make the system less transparent. It'd basically be the old system with a parallell electronic system to ensure whoever counts the paper ballots are honest. There are probably other flaws too, I don't know. :-)

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950288)

There are a couple of problems that need to be solved with paper ballots today. Some of the solutions that have been proposed solve some of them, but most people don't seem to understand that if we can't solve all of them there isn't much point - just let the TV news announce the winner without any voting at all.

The first problem that e-voting is supposed to solve is to get the votes counted quicker. Remmber that in 2000 Gore was announced as the winner first. Do you really think that can be allowed to happen again?

The second problem is elimination of inconsistent recounts. The news folks are going to grab onto any variations as some kind of "proof" of something or another. Exactly reproducible counts are a requirement. A 1% variation will alternately select candidates and that is unacceptable.

The third problem is identity - there is a substantial faction in the US that believes no proof of identity should be necessary whatsoever. No photo ID, no "identity card", nothing. These folks generally are Democrats but not always. Anything less than identification-less voting is thought to discriminate against some group or another, such as absent-minded people that can't seem to remember to bring their driver's license.

The fourth problem is probably ADA-compliant voting. This means that handicapped people of all sorts have to be accomodated on request without requiring assistance. If they can talk to a lawyer, they better be able to vote without needing help.

I don't see any requirement for verified voting, or for accuracy. What I do see is making sure a candidate is selected once and finally and that it isn't done by checking exit polls or what the TV news people think.

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

Desipis (775282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950414)

A 1% variation will alternately select candidates and that is unacceptable.

If you're (re)counting votes and can't explain differences in the counts, then you're doing it wrong.

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951140)

Even moreso if the difference is large enough to elect someone else. The number of votes hasn't changed between the counts, why should the result?

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951750)

The fourth problem is probably ADA-compliant voting. This means that handicapped people of all sorts have to be accomodated on request without requiring assistance. If they can talk to a lawyer, they better be able to vote without needing help.
Can someone explain to me why a disabled person can't just take a carer of their own choosing (and therefore whom they trust) in with them to help them vote?

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

Geirzinho (1068316) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950384)

There was an article a week or so back describing some place printing ballots on demand. What if paper ballots were printed on demand, but the people printing them are the voters? A machine could be hooked up to print a ballot when a voter presses the correct buttons, and would only print out one ballot per voter. The ballots themselves would also have a barcode on them with a code certifying which machine printed them. The printers would count how many ballots were printed, and if that number doesn't match the number counted, that'd signify a problem -- either the machines were tampered with, or the physical ballots.
Wouldn't this violate voter privacy? If the only paper ballot you have matches the actual vote case, you could take a snapshot of it with your cellphone and show to the guys who paid for your vote. A major point with secret ballots is that you do not have a paper trail, so you can lie to anyone instructing you to vote for a certain party.

You would need to have the machine print arbitrary ballots, which would of course cause problems if there is a paper recount after the machine count failed, and you managed to put the wrong ballot in the envelope... the whole thing looks a little difficult to me.

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

pv2b (231846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950748)

Wouldn't this violate voter privacy? If the only paper ballot you have matches the actual vote case, you could take a snapshot of it with your cellphone and show to the guys who paid for your vote. A major point with secret ballots is that you do not have a paper trail, so you can lie to anyone instructing you to vote for a certain party.
Excellent point! Hadn't thought about that.

You could take a snapshot with a cell camera today, but there's no way to prove that was the actual vote you cast. If no other ballot papers actually exist -- well -- then it would be possible.

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950510)

All that you say seems quite reasonable, however it still will not satisfy the criterion that in most western democracies voting is supposed to be via _secret_ ballot. If you introduce any mechanism or technology that could (even only in principal) be used to figure out how an individual voted then it is a retrograde step over pen/pencil and paper.

Two of your suggestions are open to this kind of attack:

1) On-demand printing of ballots with barcode: you could make steps to create a nice system whereby no audit trail could be used to identify a voter but no system is foolproof and an important factor is not just having a transparent system but a system that is also seen as transparent by the bulk of the electors (ie. some technological or procedural system that is mathematically 100% provably correct will not neccesarliy be seen as transparent by the electors, in fact it will probably seem more opaque therefore further disenfranching them and re-enforcing this stupid idea that we in the west have developed that technology is a silver bullet).

Let's say that you respond by saying "OK no barcode, no identifying marks of any kind".
Problem is that it is very easy to create various kinds of invisible, one-off watermarks in a on-demand printing scenario.

2) One-time-pad style voting tickets for registration of voters: could potentially suffer from the same problem as above...and they can also be lost/stolen/etc. thus preventing electors from participating.

Note that I'm not saying that your ideas aren't worth consideration but _any_ change should be considered carefully and all possible attack scenarios should be factored in.

Ultimately though I think the following post from the day before yesterday's thread on "Western-Style Voting 'A Loser'" sums it up best it really follows the old addage "don't fix what ain't broken", to wit: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=407430&cid=21931166 [slashdot.org]

Now of course....I agree that from the outside the system in the USA seems awfully broke (I'm an Australian) but throwing technological solutions at the problem only seems to make things worse...afterall aren't "hanging chads" an artefact from introducing (1900's) technology.

ps. sometimes I wonder if the slashdot captcha generator is self-aware...for this posting it came up as "nonsense" ...

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951732)

You don't need half that complication. A simple hand punch (with one of many difficult-to-duplicate patterns), issued at random by the Returning Officer to the polling station on the morning of the election and collected at the close of polling, would be enough. Ballot papers are printed identical, and simply punched on issue. Punched ballot papers are not allowed out of the polling station, except in the ballot box or the "spoiled ballots" envelope, and people who (are supposed to) have voted already are not allowed back near the ballot box. There's a possibility that someone could communicate the pattern made by the punch to the outside world, but in practice this is of limited relevance. Nobody knows what the pattern on the punch will be until election day, which makes it hard to falsify -- who's going to keep a collection of fake special punches on standby, just to rig a few hundred votes?

Re:Electronic paper voting? (1)

BlindRobin (768267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21952366)

you don't get it do you ?

Re:Electronic paper voting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21966506)

Way too complicated. What you need is transparency, that everyone can SEE that it works. Even I gave up on your description, and I'm a programmer. Don't expect my grand mother to understand anything of that.

Even if you have a perfect mathematically provable system, if you need to be a programmer or mathematician to understand it, programmers and mathematicians can change the system and noone else would notice. Expect Bill Gates to be the next president...

The only things that matters is transparency. If anyone can check that everything is done right, you have a working system. That is, anyone who is allowed to vote. A system that requires special knowledge to understand is only democratic between those who possess that knowledge.

John Gruber said it best... (5, Insightful)

riscfuture (997873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950180)

Computer enthusiasts really like computers, so when they say, "No, I don't think it's a good idea to use computers for this," you should probably listen.

Re:John Gruber said it best... (1)

alfrin (858861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950980)

I was curious to from where this quote is from? I'd really like to read the read it in context, unless it was just an off hand quote. Thank you.

Re:John Gruber said it best... (1)

68kmac (471061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951098)

Hmm, interesting. That quote was originally in this [daringfireball.net] short post about e-voting - but he seems to have changed it since. I still have the original version in my RSS reader. There, the last paragraph reads

I think it's been very frustrating for computer experts who've been highly critical of electronic voting machines. The decisions to use them were being made by bureaucrats who were either incapable, unwilling -- or, worst of all, too dishonest -- to recognize the accountability problems with them. In general, computer people love computers -- so when computer people tell you "don't use computers for that", or "don't use these computers for that", you really ought to listen.
Much shorter and more to the point, I think.

GermanE or GermanY? (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950196)

I'm confused.

Re:GermanE or GermanY? (1)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951524)

Germany [wiktionary.org] is correct. Germane [wikipedia.org] is a chemical compound.

Re:GermanE or GermanY? (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21954720)

So I was talking to my friend Jermaine in Germany and he said something quite germane about germane.

Might as well throw this out there (-1, Troll)

wronskyMan (676763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950240)

You know who else tried to stop German elections?

Re:Might as well throw this out there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950252)

Adolf Hitler?

Re:Might as well throw this out there (1)

redalien (711170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21951106)

Actually, Hitler came to power by strategically forcing elections. He didn't much care about having them stopped as he just locked his opponents up.

The best hackers complain best hackers control... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21950316)

The best hackers complain that the best hackers control... everything?

I am confused.

Oh do they still burn hackers alive to get confessions out of them? Don't burn out our best programmers! What a waste!! oh I see now.

Re:The best hackers complain best hackers control. (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950402)

The best hackers don't want to control anything.

Re:The best hackers complain best hackers control. (1)

nonsequitor (893813) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950478)

Mod parent up. CCC is run by anarchy. The anarchists have the best groupware.

The Real Plot Regarding E Vote Not what you think (1, Interesting)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950382)

There is no reason a secure multiple party audit trail e voting system cannot be built. Although the current ones are of poor design, and there may very well have been tampering this artificial issue may be promoted by the very people that wish to control the many, or at least maintain a degree of power.

THE TRUTH may very well be that E - Voting is a threat to the current power structure (they know this) a system that disallows or stops the influence of special interests and or the delusions of individuals on policy making and legislative voting.

E - Voting properly implemented creates Collective Control eliminating the Corrupt Control. A few or singular individuals can be influenced and corrupted, many individuals cannot be corrupted. In other words it does not cost much to corrupt or influence.

Read the Creme Principle the best rises to the top by word of link. http://iamblogging.net/archives/2005/12/the_creme_princ.html [iamblogging.net] In Infinite Play the Movie they caution to not implement Collective Control until the independent subscriber based media (intelligence services for the people) is in place and a major shift in attention is away from the corporate controlled media paid off via advertising to propagate various fictions, or fail to bring to light disruptive to the industries and professions intelligence.

Read It is said that the Corporate Status Quo Media will collapse when the end of disease protocols are released and trillion dollar class actions are brought against medical industrial complex. The media currently depends heavily on Pharmaceutical Company advertising. In other words the Media gets a cut of the drug profits and qualifies as an industry that profit from disease classifying it as one of the Death Industries. This is why they don't promote the knowledge to end disease.

The reason I suspect it is an artificial issue is that electronic voting can be secure. I can certainly design a voting system that will work, using architecture and methods I have already developed. I think others have as well.

I think we could do the secure E-secure voting system for 250K or even maybe open source. Diebold got $10's of millions for an MS Access database? I could of done it for the taxpayers for $25,000.

Re:The Real Plot Regarding E Vote Not what you thi (2, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950652)

E - Voting properly implemented creates Collective Control eliminating the Corrupt Control.

I'd like to hear your description of "properly implemented". Remember that you have to reconcile three things: voter verification, accurate counting, and secret ballot. (Pick two.)

And by the way: Poorly implemented, it does just the opposite. Diebold's systems -- excuse me, Premiere Election Systems -- can have the vote compromised by anyone with access to the appropriate excel/Access database. (Might actually just be Excel.) That means there are a lot of people who are literally only a few keystrokes away from changing the vote.

I can certainly design a voting system that will work, using architecture and methods I have already developed. I think others have as well.

I have tried, and I haven't been able to come up with anything that is better than paper, in any way.

Re:The Real Plot Regarding E Vote Not what you thi (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21971256)

Actually it would still include paper. A paper receipt that cannot be altered, or maybe an email (this will work only if it can have a checksum or something to show it has not been altered.) this receipt is used by the voter to audit the system and check that their votes were properly registered in at least three of the public databases.

We could also print out additional receipts for some other party to audit the system.

I have designed a universal information architecture / system that engineers Big Brother out of the system and retains privacy and control of one's data, yet includes transparency. The voting system could use some of the methods and structure.

The system is autonomous, with anonymity yet also providing certification and verification.

The stuff many have talked about for at least 25 years.

It can be done, perhaps those that worked on designing the voting machines thus far were not the brightest or those having the correct intentions. We just need to collectively decide to make it happen.

It is also my understanding based on insight and thought from William Poundstone and others that we need to switch from plurality voting to range voting or instant-runoff voting.

As far as hacking the system we will award anyone several hundred thousand dollars that can figure out how to hack the system. They also have to create the counter measure, fix or methods to close the vulnerability to get the award.

Re:The Real Plot Regarding E Vote Not what you thi (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981082)

Actually it would still include paper. A paper receipt that cannot be altered, or maybe an email... this receipt is used by the voter to audit the system and check that their votes were properly registered in at least three of the public databases.

Alright, let me get this straight: Are these "public databases" exposed, in full? Are they simply every single vote, and who it was for?

If so, that kills your anonymity/secrecy. It now becomes possible for people to literally and directly buy votes, because they can make sure, when you come back out, that your vote was for the candidate they paid you to vote for.

I have designed a universal information architecture / system that engineers Big Brother out of the system and retains privacy and control of one's data, yet includes transparency. The voting system could use some of the methods and structure.

The system is autonomous, with anonymity yet also providing certification and verification.

I'll believe it when I see it. (Or specs, or a whitepaper, or an informal rant.)

It is also my understanding based on insight and thought from William Poundstone and others that we need to switch from plurality voting to range voting or instant-runoff voting.

Maybe so, but it doesn't solve the fundamental problems with the voting process.

As far as hacking the system we will award anyone several hundred thousand dollars that can figure out how to hack the system.

Read this [schneier.com] .

They also have to create the counter measure, fix or methods to close the vulnerability to get the award.

Read this [schneier.com] . A relevant excerpt:

You might think: "How does he KNOW that this is nonsense? If it's so bad, why can't he break it?" That's actually backwards. In the world of cryptography, we assume something is broken until we have evidence to the contrary. (And I mean evidence, not proof.)

Look, we both agree on what the perfect, ideal goal is. I'm not really sure it's possible -- in fact, I'm reasonably sure it's not possible, and that we can only get some rough approximation of it. So, when I say "nice try", I actually mean that I'm glad you're trying, but I sincerely doubt you've come up with anything fundamentally different enough to work.

Re:The Real Plot Regarding E Vote Not what you thi (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21954622)

"Voter verification" is a non-issue. You can see your name, address and who you voted for on some screen. But that doesn't mean jack shit. You can't be sure that the totals are correct without looking at everybody's vote. But the majority of those people are strangers to you. You don't even know that they exist, let alone how they voted.

Just displaying the person's vote you asked for and a row of "final totals" across the bottom of the screen would probably get past most people -- even if the "final totals" displayed were not the amounts you would get adding up the actual votes for each candidate. If you had some database of "who knows who" then you could even, based on the voter's ID, display their vote and the votes of anyone in their Wider Social Network correctly but alter the votes of strangers as necessary to match the "final totals".

24c3 lectures (3, Informative)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21950502)

on the 24th chaos communication congress there were two interesting lectures:

one about electronic voting in the netherlands (english): http://outpost.h3q.com/fnord/24c3-torrents/24c3-2342-en-it_was_a_bad_idea_anyway.mkv.torrent [h3q.com]

another about electronic voting vulnerabilities and the status in germany (german): http://outpost.h3q.com/fnord/24c3-torrents/24c3-2380-de-nedap_wahlcomputer_in_deutschland.mkv.torrent [h3q.com]

This is about open source (1)

sulimma (796805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21952012)

Interestingly the main argument in the case at hand is NOT that the machines are faulty or can be manipulated.

Until now elections in germany are held in public. This means that anybody can come in and watch the votes beeing counted. However with the voting machines used the people are requested to believe the government that they operate correctly. This trust should be based on secret reviews of the machines hard and software conducted by the government.

The CCC argues that his does not qualify as a public election. Elections are all about controlling the government and not about trusting it.

Using open source machines probably would meet at least this criterion of a public election.

open source voting machines are intransparent (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963064)

even with open source software on the voting machines, there is now way for anyone to tell what the machine exactly does. even computer scientists can only hope that the machine right in front of them has the right software on it. also, if manipulations happen, there can be no recount.

also, the argument actually is about that those machines can be easily manipulated. a public counting process is only to ensure that there is no manipulation, therefore ensuring government legitimacy.

you are wrong.

Use old paper system, but electronics also detect (1)

Jameson Burt (33679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21953380)

Old paper voting systems, one might say, were perfected for their use.
Use them.
But underneath them, have an electronic sensor system that detects the votes.

This eliminates the problem of stuffing paper ballots as in Chicago's past and Kenya's yesterday;
and eliminates the problem of electronic machines giving whatever numbers the last programmer wanted,
not what the voters selected.

That's a double check.
No voting system should be allowed that is less trustworthy than the old paper system.
If we allow voting to be compromised, we no longer have democracies --
we have the government some programmer wants (programmocracy),
or some thug with burlap bags of ballots wants (thugocracy).
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