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Open Source Electronic Voting Progress Limited

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the open-the-polls dept.

Software 113

An anonymous reader points us to a story about how the problems with electronic voting mostly stem from one source: the lack of mandated standardization. The LinuxInsider article goes on to suggest that once the issue of a universal voting platform is solved, the way is paved for open-source software to address concerns over accuracy and transparency. Though the article states that "no open source program for voting machines yet exists," it should be noted that such software was successfully tested earlier this month. Quoting: "People debate the merits of e-voting for a variety of reasons, including suspicion of new technologies and a general distrust of politics, according to Jamie McKown, Wiggins professor of government and polity at the College of the Atlantic. 'Reports on e-voting security often de-contextualize the history of voter fraud in this country, as if boxes were somehow assumed to be better. You constantly hear calls for paper trails, and open and free inspection of voting machine source code. But it's a very thorny issue and one that has a lot of facets,' McKown told LinuxInsider."

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Standard is already set (2, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284528)

The standard is already being set by the people. Physical and electronic records verifiable by open process and contained in a completely sealed box with tamper detection.

Re:Standard is already set (1)

Oddster (628633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285108)

The United States got by for over 200 years without electronic voting. We should not switch to electronic voting simply because there is no functional problem with older methods of counting and there are no compelling benefits to justify switching. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Re:Standard is already set (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22285368)

"The United States got by for over 200 years without electronic voting. We should not switch to electronic voting simply because there is no functional problem with older methods of counting and there are no compelling benefits to justify switching. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

If there is no problem with paper ballots then why are chads and disputed checkmarks a problem in every paper ballot not to mention the hand counting issue of no validation and taking days to recount with different results almost every. If every vote is to count it needs to be assured to be counted correctly and that is only done by computers and trusted verifiable systems of oversight.

Re:Standard is already set (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285592)

The United States got by for over 200 years without electronic voting.

The US may be having diffiulty with Open Source voting, but other http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2003/11/61045 [slashdot.org] ">parts of the world have been doing it successfully for the past 5 years.

The benefits include the opportunity for privacy for disabled voters and illiterate people as well as reducing counting errors and costs.

Re:Standard is already set (0, Flamebait)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285652)

I disagree. Remember, Bush stole the 2000 election largely because of paper ballots. The electronic voting was a compelling solution to the problems that lead to the 2000 voting irregularities. The problem was that the fox controlled the henhouse, and put his own foxes in charge.

Electronic voting has many other compelling benefits. As the number of voters grows, it takes longer and longer for the results to be tabulated, and shortcuts get taken to make the process faster (such as sampling balots to verify accuracy, which doesn't work if the ballots have been "pre-sorted" as we've seen).

Open Source is not the answer either, because Open Source does not guarantee that the actual code audited is the actual code used. The problem is one of process and auditability. If you have a solid process and unbreakable auditability, it doesn't matter who makes the voting machines, or whether they are open or closed source. If the input and output is verifiable, it's trustworthy. This includes hard copy audit trails that are voter verifiable (ie, they can see that the paper ballot printed equals what they entered into the system).

Re:Standard is already set (1)

doom (14564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285848)

Remember, Bush stole the 2000 election largely because of paper ballots.

Punch cards != paper ballots.

Op scan ballots are okay, but at a minimum there needs to be random, hand-counted audits conducted in public view, and some clear rules that state that any discrepancy should trigger a full re-count by hand. For example: if the totals for all candidates don't match the number of people who voted at a polling place, there should be a recount.

Requiring some third party to pay for audits that ought to be part of the system is ridiculous.

And yes, whether the op scan machines are nominally running "open source" software is close to irrelevant: fancy key encryption digitial signature tricks are far too obscure to expect the general public to trust the results -- getting the count right isn't enough, people have to believe that the count was done correctly, and the simpler the system the better.

Re:Standard is already set (2, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285980)

The United States got by for over 200 years without electronic voting. We should not switch to electronic voting simply because there is no functional problem with older methods of counting and there are no compelling benefits to justify switching. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


I don't know how you can legitimately say such a thing. There clearly are some very compelling problems that come from the current voting process that the electronic voting methods are trying to address. Or more to the point, consider the current problem domain:

  • Number of contests - Be able to provide an efficient method of allowing for up to hundreds of different contests that take place on multiple levels of governance. For the USA, this means federal, state, county, municipal, and other levels of government jurisdiction. Each office must be treated as a separate contest (in most cases) and allow voters to cast their ballots independently from one race to the next.
  • Universal suffrage - Open up the voting process to allow everybody that can be considered a citizen to be able to cast their vote, without coersion, intimidation, or other methods of manipulating voters that would prevent them from being able to cast an honest ballot that genuinely represents their opinion at the voting booth
  • Privacy - Going back to the universal sufferage, all votes cast must be kept confidential and ultimately untraceable in terms of being able to tie the votes cast by a specific citizen to a particular candidate.
  • Restriction to Citizens - In spite of seeking universal suffrage, elections should be restricted to actual citizens and not non-citizen residents. Citizenship actually means something, including the right to vote.
  • Elimination of Fraud - Each person who casts a vote ought to be able to cast a vote, but they are entitled to only vote once. Any means that allows a person to vote more than once ought to be considered fraud, as well as voting when you are not eligible. Tracking when a voter casts a ballot (to ensure they vote only once) and elimination of voter records due to loss of citizenship, death, or commission of a felony (constitutionally permitted means of removing eligibility to vote) are a part of any voting system.
  • Voting Accuracy - Methods of tracking ballots cast as well as counting the votes for each canidate must be as accurate as reasonably possible. 100% accuracy is the ultimate goal based on legitimate ballots cast and reported results.
  • Speedy Results - While not the most important goal and arguably the least important of all of the requirements I'm listing, results from the election must be reported in a timely fashion in order to provide overall confidence in the results. Voting methods that delay election results are considered less desirable and raise questions in regards to fraud.


I don't know what you have been taught in your history classes, but voting methods to reach these goals have changed considerably in the past 200 years. I mention this requirement domain as it is what seems to be current goals sought after by most election clerks and policy makers in the USA... not that I'm necessarily mentioning any specific law here.

Off the top of my head I can name over a dozen different voting methods that have been used and discontinued over the years. Some form of electronic voting is certainly new, but it isn't even the first mechanical voting system used. What newer voting methods (including electronic voting ideas) provide is a chance to get closer to a "perfect" voting system... even if that isn't necessarily possible.

Back when voting was done by landed gentry in a public meeting where every voter would "announce" their votes verbally, I'm not so sure that they would even understand the current set of voting problems facing the USA today. But that isn't the method used any more, even though it was the voting method over 200 years ago. Surprisingly it is still done in some cases in the USA in some special but limited circumstances, but isn't the situation for a typical general election.

Re:Standard is already set (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291332)

Each person who casts a vote ought to be able to cast a vote, but they are entitled to only vote once. Any means that allows a person to vote more than once ought to be considered fraud, as well as voting when you are not eligible. Tracking when a voter casts a ballot (to ensure they vote only once) and elimination of voter records due to loss of citizenship, death, or commission of a felony (constitutionally permitted means of removing eligibility to vote) are a part of any voting system.

You must not live in Chicago....

Re:Standard is already set (1)

speleolinux (227558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286670)

Your right. Electronic voting is not needed. It's far too expensive at present. It's confusing to many and there is no trust behind the system because its too opaque.

In Australia our Federal elections are done using cardboard booths setup in just about every school. Paper forms are used for voting. The elderly can use a paper form without being completely bewildered. Cardboard booths and paper are cheap. The smallest town can get as many as they need so we don't have long queues waiting to vote. The system leaves an audit trail that anyone can follow. Recounts can be done. And we still get most of the election results that night - and we even have a proportional voting system, not some lame arsed first-past-the-post system :-) If you want we can come over there and show you how cardboard boots and paper forms work :-)

No open source voting? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284544)

Uh how hard could it be?

while(1) {
if(lever==REPUBLICAN) republican++;
if(lever==DEMOCRATIC) democratic++;
cout << republican << " " << demodratic << endl;
}

Re:No open source voting? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284566)

demodratic
Wow, that's ironic. OK never mind on that point.

Re:No open source voting? (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284584)

Apparently too hard for you...

Or is demodratic in there to help fix the election?

Re:No open source voting? (5, Funny)

weak* (1137369) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284686)

while(1) {
if(lever==REPUBLICAN) republican = republican+2;
if(lever==DEMOCRATIC) democratic++;
assert(republican > democratic);
cout << "Republicans: " << republican << " " << "Godless, pussy liberals: " << democratic << end;
}

There, fixed that for you... oops... I may be in violation of my Diebold employee nondisclosure agreement

Re:No open source voting? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285016)

I always thought it was something like:


while(1) {
if(lever==REPUBLICAN) republican++;
if(lever==DEMOCRATIC) democratic++;
total=republican+democratic;
cout << "Republicans: " << (total*0.51) << " " << "Godless, pussy liberals: " << (total*0.49) << end;
}

Re:No open source voting? (1)

jtgd (807477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286684)

But that makes the total vote count greater than the total voters. It think it goes more like this:

while (!end_of_day()) tally_votes();

if (democratic > republican) {temp = republican; republican = democratic; democratic = temp; }

The Trick (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284752)

Is that those that benefit use the appearance of two seperate parties to keep the citizens divided and shifting blame shifting where the real target never gets the focus.

If one can keep the people equally divided 49 - 49 by the way an issue is framed then one only needs to control a small voting block to make the decision.

Re:No open source voting? (1)

TurinPT (1226568) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284916)

Leave the lever on one side for at least 10 seconds to make sure your party gets a few thousand votes.
~exploit by Crash Override~

Re:No open source voting? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287604)

The typo pretty much nails it.

That and your simole solution to a problem that really doesn't exist.

There is NO SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM with paper balloting that all-electronic voting solves:

- Speed of count. Not an issue. We have weeks before the Electoral College must meet. Plenty of time to count and recount paper ballots.

- Accuracy. Not necessary to be an issue. OCR or optical-scan ballots arte reliable, affordable, and paper; verifiable. We need not use punch ballots, though better punch technology would resolve most problems.

- Poor ballot design. Not an issue. This is not SOLVED by electronics. A bad GUI or poor layout on the screen would be the same problem.

What problem does an all-electronic balloting system solve that can't be solved with paper balloting? I say none.

ps- You've proven just how hard it can be to program a system with your silly example. Of course, yours would be easily detected upon inspection of the results, but by then it's too late. Elections should (and I propose MUST) be accurate the first time. We don't want to have to go back and re-run an election. The results would be unavoidably tainted by the other elections in other states.

Sheesh. It's really unfortunate that we are even having this discussion. This should never have come to this.

Wrong thinking (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284586)

FTA:

People debate the merits of e-voting for a variety of reasons, including suspicion of new technologies and a general distrust of politics


I don't think its as much as a suspicion of new technologies as much as the objections of those familiar with it. Even those who works with computers at a basic level understand that its far easier to drag and drop a thousand doc files into a trash can on the desktop than it is to shred a thousand physical copies.

That is my biggest argument for paper ballots is not fear of new technology, but rather a safe guard of making it harder to destroy evidence of tampering. If you wanted to cheat and election, it is far easier to type an SQL command in a console than it is to dispose of or forge thousands of physical ballots without anyone noticing.

In a perfect world, electronic voting would be the obvious choice, but given human nature and politics there should be as many safeguards as possible against possible corruption.

Re:Wrong thinking (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22284718)

This biggest problem w/electronic voting isn't the potential for fraud (though that's terrifyingly high), it's the perception of fraud. Given the polarized political climate today, with millions of people suspicious that the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen, imagine the reaction to a close election "decided" by a completely-unaditable electronic process. Even if the process is nominally "auditable", with most current machines the audit trail can be forged as easily as the original votes.

Regardless of whether or not fraud occurred, huge numbers of people would believe that it possibly/probably did. The whole "he's not my president" meme would grow exponentially. I could easily forsee mass demonstrations (tens of millions of people), massive civil unrest, etc. And keep in mind that the potential for this outcome is completely independent of whether or not fraud actually occurred!

Not only is there no way to prove fraud, there's no way to prove a lack of fraud. That's what scares me.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285456)

that's why 'electronic' voting has paper trails. if you make a print out, even if it's in a bar code format, you can still perform 'manual' recounts with a hand-held bar-code scanner. using perhaps a desktop computer with a database of the 'recently dead' and as the bar-code recognized the names of 'dead' people it rejects their votes. putting that kind of functionality in the 'election time' 'electronic voting machine' might be too hard, especially if it all has to be 'open' source or if the software has to be audited by government officials etc.

so really all you need on an 'electronic voting machine' is a printer, preferably with some sort of design to prevent 'weak' printouts that' can't be rescanned. (eg: a large capacity printer, and requirements that new cartridges are used each voting season, or some other technical solution) and a barcode scanner, (for automated recounts, and verification of printout) and I'm assuming it would use rolls of paper, again preferably with one 'large enough' to handle all the votes that machine tallies.
it's not paperless, but the barcode would be almost meaningless to people, and use less paper than 'voting cards' since 'chad' based ballots are large, and meant for analog computation... while the barcode is meant for digital computation...

oh well, the more features you require the more costly it becomes. still recounts would go much faster with a system well though out. it would be 'nice' if people could vote at 'home' over the internet, but that opens a whole can of worms about identity verification, and security of data, and worries about the system getting hacked, and the whole db becoming 'corrupted' to the tune of the highest paid hacker, who 'won' the election for their 'official.'

Mod parent up. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22288238)

Elections don't just have to be fair and clean, they have to be _seen_ to be fair and clean.

It's worth spending billions for "regime change" in Iraq (and get how many people killed) but there's no money and people to do it properly at home?

While it's not surprising if the burglar doesn't want to remove the ladder he used to get in, the Diebolding crap should be considered a big embarassment.

What does it say about the USA (especially the voters/citizens) if the US Gov doesn't even bother to rig (run?) their own elections properly (IIRC some places got more votes than voters, the last I checked Saddam never had > 100% votes).

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284760)

Just make sure that every count is done using an FPROM [le.ac.uk] (Fusible Link Programmable Read Only Memory) which means that you can never reverse the programming once it's done. UVPROM:s may also be used, but FLASH memories and EEPROM:s shouldn't.

Of course - you may want to have some kind of traceability but it shall not infringe on the vote secrecy. There may be valid cases where you actually want a specific traceability, like when each machine is set up you will want to verify that it actually works, which means that test votes has to be cast and these have to be dismissed when the votes are counted.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284834)

Uh, stop right there. There's no way to have traceability and anonymisation. The two goals are in conflict. Instead, what you have to be able to do is to make sure that errors are detectable. If you know there was one duff ballot in a batch of 2000 (but you don't know which of the 2000 it was or how it should have been filled), you can hold those 2000 out of the final count temporarily. If that error was enough to spoil the whole result, then you repeat the polling from scratch in just that one ward.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285712)

There's no way to have traceability and anonymisation

That's not true. It just has to trace to a non-identifiable source. For instance, let's say you vote for Obama, when you vote you're issued a vote id, that ID is then hashed with some data you enter, sort of like a password and stored as the "real" voteid. That original (pre-hashed) code is then printed out on a voteid card to the voter. At any time after the election, they can go on the internet (even at a coffee shop or something if they want anonyminity) and enter the code and their password, and it will then print out the valid vote result, verifying that the vote was properly registered and counted.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285784)

That won't quite do. Because that allows you to prove to someone else how you voted, and so get coerced, and are able to sell your vote, neither of which are acceptable properties of a voting system.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287836)

I don't quite understand your point. You don't have to reveal who you voted for unless you want to, and someone can be coerced just as easily without such means. One can also prove how they voted by using a cell phone with a built-in camera to take a picture of their ballot.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289438)

"Because that allows you to prove to someone else how you voted, and so get coerced, and are able to sell your vote, neither of which are acceptable properties of a voting system."

I don't see what's the big problem with that in practice.

Votes are sold all the time one way or another. Just make it illegal to coerce someone against their will, with hefty penalties. Your boss tries to force you to vote one way or try to force you to reveal how you voted against your will, just record him doing that and you can him jailed. Sounds good :).

You can come up with theoretical scenarios, but if these scenarios are practically significant the country is already so screwed up - e.g. the cops refuse to arrest the one trying to force your vote, the courts refuse to jail him.

FWIW there are lots of clever cryptographers who can probably solve that problem and the other problems. I seem to recall a decent proposal some years back. Can't recall if it was anonymous.

Another thing if you put in too many layers of security stupid people people might not be able to understand how it works, they have to take it by faith that it works.

A simple "mark the ballot" stick it in box, then get people to count the votes in front of observers seems fine with me. Fairly easy to ensure the box started empty. How easy is it to prove a electronic system has no "easter eggs"? As a programmer I can think of so many ways to corrupt an electronic voting system. Just get some magicians to help make sure the physical system isn't easily subverted ;).

Sure it takes some time to do it in an "old fashioned way". But a lot of people can understand something that simple.

But do people actually care?

The people in power are probably happy with the crappy systems since that's how they get voted in.
The people who allegedly voted don't appear to care very much - they accepted the diebolded elections.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290130)

And all these layers of complexity you are introducing add failure modes.

The problem is, you can have a list of how everyone actually voted, and you can even add restrictions that prevent anyone seeing anyone else's vote. (In fact, the surer you are that you can do that, the better.) But if there's even one layer of abstraction between the physical action taken by the voter and what actually gets counted, what's to prevent them from claiming some utterly bogus totals as the "final count"? Just because you know how you voted, that doesn't prove anything about how your vote was recorded. You could have 500 people voting for A, 480 people voting for B and 120 people voting for C; but the totals could be claimed as 390 for A, 600 for B and 110 for C. And nobody would be any the wiser, because the errors are just about within the bounds of plausibility (people often lie to reporters about who they have just voted for / are going to vote for). To discover the error, you would have to check everybody's votes and see that the final totals are not as claimed; and you'd be arrested for Treason long before you got far enough to notice any anomaly.

Re:Wrong thinking (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293726)

The part you're missing is that if any given voter can verify their vote, that means the votes can be audited. Each vote is stored, not just a running total. Each vote can be verified by the person that voted, and if they can't verify their vote, it's a red flag. If the running total doesn't match the actual votes cast, then that's a red flag. What's more, the process of printing out the vote card can just as easily print out a paper ballot that can be dropped into a box by the voter (and the paper ballot has the has on it to match it up to the electronic vote) for hand counting if neccessary (though it wouldn't really be necessary except in cases where someone simply refuses to trust the system).

on the subject of secure electronic voting (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287362)

a professor of government and polity is not somebody I'd ask for an expert opinion from because he is not competent to provide one by definition. Unless his other degree is in computer science, he has recent industry experience with computer security, and he has personally examined examples of the technology.

His opinion is just another soundbite based on abject ignorance.

Hey Mods! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22284690)

Hi, it's the Waster of the Points of Shitty Moderators again! NIGGER! Now mod me down and waste those points you fucks!

The powers that be don't want the E- Vote to work (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284714)

It is fascinating that I was just thinking about this because the thought came to mind and here it is in plain text.

The truth is those that benefits from the current systems do not want electronic voting to work.

It would result in the transfer of power from the few individuals influenced by special interests and fictions in their minds to the collective, intelligence and wisdom.

The few that benefit to the detriment of the many.

To

The many that benefit to the detriment of none.

The plan was to implement a flawed electronic voting program and tweak the vote to win an election, create the ability to stifle any opposition by taking away rights and allowing domestic spying, then get it discovered then create public opposition to electronic voting preventing collective control. I am 100% behind and open source electronic voting project it will work.

Re:The powers that be don't want the E- Vote to wo (3, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285078)

The truth is those that benefits from the current systems do not want electronic voting to work.
You caught me here. I profiteer from paper ballot voting. And I am convinced that for an elementary reason electronic voting will never work.

The whole idea behind electronic voting is to speed up the counting process to have the results early. And that's exactly the reason why I don't want any electronic voting. With paper ballots I (that's me personally. Not a rhetoric "I", but just me, the person registered as "Sique" on Slashdot) can make sure that at least in my voting district there is no tampering with the votes. I can watch the whole process, registering of the voters, printing the ballots, distributing the ballots, sealing of the voting boxes, checking the identity of the single voter, handing the ballots to the voters, putting of the ballots in the box, breaking the seal, counting and charting the results, then resealing the boxes and sending them to the central election office, and recounting them for the final results.

I don't need any special abilities. I don't need to understand code, I don't need to understand hardware, I don't need to know about chip card formats or sending protocols. But I can verify that my vote gets counted exactly as I cast it. Every speed up of the process means I lose the ability to watch what happens to my personal vote, or I have to give up the anonymity of my vote.

Where I come from this ability to be able to watch an election was the reason we caught the election board of a complete country rigging the election, and we had enough proof to put them in prison. I don't see how we would ever managed it without being able to watch the whole voting process.

Re:The powers that be don't want the E- Vote to wo (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286642)

I never understood the whole speed of counting argument either. Up here in Canada, we use hand counted ballots, and the counting was done so fast we had to pass a law stating that results could not be release until all polling stations across the country had closed, because they thought the results from the east coast influenced the results in the west coast. Mind you, Canada's a special case, being one of the few countries that spans 5.5 time zones. However, the results are usually finalized by the end of the night.

Nope (4, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284716)

Sorry, no computers need be involved at all, open source or closed source or some hybrid. You shouldn't need to be a programmer to verify the count as a volunteer at the end of the day. Any scheme that uses even "open source" software that is "justified" by saying "you can look at the code yourself" is still flawed as most people are not able to read code and understand it, and you still have no idea what happens during and after the election, you would have to stop and analyze the code every single step of the ballot trail. Skip a step = opportunity for compromise with a follow up coverup to hide the tracks. That's two big fat flaws in the idea, and either one is enough to rule out using computerized voting. And if you say "well, this scheme a,b,c uses a paper trail so it is mo bettah!!", so what's the point again then? Just *use the paper trail* as the primary way to vote for the election in the first place, skip the thousand buck computers and rube goldberg nonsense in the first place, including those stupid punch cards with "chads", they aren't needed either. If it takes "too long to count", here's an idea, a full 24 hour voting period, and it can even be a mandated federal holiday for that matter, so no one needs to miss work to go vote, no matter what shift they work or any other excuse.

I love computers, like most folks here have owned them for years and owned quite a few of them, but for elections, I like a plain ballot box and normal paper ballots.

"Open source" with elections is, I am sure, being pushed by well meaning folks, but if falls exactly under the "if your main tool use is a hammer, everything looks like a nail to you" syndrome. It just ain't needed, tons of other projects out there could use the dev help instead.

Wha, huh? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285002)

It might be that security concerns contraindicate computers, but that doesn't mean that they aren't the ideal. The whole point of computers is to automate repetitive tasks, and counting a hundred million multiple-guess choices is exactly the sort of repetitive task they were invented to relieve us of.

Re:Nope (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285144)

but for elections, I like a plain ballot box and normal paper ballots.
You're obviously not the poor schmuck that has to count them. Seriously, have you considered how many pieces of paper are generated in an election? How many people have to touch the data to process that? And how the chance for abuse and corruption increases with each person that touches a physical ballot? Here in Washington State, the governor's race required a number of re-counts. They recounted twice, with the last time finding a number of previously misplaced ballots, swinging the count in favor of our now governor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_gubernatorial_election,_2004 [wikipedia.org]

Just *use the paper trail* as the primary way to vote for the election in the first place, skip the thousand buck computers and rube goldberg nonsense in the first place
Let's see... the problem is that we need to count and keep track of a large amount of data, and keep it centralized for easy processing. You're right, computers are awful at things like counting very large numbers of things accurately, and storing lots of data securely. We should look to the financial institutions, who still operate with good old reliable paper transactions. Cash is good enough for them, right? Surely they wouldn't entrust the entire fortunes of the collective world to these new-fangled, thousand buck computers, right? I mean, we'd need to invent some sort of software - a 'base', if you will, that stores arbitrary 'data'.

Let's be completely honest about this. Any problems in creating an effective electronic voting system are either political or bureaucratic in nature. The problems are not technological in nature.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22285814)

computers are awful at things like counting very large numbers of things accurately, and storing lots of data securely.

I seem to sense sarcasm, but...

nt@zbox:~$ count_ballots
bash: count_ballots: command not found
Computers are awful at doing things they haven't been programmed to do, and when they're doing something they're programmed to do, they're only as good at it as their programming tells them to be.

Re:Nope (2, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286128)

While I'm not this poor schmuck, my wife sometimes gets stuck with the onerous task of hand-counting votes for elections that aren't quite so complicated as a Presidential general election. Most of these tend to be a contest for a small-town mayor or some other similar contest where there is only one or two races on the ballot, or something like a school bond election.

Keep in mind that most of the people who are voting judges tend to be senior citizens, who frankly suffer slightly from dementia and other ailments common with advancing age. They tend to be people with free time, and generally manning a polling location isn't that difficult of a task. So are you really trusting the voting results to a bunch of people who can barely remember your name five minutes after you told it to them? In saying this I'm not saying my wife is a senior citizen, as she is in her 30's, but most of the people who she does work with are quite grey and tend to be retirees. This job does tend to be skewed for the elderly.

A true story is how my wife (since she is young enough and has done this for some time, is even head judge) sat down with her crew and counted out the ballots for one of these hand count races for nearly three hours after the polling location closed. All of the judges were given the full stack of ballots (they tried to count different stacks of ballots in a rotation to try and speed up the process) and then tried to compare the counts when they were done. Out of five judges, all five got completely different counts for all candidates. There was a "statistical average" for that precinct, but that is all it was. After dealing with this for yet another hour, (it was after midnight by this point in time), she simply got the other judges to sort of compromise between a rough average of what the counts were at... as they finally got the count within 10 votes for each candidate. The judges agreed and then signed the "official results" with the compromise tally. It didn't seem to impact the results of the election by being off by 10 votes, but that isn't always the case. That really inspired confidence in me that my vote really counted for anything. I guess it does in the long run, but I certainly understand the real need for recount laws after seeing this whole thing.

This is a tough problem. I asked my wife.... "How long would it take for you to process a Presidential general election with your crew by hand counting?" She looked at me real funny like I was trying to crack a joke, and then simply said "I'd just burn the ballots and pretend it never happened in the first place." She really didn't even want to think about the problems she would face in such a situation. After pressing her, she finally admitted that it would take several days or even weeks to count the results, and she wouldn't really trust the results either from her own precinct. She and I get into arguments over the reliability and accuracy of the Diebold machines she uses now, but openly admits that they are much better than what a hand count could ever possibly be. On this point and seeing her fellow poll workers, I'd have to agree.

if you are willing... (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286280)

..to trade convenience for the possibility of general widespread and undetected and impossible to unravel fraud, and if the younger generations cant be arsed to go volunteer to insure election integrity, then I guess "you" (any instance of "you" is used in general terms for this response, nothing personal) deserve hacked elections and keep "voting" in corrupt bastard A or B every time, after the media's controllers "select" those two people for you. Heck,why don't we just cut to the chase, the superbowl and video gaming and the latest episode of "24" and Britnney and Paris newz are all more important, why even have pesky elections in the first place, we should just let our elite betters and superiors run our lives for us and just tell us what is going to happen,so we can shuffle off to do their bidding. Yes massah, we done had de elecshuns and youse be duh winnah agin! Ain't dat sumpin!



  When we see places around the world where people will physically *walk* for a day or two to get the polls, and I see responses like this... counting is too hard and only the old folks have "the time" or inclination to do it....and don't get me wrong, I believe everything you say about how it is mostly older folks who do the volunteering, and yes, it takes some time to do accurate hand counts, I see this myself..that isn't the point, the point is those are both symptoms of a greater evil, just the lack of any sort of enthusiasm or acknowledgment of how precious the right to actually vote is and have fair elections and some sort of legitimate and effective citizen voice, and how much it is demonized, laughed at, ignored, ridiculed, and simply dismissed unless we can "speed it up".. it's just...it's freekin embarassing...I am *ashamed* of my own nation sometimes, just how lazy and uncaring we have collectively gotten. Even with mostly computerized voting we can't even get around half the voting age population to even *bother* to vote anyway. It's like "who cares"? Voting is just too inconvenient any longer, it interferes with "quality" time....or something. Let's speed it up and have the computers run by the power establishment feudalists vote for us, they can do it faster and none of that messy "thinking" or "doing" required.

The real bottom line is..the fascists have won once the "we the people" folks give up and don't care any longer.

Re:Nope (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286716)

"This job does tend to be skewed for the elderly."

There's absolutly *nothing* in the "counting by hand" process that biases it towards the elderly: just make it mandatory, like being a jury in a trial and it's done.

"This is a tough problem. I asked my wife.... "How long would it take for you to process a Presidential general election with your crew by hand counting?""

Believe it or not, that's pure nonsense as clearly demonstrates the fact that greatest parts of civilized world make it by hand and manage to survive. I'd tell you about my country but then, since it's only 40M people you'd say it's not the same scale forgetting counting ballots is a highly parallelizable problem (you just manage for each voting district to have as many people as two people are able to count in two hours -or four, or six, or what seems convenient, and you are done), so I'll point you to EU ellections. They are as many people as the USA; the ellection day is as complex as yours (since concur local, regional and even national ellections at the same time), you have the results in no more than 12 hours from closing (ellection day ends at 8PM and you read the results in next morning's newspapers) and still we do it by hand, so don't tell me it's not doable.

Re:Nope (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293260)

I don't think you understand the problem domain here, nor the fact that regardless of how you cut it and even force people at gunpoint (what I think you are suggesting here with making it mandatory to participate in being an election judge... the rest is semantics on how it happens) to participate is mostly allocation of scarce resources, and encouraging citizen participation in the governance process.

America has had participatory citizen governance for well over 300 years.... back when it was likely your country was an absolute divine-right monarchy. I don't know specifics of your country as I don't even know what country you are referring to here, but that was the dominant governance form in the world at the end of the 17th Century when the American colonies of England (what became the USA) decided to genuinely involve citizens at nearly every level of government. And something surprisingly different than what was even the case in England, as every immigrant was desperately needed to help build a new country.

What you see now in America is the end result of those centuries of tradition. It works for us and in fact is part of what America is today. That there are people disillusioned by the process is true, and there are problems with the election process as well in America, but the problems you are trying to address here are not where the real issues lay. Whether you "draft" people as poll workers or offer financial incentives to take on the position (as is common in America) it is a costly process to hold an election. In many ways, the voting machines are in place to help make it cheaper and to concentrate labor to where the real problems are at: voting fraud detection and verification of voter status. Vote counting is something that can and should be automated, particularly for elections as complicated as those in America.

Re:Nope (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289502)

If you treat your elections with such _contempt_, don't be surprised if the rest of the world think lowly of you.

It's amazing that voters accepted a crappy system like diebold when the USA has immense resources to do things right (lots of smart people, lots of money).

Maybe the people in your country have difficulty counting, but it seems a really ridiculous excuse to me.

In my country, at the various counting stations, the various parties (opposition and incumbent) and designated independent observers get to watch each and every vote being counted (and recounted if necessary).

So even if some idiot voter made a spoilt vote, people get to see that it was the voter who did it and nothing fishy was going on.

Voting and vote counting can be done in parallel. You have more people, you'll need more voting places anyway. If you have more people, you should be able to have more counters and observers too.

Re:Nope (2, Informative)

vonPoonBurGer (680105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285336)

I completely, absolutely agree with you, mainly because paper ballots are what we use here in Canada. And just so you know, they don't have to take long to count. Here in Canada, if you want to run a candidate in a riding, you have to provide someone called a scrutineer to every polling station in that riding. The scrutineers are usually low-paid party staff, or completely unpaid volunteers. Each party/candidate has one scrutineer at each polling station, and once the polls close, they all count every ballot. Two important facets of the system prevent counting fraud. One, the counts from each scrutineer have to match, or they don't get to go home. And two, any interested voter is allowed to watch the counting process. The budget for Elections Canada is far, FAR less per capita than in the US, and we know who our new prime minister is on the night of the election. I shake my head and sigh every time I see one of these threads on /. advocating technology as the answer. You're barking up the wrong tree, folks, and wasting an assload of money in the process.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286466)

You obviously have a naive understanding of the US legal system. The third string of lawyers who descended on the Florida Gore election could tie up a contested Canadian election for months without breaking a sweat.
Furthermore scaling is an issue. The skills it takes to build a model airplane are not relevant for building a 747. Similarly the experience of small countries with simple elections are not relevant to large complex US elections.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286782)

"Similarly the experience of small countries with simple elections are not relevant to large complex US elections."

Bullshit #1: Once you go over the city level (and even in the city level) there's no added complexity in just numbers of population. Believe it or not the process ellection in a 10M people country is as complex as it's in the USA, since the *big* problem is not moving around 10M or 300M ballots; the problems are *always* at the district level (if you can count *one* district to be accountable by means of the process being accountable, then you can count 10, 1000, 10.000... district to be accountable; if you can hold accountable the process of merging two district's votes into a central station by means of the process itself being accountable, then 10, 1000, 10000... merges will be as much accountable). I can point you to countries (i.e.: Italy) where even having much less people, it's more complex nevertheless (more fragmented parties and more complex ellection laws).

Bullshit #2: OK, let's pretend you are right and let's pretend that a 300M people ballot is quite a different beast than a 10M one. Then you'll have to explain how EU manages to do it by hand (roughly the same population than USA and an ellection process *very* hard to be considered simpler than USA's).

Failure of Imagination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286332)

Sorry, While this poster is strictly correct for (RARE, American
Style Elections) reducing the cost of Voting is highly relevant in
Direct Democracy e.g. Switzerland.

It is now clear, from the recent
scandals, in the UK, and "Best Politicians that money can buy", in the
US that Western Democracies are ever more ripe for revolution unless
they can control corruption and that means Direct in the modern age.

Think about it!

any voting (1)

overcaffein8d (1101951) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284720)

10 lines voting and 1000 lines security

Re:any voting (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285100)

10 lines voting and 1000 lines security
Sounds like the opposite of Microsoft programming.

How to do this right (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284756)

It's really not that hard to do this right.

  • Voting machines should have to meet the Nevada Gaming Commission Standards for Gaming Devices [nv.gov] . Nevada has tough tamper-resistance standards (Immune to static shocks, 27KV sparks, 600V on the power input, and rapid turn on/off; must resist forced illegal entry, locked covers over circuit boards and program media), logging standards (counters that cannot be reset, non-erasable logs of program changes), and auditing standards ("Provide, as a minimum, a two-stage mechanism for validating all program components on demand via a communication port and protocol approved by the chairman.") There's no question those standards can be met; hundreds of thousands of slot machines are running right now in compliance with them. Those standards have been developed during decades of struggles against organized crime, employee theft, tax fraud, and attacks on slot machines, so they have serious real-world credibility.
  • Use a minimal, published operating system, like Minix. Linux is too big to audit and changes too much.
  • Use a paper trail within the machine, one that generates a printed copy of the voter's selections behind a window, along with a bar code representing the voter's choices. For recounts, run the paper log through a bar code scanner for a quick check, and if necessary, manually check votes against bar codes.
  • Install two printers, and switch between them randomly, so that the paper trail doesn't provide enough information to tell who voted for whom. Use a printer that doesn't need ink or ribbon and makes a permanent record, like the old "silver printers" used in adding machines. Don't use a thermal printer; the print isn't permanent.

This really isn't that hard.

Add this Invention entered to the public domain. (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284878)

That was similar to the design I came up with. It also includes. When you post your vote the records are transferred using web services to three different public vote record repositories. You would get a paper print out with a number and your choices. Then you go home or to a library and can check online that all three systems contain the correct vote for your voter ID. If it doesn't match the paper of is missing then there is a problem and an audit needed. The totals for each repository would match if there was no tampering.

Re:Add this Invention entered to the public domain (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285174)

Secret Ballot.

You don't get to keep any record of your choices, lest you be able to prove to a third party that you voted in accordance with *their* will and not your own.

Re:How to do this right (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284906)

But the amusement machine industry is self-regulating anyway, because there is an adversarial relationship between punters and casino operators. If you are operating several amusement machines, you won't buy ones that pay out too much because you'll lose money on them; but you won't buy ones that pay out too little because the punters won't play them and you'll still lose money on them. All the regulations are pretty much for show.

There isn't any such adversarial relationship between presiding officers and voters. (But there is an exploitable adversarial relationship between the various candidates in an election: no candidate, nor any of their aides, trusts any of the other candidates or their aides. If the candidates themselves were hand-counting the ballot papers, they'd have no choice but to declare the true count.)

Re:How to do this right (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285542)

(But there is an exploitable adversarial relationship between the various candidates in an election: no candidate, nor any of their aides, trusts any of the other candidates or their aides. If the candidates themselves were hand-counting the ballot papers, they'd have no choice but to declare the true count.)
That's exactly why hand-counting is superior to machine counting: By making the parties sit down together and cross-check their results, one can make fraud very difficult.

Re:How to do this right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289004)

Most of those measures are to protect government tax dollars against rogue gaming machine operators, rather than to protect gaming machine operators against rogue punters. What punter is going to be able to reprogram a gaming machine, or induce kilovolt sparks at all sorts of random times on the off chance of flipping a bit? It's rather hard to do that stuff undetected if you don't own the machine. That said, there still is an adversarial relationship there as you point out, which keeps things in balance, and a risk that focuses the minds of regulators -- that of losing money.

Re:How to do this right (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285148)

How about this:
The voting machine interacts with the voter to determine their will, repeating back choices as needed.

Once the vote is finalized it is counted within the machine. It is also printed in a human readable form
that the voter should check. The voter then carries it to a ballot box/optical reader where it is counted again. Once inserted in that reader it is saved in a locked box and can be hand counted if need be.

Of course both machines should conform to the highest standards for security. (like or better than the one mentioned above)

Now two electronic counts are available as well as a paper trail.

Vote verification online (1)

Yonderpond (1232556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286090)

I agree that Federal registration of all voting machines and vote counting machines is necessary. The Nevada Gaming Commission Standards for Gaming Devices sounds like a workable model.

Consider an untamperable module, call it the "VoteBrain," that controls the basic identity functions of every voting machine and every vote counting machine. The Votebrain would generate the Registered Machine ID, the date, time of day and GPS location. This information would be displayed on every screen and be printed on every receipt. Malfunction requires replacement with a new certified VoteBrain. (How could you verify that the VoteBrain is uncorrupted?)

Every vote will be identified by a voting machine generated number and the Votebrain info, shown on the computer screen and recorded on two identical printed receipts. One copy is for potential recount, deposited in a box on exit from the polling station, and the other receipt is kept by the voter. (Would the sequential number violate voter privacy? Would non-sequential numbers reduce verification?)

Vote tallies are published on the internet and in county courthouses by state, voting district, polling place, voting machine id number, date, time of day, and voter sequence number.

Thus:
1) Lost voting machine data or vote counting discrepancies will be obvious and traceable.
2)Voters will go to the internet or to their county courthouse to see that their vote, as identified by machine id and sequence #, was counted correctly.
3)Voters' organizations and the media will provide volunteer monitoring of the receipts compared to the result data.
4) If enough vote receipts don't match the database, a recount is required.

One question: What is the remedy if a state is convicted of inaccurate vote counts?

Re:Vote verification online (1)

Arbitor Elegantorum (990281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294358)

And when you return to the ward heeler with your own receipt and prove to him that you voted for his man, he won't burn your house down.

Secret ballots mean secret. You sould be able to verify your own vote, but not get a verifiable record open to use for intimidation or corruption.

Re:How to do this right (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287658)

However, slot machines can and are audited against the cash they actually hold inside. In your scheme there is still nothing stopping the machine from swapping a vote from one column to another. If you want similar standards you will have to give voters a token they can insert when they vote, at which point the voting machine becomes nothing more than an over engineered ballot box.

Re:How to do this right (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289576)

  • Provide a way to accurately check that the OS running is the OS published.
This is really hard

Maybe somethings aren't better... (3, Insightful)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284780)

Electronically...

Maybe paper and pencil might be the best tools for the job?

Anyone ever stop to consider that. I know it's blasphemous to say new technology isn't the solution to every problem at the High Citadel of Cowboy Neal, so burn me at the Karma steak...

Re:Maybe somethings aren't better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22285562)

MMmm ... Karma steak.

Re:Maybe somethings aren't better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22285958)

I dunno about you, but I prefer my steak rare, not burned. The karma is merely the marinade.

By random chance, the captcha is 'artery'. Now I'm all hungry again. Who's up for a barbeque? I have this big box of chads to help get the fire started.

Simplification (2, Insightful)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284788)

In the open-source solution that is linked in the summary, a touch-screen interface produces a printed paper with a barcode for scanning. I think the barcode is a mistake as it's an unnecessary abstraction.

Instead let the voter choose between manual forms and machine forms which both look exactly the same. The only difference is that if you fill in the manual form you make marks with a marker pen, but if you use the touch-screen interface the form comes out of the printer with the spots already marked the way you selected on the touch screen.

The scanner scans both types of forms in exactly the same way. In both cases it looks for the same human-readable ink-filled spots.

Re:Simplification (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286160)

There are OCR fonts that do a very good job with displaying information in a human-readable format that are also very legible in terms of having them machine-readable at the same time. IMHO I would have to agree that a bar code is the very wrong sort of thing to be putting onto machine-prepared ballots.

Of course I've been a strong advocate of machine-assisted ballot preparation and not for having the counting in the voting booth. The process of counting votes has a completely different domain challenge and simply shouldn't be merged in with the process of creating the ballot in the first place. I have no idea why these issues are muddled together... and one of the reasons I hate the Diebold machines.

Electronic voting IS the problem (3, Interesting)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284790)

Electronic voting IS the problem.

You can't trust what you don't understand, so any voting system needs to be Universally Comprehensible. An electronic system based on Open Source principles -- where the blueprints for the hardware and the listings of the software are available for all to examine -- is still really only comprehensible to a minority of the population. It doesn't satisfy the goal. (In the worst case, you could conceal a deliberate design defect by a combination of hardware and software techniques: anybody examining the hardware and not the software, or vice versa, will miss it.)

Just forget the whole thing as a failed experiment, and go back to pencil and paper and manual counting. Everybody knows what all the possible failure modes are, and how to minimise their effects.

yes yes yes! (1)

chocolatetrumpet (73058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284876)

An electronic system ... is still really only comprehensible to a minority of the population

Even if everyone *could* understand the software and hardware, who is to stop the system from swapping the "ok" binary for a compromised one at the instant of voting, only to be switched back, with absolutely no record? Or how about at the time of counting? If TrueCrypt can do all the things it can do, why can't voting machine software?

A paper ballot count could show a discrepancy. But if the paper ballots are not voter-verified, who is to say the paper count is any different from the electronic count? They could both be wrong.

Here's an idea: only count paper ballots. I don't care how you generate them - paper and pen, some off the shelf software and a printer, special adaptive devices, whatever - but only count paper ballots. Everyone is allowed to observe the counting process.

Re:Electronic voting IS the problem (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284974)

aka, Little Old Lady Theory. A democracy rests on the kind of people who care more about how the vote is counted than about who wins and loses.. in other works, little old ladies. Ask yourself, are the little old ladies asking for all this technology or it is someone else? Someone with less than honorable motives?

Re:Electronic voting IS the problem (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22285080)

Paper votes 8/10. Electronic voting 5/10. This problem, like most things we vote on, isn't an either or choice. Our voting systems do a very poor job of capturing actual voter sentiment. That's why we really need to abandon our horrible plurality voting system, and start using range voting. It's no more complicated than the way judges evaluate olympic divers. Range voting is readily comprehensible, and far better than the terrible system we use now.

http://tinyurl.com/2g3rdx [tinyurl.com]

Re:Electronic voting IS the problem (1)

weltschmerz (1217082) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287324)

Thank you for pointing this out to the naive. There is no such thing as "secure" electronic voting, unless you use some kind of verifiability system, like David Chaum's Punchscan.

Re:Electronic voting IS the problem (2, Insightful)

arevos (659374) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289164)

Actually, there is such thing as an secure electronic voting system. You can use cryptography to ensure that a voting process is at least as resistant to tampering as one done on paper, if not more so. There's some very interesting papers on it.

US' decentralized elections are the problem (1, Redundant)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284818)

the decentralized nature of american elections, where, in some cases, countirs are free to chose the method of posting and counting votes are the greatest barrier for standardization.

here in brasil, where elections has always been centralized by the federal judicial branch, creating a standard method of voting is much easier.

here we used to have a starndard canvas sack and standard paper balots, now we have a single, federaly mandated model of electronic voting machines.

both proccesses were|are hardened against tampering. i can usually vote and choose my candidates in less than a minute, even in general elections where i have to choose: 1 president, 2 senators, 1 federal deputy, 1 governor, 1 state deputy. in local elections where i only need to choose a mayor a representative, 20 seconds are enough. it's made easier by the fact that every candidate is identified by a unique number composed of . so the voting machine is incredibly simple and convenient to use. a numeric keypad + a button to cast a blank vote (if you want to vote only for mayor but not for a representative, for exemple), a button to clear the vote and a confirm button.

if you USians want, i'm pretty sure the brasilian govt. would be more than glad to license the technology.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285000)

Centralizing important things is a bad idea.

Having the federal government do it wrong for everyone is much worse than having some local communities doing it wrong for themselves.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285630)

Telling everyone to do it right in the same way, however, is useful. That's what's called a standard.

Why not just create human-readable ballots and count those by hand? The counting doesn't have to be centralized (local candidate-based counting with cross-check is efficient and tamper-resistant), but a standardized procedure and a standardized ballot layout (where applicable) would reduce opportunities to mess with the voting procedure in order to skew the result (cf. butterfly ballots). It's not hard to get those right and since the whole voting procedure consists of a few very simple steps it's trivial to detect someone messing with the system.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285786)

A good standard is possible - and once a specific good standard is finalized I can see myself being for that standard. But we both know what happened the last time the federal government tried to standardize something about voting: Mandatory DREs. Given that, I'm going to have to stand by my position of being strongly against any non-specific standard.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286818)

"Having the federal government do it wrong for everyone is much worse than having some local communities doing it wrong for themselves."

The problem being here that they are not "doing it wrong for themselves" but "doing wrong for everybody". Specially with your "winner takes all" system, the *whole* voting process is flawed as soon as some states (or even some counties) have it wrong, so there's no added "penalty" on taking the risk of doing it wrong at the whole country level. And it is not an argument either saying that "well, this way we can test two dozen systems and then take the best one". Ballots is not quantum mechanics, almost everything is already invented here: you just have to look how other countries manage the problem to see your way.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285248)

How can you trust that the corresponding keypad pushes are correct? I mean do you see a physical piece of paper with the options you chose printed? Otherwise, it's just another version of Evoting.

I've seen videos of election fraud where someone running for office tested a system with a simple button push next to each name. She pushed her name, and some diagnostic screen at the bottom flashed her opponents name for a moment. As there was no paper trail, there would be no way to do a correct recount.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286252)

Having witnessed Brazilian elections first hand, this doesn't inspire too much confidence in me. I admire a great many things about Brazil (your banking system is decades ahead of America... seriously!) but corruption and election fraud, at least for São Paulo (where I witnessed some national elections first hand) has voting fraud that would make a Chicago politician turn white. It is much improved over problems Brazil has had in the past, but it isn't perfect by any means.

One thing to keep in mind is that American states are significantly more independent of the federal government than Brazilian states. The U.S. Federal Constitution is also limited in its authority to act in this situation, and the election process is done on a state by state basis. Yes, individual counties are sometimes given authority by their respective state governments to try different voting methods as well, but the ultimate authority rests on the state governments.

In the last U.S. Presidential general election, it took me about 5 minutes to cast my ballot. I'm telling you that the process to vote in America is at least an order of magnitude more complicated than a typical Brazilian experience, and most Americans don't vote "straight ticket" by voting for just one political party. The trend in America is also to push more stuff at the voters, not less, including some rather complicated legislation that normally would have been dealt with in the past by professional legislators. California tends to take this approach to an extreme, but other states are following this example as well.

I will say here in defense of other Brazilians who have made commentaries like this, that Brazil is perhaps the one country that has the best comparison in terms of multiple levels of governance and the size of the population that at least a reasonable comparison can be made between the two countries. Most Europeans don't even remotely comprehend the scope of the problems involved in such a broad election such as is done in the USA every two years.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286840)

"I'm telling you that the process to vote in America is at least an order of magnitude more complicated than a typical Brazilian experience"

Then the problem is in the process, not in the hand counting. At the end of the day you end up with one president, one congressman, some local officers and maybe some legislations casted. That's not away from other countries' standards and still, they seem to manage it more efficiently.

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287484)

At the end of the day you end up with one president, one congressman, some local officers and maybe some legislations casted.


One President. One Congressman. One Senator. One Governor. One state Senator. One state assemblyman. Three or four county councilmen. One sheriff. One (or more) judges. Four or five School Board members. Possibly more local officials as well. In the more referendum-happy states, maybe a dozen or more of those. It does add up...

Re:US' decentralized elections are the problem (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287004)

frauds do happen, but it's mostly illegal propaganda, manipulation of voters (vote buying), this kind of stuff. ballot tampering attempts became less frequent since the electronic voting became widespread. i remember there were a couple of attempts in the last election, but the responsible were cought and prosecuted.

granted, just low level grunts were arrested, the top guys shielded themselves with several layers of party hiererchy.

If you want to help... (1)

syphax (189065) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284836)

Consider giving a couple bucks to this group [openvotingconsortium.org] . Alan Dechert has been doing good work in CA and elsewhere.

Re:If you want to help... (1)

mmurphy000 (556983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285232)

Not only have they been making some progress, but Karl Auerbach — yes, that Karl Auerbach [slashdot.org] — is on the board.

Suffice it to say, I don't think ICANN has donated money to their cause... ;-)

Is the voting process rigged? (1)

pcmanjon (735165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284842)

Does anyone here believe the voting process is rigged one way or another?

Re:Is the voting process rigged? (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284864)

Is this a trap?

Let's just say it can be, without naming names, political parties, etc. As long as it can be rigged in some way, a better solution must be searched for.

Re:Is the voting process rigged? (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284920)

Yes, in a way most don't realize. A few people, party leaders with the help of the corproate owned media pick the candidates. They give to us whom we may choose from. The person they have picked to be president is matched with one not as desirable. They create the illusion that we picked or voted for the president but the elections are really a big hollywood type production. The bottom rungs of the parties think there is a big competition, bit those at the top are one.

Re:Is the voting process rigged? (1)

causality (777677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285892)

Someone gets it. Please mod this up!

Re:Is the voting process rigged? (1)

mister_woods (949290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285622)

The voting process may not be rigged, but voting machines can be: back in December I was in conversation with someone from Germany's Chaos Computer Club who told me that they've been able to hack and tamper with every single voting machine/computer that has been put in their path.

My advice: stick to pen and paper.

Re:Is the voting process rigged? (1)

doom (14564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285914)

Does anyone here believe the voting process is rigged one way or another?

In the 2004 election, there were peculiar discrepancies between the exit polls and the reported results which correlated with the use of electronic voting machines: Who won? [slashdot.org] .

Statistical indications like this are all you're likely to get in this game, and now you won't even get that much -- they changed the way exit poll data is handled because the 2004 situation was too embarrassing.

It will happen as soon as all.... (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284910)

of the parties involved agree on exactly how to implement it. Just get the Republicans and Democrats together and they'll come to an agreement that's fair to all.

See! It's no problem at all.

Does it really matter if the voting machines work? (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284946)

Does it really matter if the voting machines work?

A few people, party leaders with the help of the corporate owned media pick the candidates. They give to us whom we may choose from.

The person they have picked to be president is matched with one not as desirable.

They create the illusion that we picked or voted for the president but the elections are really a big Hollywood type production.

The bottom rungs of the parties think there is a big competition, but those at the top are one.

open source isn't the solution (3, Insightful)

dannannan (470647) | more than 6 years ago | (#22284960)

Even if the machines are based on open source software, how do you know what has actually been deployed on the machine you use to cast your vote? Someone has to set up those machines. Any public code review or testing, no matter how thorough, is completely nullified if that isn't the software that ends up on the machine on election day.

Why do geeky people (myself included) like to wipe a new machine before they use it? Why do corporate IT departments have policies about wiping new hardware, or machines that have been infected with a virus? Simply because when you are using a general purpose computer, it is complex enough that no human can have any confidence in what it is doing unless they had control over the entire installation process.

D

Re:open source isn't the solution (1)

pcmanjon (735165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285154)

I agree.

I even E-Mailed this consortium with my question.

Just because you coded honest code, how does that mean YOUR honest code is what the binary has in production?

The code is only as honest as the person who compiled it.

Well, if you have the source.. (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286376)

and decide to randomly audit the system you can perform a pretty thorough audit. You can also audit the code itself and make sure the voting system doesn't contain any unforeseen errors and check for back doors.

You're absolutely right that OSS isn't a magic bullet, but it certainly carries plenty of clear advantages over anything else.

Transparency in the election process isn't something we should have to beg for. It's a right.

Re:Well, if you have the source.. (1)

dannannan (470647) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286490)

"but [OSS] certainly carries plenty of clear advantages over anything else."


You're right. Actually there's more to it than just allowing the general public to review the code. The important part of OSS is that it allows someone other than the manufacturer to own the software build and setup process. OSS would be worthless if it simply meant that people could see the source code, yet the manufacturer's machines still ship with everything pre-installed and ready to use. The real value comes into play when the election commission hosts the code repository and uses it to accept patches from the manufacturer, and take responsibility for building and installing all software on the voting machines.

D

Verifiability (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285048)

So how do I, as a voter, know that the machine I am voting on is running binaries based on the source code that it purports to be using?

Whether the source code is open source or not doesn't change this.

draw attention to open source (1)

aleph42 (1082389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22285558)

One good thing about this is it could draw some public attention to open source.

Finaly people can see an application where it is actually *really* important to know what a computer is doing, and where trusting some company just isn't enough (obviously protecting their private datas doesn't seem important enough for that to them).

Rmember: the last thing random Joe heard about FOSS vs proprietary probably is the often repeated sentence in the "24" show: "oh no, I can't crack this software, it's proprietary".


As for the rest of the issue, I agree paper trail still is the most important thing, and decentralized elections seem to be a pretty big problem.

e-voting = shorter election night shows. (1)

bowlman (944884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22286374)

E-voting isn't any more or less tamper proof than ballot and paper. Making the code open source is a fine way to deal with the issue of transparency and if people don't understand the code it is not unreasonable to expect them to learn to understand. Encouraging the voting population to learn more is a good thing in my book... maybe they may even be inspired to look deeper into election issues rather than swallow whatever the politicians tell them.

What e-voting can do is make the process more efficient, waste less human effort and use less materials such as pencils, papers and cardboard ballot boxes. Yes there are implications to e-voting that we don't fully understand but that doesn't mean it should be forgotten about altogether.

Of course the political commentators and the media won't like this as it makes it harder for them to create suspenseful election shows that go on for as long as they do. But I'm not too concerned for them. The ability to expend hot air is strong with all humans.

"standardization" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22286812)

Am I the only one tired of the word "standardization"? Not everything needs to be built on world-agreed standards!
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