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Electronic Ballots In The Brazilian Presidential Election 298

Posted by timothy
from the press-31-to-return-to-the-main-menu dept.
jorlando writes "On Sunday (06-Oct) Brazil will again use electronic ballots for its Presidential Elections. Since a lot of /. readers from time to time talk about the pros and cons of this type of technology, it's a chance to see how it perform well (at least in Brazil...). Representatives from NGOs, ONU and foreign Governments were invited as observers and to see a working electronic votation system in a huge scale, since there are more than 115 million of voters in Brazil ... usually the results of the election are given 4 hours after the closing of the ballots (17:00 Brasilia -3GMT), with a small margin of error, since only 98% of the votes are computed in 4 hours ... some ballots are in places (mostly in far-away rural areas and in the Amazon region) that need to be taken to larger cities to be connected to the vote-download system ... ballots are made by Procomp, the comunication sytem is a VPN-like made by Embratel. The election can be accompanied by the main Brazilian notice sites (http://www.uol.com.br , http://www.estado.com.br, http://www.globo.com and others), mostly only Portuguese, so use the fish!"
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Electronic Ballots In The Brazilian Presidential Election

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  • wow, great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by I Want GNU! (556631) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @12:12AM (#4395767) Homepage
    Good thing Brazil has such a good voting system! It's unfortunate about all the corruption that goes on in third world nations that makes things inaccurate, such as in the recent election in this quant little place called Florida.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Clearly, unlike Florida, Brazil is not Bush-league.
    • Actually Brasil is suing fox [guardian.co.uk] for that certain episode of The Simpsons.
      • In January, the mayor of Rio threatened to sue a weather forecaster who predicted, wrongly, that there would be storms on New Year's Eve. The weather forecast kept crowds away from one of the biggest festivals of the year.

        Do we have a trial-lawyers exchange program with them?
      • No, they aren't. A couple loudmouths in the Rio tourist board said that they were going to, but didn't. Brazil (as a federal gov't) didn't even mention the issue. Get your facts straight.
    • by dirvish (574948) <dirvish@nOSPAm.foundnews.com> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @01:49AM (#4395990) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, it is disgusting how rampant corruption is in some third world countries. In some places a powerful family will control elections making certain that they remain in power for generations. It is even possible for a president to sucede his father and for brothers to retain power at the same time despite gross incompetence.
      • That's almost unthinkable as having a president who is an actor.

        BTW, imagine if we had an actor as president nowadays, what he'd do to MPAA.

        [thinking to myself: Ok, so I mentioned MPAA. If I mention Linux, I'll get a good score. Here it goes.]

        Linux.
      • Re:wow, great! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Brian Stretch (5304)
        In some places a powerful family will control elections making certain that they remain in power for generations.

        Yeah, and it doesn't even require being a Kennedy, though that does seem to help.

        Sometimes the results can be pretty freakish, though. Just look at the followup to Senator Al Gore Sr., VP Al Gore Jr. Scary.
  • I'm not so sure that Brazil knows how to hold democratic elections. After all, they're all Spanish-accented, thick-mustachioed conga dancers right? Homer was held ransom for $50,000, Bart was swallowed whole by a boa, and Marge got some 'help' from the police. Certainly not the least corrupt place on the planet.

    The Simpsons has certainly put me off from visiting what I previously thought might be a very nice country. If Brazil isn't suing Fox for defamation, they should.
  • Use A Pencil! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Slapdash X. Hashbang (315401) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @12:23AM (#4395792) Homepage
    ...and a paper ballot! The presence or absence of an 'X' or a check, in a human script, is fairly incontrovertible. If counting takes 3, 4 days or a week, it's well worth it.

    We all have seen that "chads" are fussy things, prone to hanging. And we're hip to the fact that bits are very evanescent things.

    Reaching for democracy is a worthwhile pursuit, worth some pencils, some paper, and a little time.
    • Re:Use A Pencil! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by janda (572221)

      (As I was explaining to my family last christmas), with modern technology, it should take, oh, maybe an hour for the election to be finalized after is complete.

      You're correct, you get a paper voting ballot, and a pencil. You go in, make your marks, and then put the ballot into an optical scanner in front of the election volunteers. The scanner decides what it thinks you penciled in, and displays it on a monitor that you, but not other people, can see. You then press a button, "yes", or "no" to indicate that the scanner recorded things properly. If you press "no", the scanner spits your ballot back out to you and you get another one until you figure out how to fill in circles properly.

      At various times during the day (say, every two hours), the storage devices in the machines are replaced so that the counts can be verified and uploaded during the day. Once everybody's done, you have an electronic count with all the paper needed to back it up if you need to do hand counts.

      Of course, that wouldn't make some company selling a propriatary system that you must sign a non-disclosure agreemnt to buy, any money,

      • This method was used in parts of Ontario (Canada) with mixed results. IIRC some of the scanners failed, and there were issues with user education. As the process was different some voters were not clear how to properly handle their ballots. This is understanable. Unfortunately some polling station workers didn't quite know how to handle the ballots or machines either. Overall I think that it was a good first run of the system and hope to see such a system used in the future.

        The paper scanned ballot is by far my favourite form of electronic voting. It has the advantage of very quick vote couting, and a nice solid audit trail for recounts.
    • If you can mark an "X", you're my kind of people!
    • Re:Use A Pencil! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stephen (20676)
      Three or four days to count paper ballots? Here in the UK, we count them all in a few hours.

      The main advantage of paper ballots is that everyone can see the whole process, and knows what's going on. No broken machines or dodgy software -- or even allegations of dodgy software, which would be just as harmful to confidence in the democratic process.

      But our government is talking about electronic voting, and even voting over the internet. They seem to think it will increase participation. It won't! The reason people don't vote is because they don't want politicians running the country, not because the voting method is old-fashioned. Instead, more people voting from home will just increase the possibility of pressurised voting.

      • Three or four days to count paper ballots? Here in the UK, we count them all in a few hours.

        That's a slight exaggeration. It doesn't take four days, but it takes more than a few hours. In 2001, the polls closed at 10pm, William Hague conceded at 3.40am, and some constituencies were still counting at 10am the next morning.

        I agree though that the idea of computerised voting is just another ill-conceived "eye-catching initiative" from our beloved PM. I suppose we should just be grateful it probably won't do any great harm either, unlike his "initiatives" on education, transport, agriculture and health.
        • Yes, you're right. Northern Irish constituencies don't count until the next morning. In addition, some very close constituencies delay the final recount until the next morning. The last non-Northern Irish constituency declared at 3.43pm, and the last Northern Irish constituency at 10.20pm. (Source: http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/e01/dectime.htm [keele.ac.uk].)

          But the point is, speed of counting is not an argument against paper ballots. The election result is pretty much known in about 4 hours, and even if it took 24 hours that would be perfectly quick enough.

    • The problem with paper ballots in an election as big as the 115 million voters mentioned in the article is that it takes tens of thousands of people to count those votes. Who will watch all those people to make sure they aren't corrupt? And what about "man in the middle" attacks, where uncounted ballots are stuffed with votes?


      There are many possible attacks on both paper and electronic voting systems. The advantage I see for the electronic ballot is that it's much easier to audit in very large elections. Hire a few competent, honest, programmers and they will detect fraud much faster and more reliably than an army of people counting and recounting votes could.

  • Lets hope we don't have to decided what is a 0 and 1 is a one in the binary sequence. Those are sometimes easily confused.
  • The only thing I don't like about electronic voting is that I like the exitement of election night. Waiting for the results is the best part.
  • Other translation... (Score:2, Informative)

    by beebware (149208)
    If you don't like Babelfish, use Google's translation service: ballots are made by Procomp, [google.com], made by Embratel [google.com], http://home.uol.com.br/ [google.com]...
  • by Raven42rac (448205) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @12:41AM (#4395841)
    how do you say "pregnant chads" in Portuguese?
  • And start fixing ours. Seriously, our elections are as crooked as a three dollar bill. Now even third world countries are using electronic voting, while we, a technologically advanced nation, have to contend with 'hanging chads.'
    • our elections are as crooked as a three dollar bill.

      I've often wondered if this phrase will change later this century. We gained a Two Dollar Bill [countdown-creations.com] in 1976. I wonder if we'll get a Three Dollar Bill in 2076.

      I then have to wonder what happens in 2276. I guess re-create the Five Doallar Bill and repeat the phrase with a Six Dollar? Perhaps, but what happens in 2176? "As crooked as a 5 dollar bill"? D'OH!

      (assuming we're around that long, of course. Look at Rome...)

      I guess I'm not taking inflation into account either...
    • One very simple but important thing the USA could do to increase the integrity of the ballot would be to ban exit polls or predictions before the polls have closed in the whole country.

      When I've raised this before, I've found that many Americans have been horrified. Freedom of speech is the highest goal. Suppression of the press will lead to dictatorship.

      Guys, get real! Stopping the press saying one specific thing for three or four hours is the tiniest suppression of civil liberties. It's a much bigger and more basic civil liberty that the whole country should have a level playing field for voting. Most other democracies do this and haven't turned into dictatorships yet.

  • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2.anthonymclin@com> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @12:50AM (#4395865) Homepage
    Brazilians are required to vote.

    Probably results on a lot less confusion from infrequent voters, and a lot easier to setup and verify people on an electronic system.
    • That's not quite like that Dynedain. Voting should not be mandatory. How can a democracy be a *real* democracy if people are required to vote? But that's not even my point. The point is that Brasil is a third world country, a poor country and a country where most people does not have good education. This is a very dangerous thing, since poor people "trade" votes for, say, a pair of shoes. Sure, electronic ballots are good prevent frauds, it speeds the counting process and such, but it is *not* that kind of a miracle. What good is to have electronic ballots if the people is almost un-educated? I'm brasilian, I'm voting tomorrow and I really hope that things change. (I think my english writing illustrates how badly educated we are :)
      • Australia also has mandatory voting.
        • What kind of penalties are there for non-compliance?
          • What kind of penalties are there for non-compliance?

            They're forbiden to say mate for 48 hours!???
          • by Goonie (8651)
            A 20 pacific peso (that's the equivalent of about 10 USD) fine. A flogging with a limp lettuce leaf, in other words.

            It does achieve the goal of high turnouts though - something like 98% of those eligible vote (or at least turn up, get their names crossed off, and vote CowboyNeal).

            • ??? What? Did I not get it? The Brasilian currency is the Real. We don't have pesos.

              Wait, I think I didn't get it.

              • Sorry, I was referring to the Australian dollar, which over the course of the 1980's dropped from buying 1.16 USD to around 55 cents.

                As it bounced around, the name "Pacific peso" came to be used as a joke to describe its pitiful worth against the USD, the yen, and the British pound.

                In practice, our economy has done pretty well, overall, over the last two decades, so it's only really an issue we worry ourselves with when we travel to those countries.

      • I didn't say it was a miracle; electronic voting is prone to as many problems as paper voting.

        There is a benefit to mandatory voting: one group can't get particularly inflamed over an issue and take control simply because everyone else doesn't really care as much.

        As a question about the mandatory voting....do you have to pick a candidate for a particular position? Or can you abstain?

        I agree that there are particular problems regarding voting fraud poor countries. But those issues aren't solved by paper vs. eletronic votes.

        Needless to say, if voting was required in the U.S., many of the stupid decisions that have been made probably wouldn't have. We frequently have major issues that most people think are stupid an pointless....and so instead of voting against it, they just don't vote, and the special interests get their way.

        Anyways, on the education issue, for the kinds of economic, climatic, infrastrucural issues that Brazil has to contend with, I think they are doing a suprisngly good job. As for your English writing skills, they are much more proficient than mine are in any other language, and I'm generally considered a very-well educated American.
        • As a question about the mandatory voting....do you have to pick a candidate for a particular position? Or can you abstain?

          There's a key "vote in blank" in the electronic ballot. You can use it for all positions.

          --
          Yes, I'm from Brazil.
        • You can say "undeclared."

          And the voting is like in France: if someone doesn't win with a certain majority, the two best go to a second round.

        • >
          on the education issue, for the kinds of economic, climatic, infrastructural issues that Brazil has to contend with, I think they are doing a suprisngly good job.

          Problem is, we are not. Do not let statistics fool you. Schooling quality is so poor in Brasil, even if most children do attend school they are functionally illiterate -- meaning they do know the alphabet, can sign their own names and perhaps read the headlines in popular newspapers and advertisement, but cannot do any kind of text interpretation nor write passably for their lifes.

          There are many causes for this, from the humdrum economical ones to the more fundamental cultural and religious, and I will not explain them here. But education is so much more than instruction, and it does begin with families. See this speech by a NY teacher [primenet.com], for instance. Add to that Brasilian families typically having absent fathers, in addition to other weaknesses, and you have the beginning of an explanation.

      • by mc6809e (214243) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @02:08AM (#4396031)
        Voting should not be mandatory. How can a democracy be a *real* democracy if people are required to vote?

        Democracy and Freedom are not the same thing. Democracy is one group ruling everyone. Democracies can make rules that abridge free speech, take property without compensating the owner, declare a national religion, make it criminal to put unapproved substances into your body, and MAKE you vote.

        Freedom means freedom from other people -- even if they are in the majority. The Bill of Rights is anti-democratic in a sense, for example. There are certain things that shouldn't be put to a simple majority vote.

        Another way to look at it is in terms of collectivism versus individualism -- society versus the individual. More than just being different things, democracy and freedom are sometimes opposites. Thats hard to see when you're on the majority side making the rules for everyone. Its easy to see when you're in the minority being made to submit.

        • > There are certain things that shouldn't be put to a simple majority vote.

          The world's first democracy, Athens, was nothing short of an evil empire. Among other abuses, the Athenian democracy voted genocide against the citizens of one island that wanted to leave what was supposedly a voluntary alliance of peers. (Fortunately the Athenians reversed their vote on the next day and dispatched a fast boat to belay the orders of the previous day before they were carried out.)

          Pedantic note: the USA isn't a democracy anyway; the citizens don't get to vote on laws, constitutional amendments, wars, or genocides. Instead, we vote on representatives to manage the res publica; we are a republic.

      • Not all of us. The (growing) middle class is remarkably up to par in world affairs. (Against Americans, at least.) But the vast majority of us is poor, dirty, and uneducated.
    • I consider it a civic duty to educate myself on the issues and canidates every other November. "Voting" isn't just the physical act of pulling a lever or dimpling a chad, but a process of making an informed choice as to your advocates in the government. I would like to think that everyone else thinks this way, but many have other priorities, whether a family life or a fulfilling career or another pull on the bong. Personally, I would rather have thirty-five percent of the population who are informed or passionate about certain issues decide an election rather than people who vote for a canidate they know little about but has the most name recognition or the best advertising. I would guess that half of the voters in U.S. presidential elections fall into the latter category, and in a mandatory, "go to the polling place today or have your behind hauled off to jail" I would think that number would at least triple.
  • not without failure (Score:5, Informative)

    by selderrr (523988) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @12:50AM (#4395868) Journal
    in belgium, we've been using electronic voting for quite a while now. Results are a lot faster, but queues at the booths are longer too because older people are a bit frightened and take their time to figure out what to do (even though it's as straigthforward as pussy : find the hole of a person that you like and fill it :-)

    the system itself is not without failure though : one one district, the right-wing, fascists-in-disguise-party was not on the screen of the voting computers (I can't imagine that this could possibly be a programming mistake, since all other districts worked without flaw and used the exact same software)

    last note : even here, only something like 30% or so of the votes are electronic. Next federal election, due in 1 year, is supposed to lift this percentage
    • one district, the right-wing, fascists-in-disguise-party was not on the screen of the voting computers

      Louisana has electronic voting machines and we lent many of them to Florida. They were returned when Edwin Edwards won.

      In Brazil, I'm told, the truth will set you free. Because of this the Ministry of Inofrmation and Central Services have been in power for years. You never know when some terrorist like Buttle will fix the machines and make them lie.

  • Electronic voting would be nifty, but how do you audit the components and the source code? I imagine something like the slots in vegas. Wouldn't want to have some crafty developer inserting a special backdoor would you?
    • maelstrom, that's a really good question. I wonder that myself, and I am voting with those machines tomorrow. The system is closed, but the TI people of the several parties have access to the code for auditing purposes. Not that it solves the issue, but since there is a lot of "ideological conflicts" between the parties, i guess the auditing process' balance is positive. Or not :)
    • I think programs like Apache have shovn that open source does not mean bug-free.

      Incidentally, of the 15 millon people that voted, 15 billion were for candidate A, another 10 billion were for candidate B. I suppose their supreme court wouldn't ask for a recount either.
    • 1. Brazilian government sets up SourceForge project called "Open Electronic Voting System" with UNIX name "oevs".
      2. Project is approved.
      3. Brazilian government sets status of project to Planning/Alpha.
      4. Brazilian government posts link to project as Slashdot story.
      5. Submission is approved.
      6. Thousands of geeks storm the site and develop a working open source electronic voting system in just 9 hours.
      7. Er...profit?
  • The people will have to learn the number of their candidates, to type in the electronic ballot. It will be 6 numbers, one for each type of candidate, and the best to vote are these:

    Federal Deputy:
    5656
    Dr. Enéas

    State Deputy:
    56500
    Ms. Havanir

    Senator 1:
    43
    Green Party

    Senator 2:
    16
    Against Burgeoise

    Governor:
    30
    SP in God's Hands

    President:
    16
    Joseph Maria - Against Burgeoise, Vote Sixteen

    There is also the candidate Mr. Creysson, whose number is 00. He is a Protugeuse Tcheacher.
  • won't be happy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daniel2000 (247766) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @01:07AM (#4395901)
    till the electronic voting has at least the same safegards as manual voting.

    With manual voting people oversee people. Not perfect but at least if there is wide spread corruption the knowledge of that corruption at least leaks out somewhere.

    With the electronic voting, it is in its infancy and there is easily the ability to implement a corrupt system with far less chance of being caught.

    Its not that computers are less accurate or less reliable that people- quite the opposite- its just that having fewer people involved means less scrutiny and a greater chance of being able to be undetectably corrupt.

    Even if you can check the source code used (which should be essential otherwise you know nothing at all about the systems integrity) you can't be guarenteed that that same source is the stuff used on the day.

    Basically i wont be surprised when we find out that a government somewhere was in power for a decade or more winning every election only to find that the elections were a scam.

    Ok there are plenty of scam elections now but we can see for ourselves that they are rigged.

    • The issue of voting scams can be minimized with the following steps:

      1. Before anyone votes in a voting booth, they have have proof of identity, preferably a picture ID.

      2. Require that during election time the voter can ONLY vote in one voting jurisdiction, no exceptions allowed. That way, people who live part of the time in one part of the country and part of the time in another part of the country cannot vote in both jurisdictions, which is a great way to cause voter fraud.

      3. Use a ballot that all the choices are marked off by a small ink stamp. With an ink stamped ballot, the ballot can be read by both hand and machine counts easily.

      I'm sure there are more steps available to lower vote fraud, but these three steps ends the vast majority of voter fraud problems.
    • Hmmm... there are programs that append a hash code to each designated file. Allow inspectors from each of the political parties read-only access to the files involved in the voting process during the vote count to make sure that the programs being run match the programs that were verified.

      Of course, this requires Open Source, or at minimum, publication of the proprietary code. But if the service provider has nothing to hide, what's the problem?

      Programs which count votes in a real election should be verifiable as programs which do that and nothing else. Complex? As far as I can see, a program on a voting machine that increments a count register each time a voter votes for a candidate sounds like something any moderately proficient 1st year comp sci student should be able to do, and a program that aggregates these counts into vote totals should be even less complicated.

      The fact that voting machine companies are being allowed to use closed door proprietary code simply tells me that there are things about this code they really don't want the public to see. For very good reason. Whether this is due to incompetent supervision by the purchasers or deliberate collusion with public officials is an interesting question.

    • ...having fewer people involved means less scrutiny and a greater chance of being able to be undetectably corrupt


      With paper voting no one sees but a very small part of the total. A totally electronic system is much more visible. How many votes can someone count? A few thousands, at most. About 0.01% of the total in Brazil. With open source electronic voting (which, BTW, is NOT what they are using in Brazil), anyone would be able to see the source code and look for abuse all over the country.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The BBC [bbc.co.uk] has an artice [bbc.co.uk] and a photo [bbc.co.uk]

    Some quick stats from the article:

    115.2m voters
    Voting compulsory for over-18s
    406,000 computer ballot boxes
    Polls open 1100 GMT, close 2000 GM
  • ONU= Organizacao das Nacoes Unidas, or the UN if you speak English.

    Nice to see an article about this, as I often say it in voting discussions. (I'm Brazilian)

  • All adults (18 and over) in Brazil are REQUIRED to vote tommorow. My parents, as we live in the US, have to go to the consulate to vote.

    I believe people over 16 can also vote with parental permission.

  • by Banjonardo (98327) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @02:08AM (#4396032) Homepage
    sorry about the many posts. It works as following:

    1. You enter a number (The numbers are under every poster of every candidate. Vote 22!)

    2. The person's picture comes up.

    3. You press OK or CANCEL.

    It's pretty easy cause a lot of people can't read.

  • Electoral College (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ari_j (90255) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @02:36AM (#4396076)
    This would be bad to have in the US, because it'd just give people (and candidates) a false sense of completion with even more confidence than the current system does; remember, the President is elected by a few hundred people that the actual voters select (it was meant to be done by the Electors' names, not by the candidates' names for whom the Electors would most likely vote), and this selection is much closer to the inauguration than the voting-in of Electors. Remember, no matter what any computer says, there is not a President-elect until the Electoral College has met.
  • by Begemot (38841)
    Costa Rica did it [ethoseurope.org] 5 years ago with AT&T. It was based on quite interesting technology called Byzantine Quorums [nec.com]. The goal was an effecient replication of the same info over a network. The idea is that you don't have to copy the data to all participating nodes, only to a Quorum... (The name Byzantine comes from much earlier "Byzantine Generals" [nist.gov] problem).
  • How many VPN exploits are there? A man in the middle attack would seem to be the best approach. If we conduct man in the middle attacks against banks laundering drug money to support Columbian presidential elections, why would we not make a direct attack to insure our guy gets elected in another South American country?
  • Your'e required to vote. Otherwise you'll incur the penalty, which is either a 100 Boliviano fine(exchange rate $1 = 7.2 Bs.) or a day in the local jail, your choice.
  • by rat7307 (218353) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:17AM (#4396403) Homepage
    I can see it now:

    Announcer:It appears the winner is a "I 0wn J00z" of the "All your base are belong to us" party.
  • Rebecca Mercuri (Score:3, Insightful)

    by firewort (180062) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @09:49AM (#4396872)
    Rebecca Mercuri has a checklist [notablesoftware.com] which asks several questions which must be answered for an electronic voting system to be secure, accurate, and trustworthy.

    The bar is set pretty high, so unless each question can be answered, electronic voting is a poor solution.

    1. What means is used to separate voter identity from voted ballot?
    2. How is the balloting process secured such that voter submissions can not be observed, or recorded in any way that is traceable to the individual voter?
    3. What actions on the system are audited?
    4. How is the auditing process precluded from associating voters with cast ballots?
    5. How is the audit trail accessed and used?
    6. Who is permitted to access the system (through all aspects of handling)?
    7. What facilities are provided for recount purposes?
    8. How are voters authenticated and authorized to cast ballots?
    9. What access controls are in place to ensure single ballot per voter per election?
    10. If multiple systems are deployed, how are voters tracked so the same person does not vote in different formats?
    11. What controls are used to ensure that the correct ballot is provided to the voter?
    12. What controls are provided to ensure that each ballot item is voted properly?
    13. How are all forms of tampering detected and prevented?
    14. How is vote confirmation provided without ballot-face receipt?
    15. How is the voter prevented from retaining a copy of the cast ballot?
    16. How does the system assure that each ballot has been correctly recorded?
    17. How does the voter know that a cast ballot has been accepted?
    18. How is vote tabulation correctness assured?
    19. What features are employed to ensure operability of the voting system throughout the election?
    20. How are downtimes handled in the event that they do occur?
    21. What alternative balloting system is available for voters when the system is down?
    22. How do the poll workers and system administrators know that the system is operating correctly?
    23. How is the voting system precluded from use when deemed inoperable?
  • Not news.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jgrider (165754)
    I was living in Brasil during the last presidential election (1998), and they were using the same electronic system then. There were some reports of attempted fraud, but not electronically.

    Due to the high illiteracy rate in the Northeast, campaigners would hand out a R$5 bill, with a card containing a candidates picture, and the numbers required to vote for that candidate (no names, text, or anything else). The most frequent complaint of fraud was that they did this during the morning of the election (not allowed), not that they were essentially paying for votes!

    The other problems that occured were that some areas didn't have access to electricity, that some voting machines got stolen and were never turned in, that some (idle)threats were made against those that voted a certain way. It appeared, though, that the electronics worked pretty well, at least none of them "blue-screened".

    Personally, I'm opposed to the idea of electronic voting, because there is no hard-copy to use as "proof of vote".

  • by lotrfan (551106) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @10:42AM (#4397036) Homepage
    I worked for TSE (higher election court), responsible for the elections. I've seen the development of the computer ballot system.

    I can tell you all, brazilians and everyone, else that the system is very good. Aside from some failing hardware which accounts for up to 3% of total computer ballots, we have a very highly reliable system.

    The most vulnerable part of the system is still the voters. In some places people really trade votes for shoes, money, promises, glasses, food. It's a shame. Our politicians diguised their ruling through ignorance on a "democratic" talk of opening the system for everyone, including completely uneducated people. They are the most influenciable ones cause they also are the poorest. The politicians knows it and keeps them uneducated so they can't escape this vicious cycle. This is our most shameful problem.

    But with all this problems we still have one of the most efficient voting systems. Counting starts almost immediately after the end of voting. No one cam manipulate the votes. There is a high degree of cryptography applied in the system. No single party or group knows the algorithm and the keys at the same time. Only a handful of people know the keys, to be precise.

    Perhaps the best assurance of the reliability of the results are that the TSE needs to have a perfectly clean and fast system. This happens cause the work this court does, aside from preparing the elections, could be done by other courts. Judgement of election problems could easily be done by normal justice channels. But the very good levels of satisfaction with the work done by TSE (and all lower level election courts) makes them immune to the constant attacks on its existence. Make a bad move and say goobye to all that power and visibility that a position there can get.

    After this somewhat extensive reply I would like to say that people from other countries cannot imagine the real dimensions of our elections: 115 million voters, 6 president candidates, thousands of candidates for other positions (we are voting for 6 positions in total). It's like 5 or 6 elections in one. And we do not want to have the really shameful example of the USA where two president candidates admited frauding the elections. Our system make it impossible here. And for those that do not trust anything, we are introducing a printed paper copy of the voting, obviously not revealing the voter. Anytime you can go there and verify if the printed votes represent exactly what the computer ballot system says. And the voter look at the printed copy, can confirm it's what it was inputed and, if all ok, just press Confirm and the printed vote is kept at the ballot automatically, with the electronic one computed. For the paranoid, the software used, including the sources, was seen by computer experts hired by the political parties. Let's say that all the precautions were taken in account.

    For all us brazilians, good voting. For the others keep looking, we are doing a good job here.
    • Yeah, Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Karpe (1147)
      Ah, C'mon. The system is reliable? Maybe, but it is not trustworthy (and don't come with that UNICAMP evaluation crap). Read the previous post where a reader lists the requirements of a good electronic voting system, and judge for yourself if our system provides that. How can i be sure that my vote was not associated to me? The code is open? Really? All of it? (no). The TSE says that it can't open the source of some code because it is copyrighted, so please, require that the electronic ballot use only software that could be opened.

      I would like *all* ballots to print votes, and some ballots be selected by chance *after* the election to compare physical and electronic results.

      I work in the elections (3rd election this year), as a "mesario" (the person who guides people to vote, for those unfamiliar with the system), and I can assure you that "people is the most vulnerable part of the system" is very easy to say, but the problem that the system is difficult to use to old people is not a people's problem, but a system's problem. Was there *any* usability study on the design of the electronic ballot?

      I could go on and on, but I worked the full day for free for the elections, having to deal with 80 year olds that are not required to vote but still do anyway, to participate in the democracy (which I think is nice), but can't figure out how to use the electronic ballot (first usability assumption made incorrectly by the TSE: people do read what is on screen. They don't!), and then I come home to read slashdot, to read that the system is nice? Nice piece of sh*t.

      The really nice thing about the brazilian elections is the logistics, of distributing ballots everywhere (midle of the jungle, midle os the swamp, northeast, everywhere), and then bringing all floppy discs (yeah, 1.4MB floppies! What happens if it gets CRC errors?!) back to the counting places.

    • If you really work for the TSE, I'd like to know:

      Does the military help with the encyption?

      How do they transport votes from places not connected to the network? (I'd understand if you can't tell)

      Is the Northwest the only place not connected?

      Thanks!

  • Hanging chad, pregnant chad? If you haven't read Douglas Jones's account [uiowa.edu] of his disassembly and experimentation with you don't really understand the last US presidential election.

    My interpretation is that he found that the massive undercounting of Al Gore's votes was a predictable artifact of the machines chosen and the ballot layout.

    If a partisan person, who knew about this defect of the machine, was designing the layout of the ballot, they could take advantage of this flaw to skew the election results.

  • I guess this will attract all India-bashing trolls out there, but electronic voting has been a common feature in the last few Indian (both federal and state) elections. (All elections in India are conducted through a disinterested regulatory body called the Election Commission of India [eci.gov.in]). Most people widely welcome the use of Electronic Voting Machines [rediff.com]; there have been lesser instances of rigging and booth-capturing [indiapolicy.org] after their deployment. Besides, there's been a cost-effectiveness as well; suddenly general elections have become cheaper.

    Oh yes, EVM's are being used in the ongoing Kashmir elections [google.com] as well; since the Kashmir issue is highly emotive (and consequently, irrevocably factionalised [outlookindia.com]) for most people, I'll refrain from commenting on the EVMs' effectiveness there. But yes, the response in most other places in India has been positive.

  • Wrapping up (Score:4, Informative)

    by vanza (125693) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @03:32PM (#4398396)
    Well, since there seems to be some frequent doubts about our voting system, I'll be wrapping up some of the responses from others. I'm Brazilian also, but I won't be voting on these elections.

    (i) This is not a new system

    This isn't the first time we're voting electronically. We've been doing this for some years now. It started only in the bigger voting places (like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), and (I can't remember exaclty when) has been extended to (almost) the whole country since the last (2 years ago,, mayors an senate) or second to last (4 years ago, president, governors and senate, just like this one) elections.

    Not all votes are electronic. There are some remote places where I'm not sure if it's already electronic, and also votes from Brazilians that reside out of Brazil are still done using paper ballots (AFAIK) and, thus, counted manually. Those are generally the cause the we do not have the final result until the next day (or 2, sometimes), until all the votes arrive from other countries.

    If you want to see what it looks like just go to this site [uol.com.br] and click on the title (light blue, "Teste seu voto online com candidatos fictícios"). It's a Java applet that looks like the voting device. It's slow as hell, but you can get an idea.

    (ii) There is a paper backup system

    When you vote, your vote is stored in the memory of the voting device, and also printed and stored in a bag attached to the device. In case there are doubts regarding the device, or if it fails in some way, then votes are counted by hand. But, primarily, all votes are counted electronically.

    (iii) Voting is mandatory

    Yeah, we are obligated to vote. If we do not vote, we have to say why we didn't. If we still do not say why, we lose many civil rights (as has been already pointed out: we cannot get a job - at least not in public services, etc, etc).

    If someone does not live in Brazil (like myself) we have two options: vote in a local Brazilian government building (consulate, embassy, etc) or, when back to Brazil, fill some official forms and show proof that you were not in Brazil during the elections. I'm in the second group, since there are no government agencies that I know of around here in Texas. "Foreigners" are only allowed to vote for president (and not for other local authorities).

    Well, I think that's pretty much all for now.
    • Re:Wrapping up (Score:2, Informative)

      by rbrito (37104)
      I'm posting this right after coming from the elections.

      Like Marcelo said (hi there -- send me an e-mail so we can get in touch) this is not the first electronic election that we had (I live in São Paulo, the biggest state of Brazil).

      The past election (which was also automatized in the very same way) went quite smoothly, but we had few electing positions ("prefeitos" e "vereadores").

      This year, the situation was quite different. Each person had to vote for 6 positions and while the system used was exactly the same from a users' perspective, people (especially the simpler, with lower education or older people, not used to electronic devices) had problems and used more time than expected.

      While in the past election it took me about 5 minutes to stand in line, today it took me about 1h15min.

      I did see an old lady getting confused in the voting booth and having to "be helped" slightly for she to finish her vote.

      The thing that I could observe in practice in this real life situation is that most people do have difficulties trying to deal with electronic devices. All this despite a huge informational campaign and having a so called "intuitive" interface.

      This left me with the clear impression that the barriers for a large scale adoption of automation are not technological but anthropological.

      Anyway, I guess that this election can be regarded as a huge success given the low failure rates that we had. And, in the end, everything seems to have gone well.

    • here in Texas

      There is a consulate in Houston. Check http://www.brasilemb.org/consulado_jurisdicao.shtm l

      for details.

  • by leandrod (17766) <l&dutras,org> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @03:33PM (#4398401) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, the Brasilian electronic voting system reliability and security are flawed. Brasilians are trusting it more out of hope in fundamental human goodness and general political progress, meaning sure, no one will attempt electoral fraud nowadays, coupled to general technical illiteracy, than because it was proven good. Because it was not.

    Only a few computerised ballots leave a paper trail for vote audit. Many of them run a customised MS WinCE version. There were only five days to only a few accredit technicians from the political parties to audit the whole kabooza. Requests for proper auditing went unheeded by the electoral authorities, which are astoundingly technical illiterate and moreover refuse to educate themselves.

    Here are a proven flaw on the self-auditing portion of the system [cipsga.org.br], a first-person account of the absurdity of the audit attempt [cipsga.org.br], and an analysis of some failures in the auditing process [cipsga.org.br]. All in Portuguese, use the Fish!

  • What makes Brazilian elections noteworthy is not the technology, but all the process.

    1. The system is easy to use and taught on national television campaigns. Just punch your candidate number, see his/her picture and confirm (6 times today - president, governor, senator twice, federal and state assembly representatives, granted).

    2. The voting machines are not perfect, but there are lots of security safeguards, auditing (there should be more). The source code core is reused and belongs to the supreme electoral tribunal. Operating system and compiler are closed, though. OS was VirtuOs, compiler was Borland C 4.5.

    3. There is cryptography, binary hash codes, ways to audit on the spot, battery back-up, extra voting machines ready for substitution (around 4,000 or 1% of them failed), and even paper ballots as contingency (around 100 paper ballot boxes were used in 320,000 voting stations). Vote tallies are saved on three different places on every machine.

    4. 320,000 voting machines plus back-ups had software put on them, were sealed and sent around the country were people were trained to deal with them (one friend of mine was drafted to be a technician. His job: boot the machine, follow procedure to check it is ok. If not, ask for a replacement, repeat. If none works, inform judge, who will order paper voting). Many others were trained to do simple well defined jobs, with contingency previously planed.

    5. Before, when paper ballors were used, there were many other rules to be followed and it was much easier to rig votes. Counting was done on open places, under the eyes of lots of people, but frauds still happened. First, there was the problem of the transport of ballot boxes to places were votes were counted. Sometimes some disapeared for some time. Then, there was the problem of blank votes (undervotes). Someone could surrepticiously place a mark on those votes when they were being taken from a ballot box and counted, and valid votes could be invalidated vy placing a second mark (overvote). So, there were rules against pens (the only allowed colors for voters were blue and green (if I remember right). Vote counting workers could only carry red pens. To carry a pen of another color were considered a crime, and there were stamps with which ballots were marked first time, when they were taken from the ballot box, so that undervotes and overvotes wouldn't be used. Votes were counted out loud, with totals being declared loudly for party inspectors to verify.
    Totals were put on large tables and read, loudly, then sent by telephone to the tribunal. Parties would set up parallel totalization schemes to make sure those numbers were right. There were also some people who would try to rig ballot boxes by placing extra votes on ballot boxes when voting stations were still open. The old system was hardly safer than the current one, and the Tribunal went to great lengths to make fraud difficult.

    6. The electronic voting was not instituted to speed up the results. It did so, but mostly, it was a way to simplify processes and reduce the possibility of fraud. And the process is still not simple. The tribunal is well funded and well organized. They tested the systems carefully for many years before comissioning it. This is a mature 10-year old system, and they still improve it all the time.

    7. Fact is, they understand the choices they made, and they seem to be avid risks [ncl.ac.uk] readers.

    8. In a nutshell, it is not the voting machines that make the elections in Brazil better than those in the U.S., but the fact that elections are considered really important, and great care is take n to make sure stupid mistakes won't happen. Elections are not improvised, they are really well thought out, and TSE do what it takes to make them work (they have a reputation to keep) be it related to hardware purchase, software development, auditing and testing, auditing procedures, planing, regulation, training and education.

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