Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Software Government News

Open Source Electronic Voting Progress Limited 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the open-the-polls dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open Source Electronic Voting Progress Limited

Comments Filter:
  • by Romancer (19668)
    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.
    • by Oddster (628633)
      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.
      • 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: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by man_of_mr_e (217855)
        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 veri
        • by doom (14564)

          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

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324)

        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, con

      • 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
  • Uh how hard could it be?

    while(1) {
    if(lever==REPUBLICAN) republican++;
    if(lever==DEMOCRATIC) democratic++;
    cout << republican << " " << demodratic << endl;
    }
    • demodratic
      Wow, that's ironic. OK never mind on that point.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)
      Apparently too hard for you...

      Or is demodratic in there to help fix the election?
    • by weak* (1137369) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:42PM (#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
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        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;
        }

    • 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.

    • by TurinPT (1226568)
      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~
    • by rickb928 (945187)
      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 wou
  • Wrong thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vertinox (846076) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:27PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:44PM (#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.
      • by kesuki (321456)
        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 t
      • 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
    • by Z00L00K (682162)
      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 mea

      • by ajs318 (655362)
        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.
        • 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 anonym
          • by ezzzD55J (697465)
            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.
            • 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.
              • "You don't have to reveal who you voted for unless you want to"

                Or unless you are *forced* to.

                "and someone can be coerced just as easily without such means"

                Bullshit. Noone can coerce you with current standards because the one who tried perfectly knows in advance his intent is moot (you can say whatever and the other party knows that has no means to know if you lied or not). But try it once there's a method to know for certain.

                "One can also prove how they voted by using a cell phone with a built-in camera t
            • by TheLink (130905)
              "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
          • by ajs318 (655362)
            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
            • 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 ball
              • by ajs318 (655362)

                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.

                The part you're missing is that how you voted is irrelevant. It's how everyone else voted that swung the election. Seeing something that proves you voted for candidate A is meaningless. You don't have any way of knowing who the 499 others who re

    • 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.
  • 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

    • by Sique (173459) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:34PM (#22285078) Homepage

      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.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        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
  • Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zogger (617870) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:44PM (#22284716) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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.
    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      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

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Teancum (67324)
        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 a
        • ..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
        • "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
          • by Teancum (67324)
            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 c
            • "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"

              Yes gunpointing citizenship no less and no more than about being a jury in a trial, paying taxes or having all your paperwork in order if you want to start a company. That's called Res Publica. You don't need to accept it, you always can go and buy your own lonely island. I think you are a bit out of proportion here unless you are a liberal anarchist in which
              • by Teancum (67324)

                Are you sure? Why this very thread then? Why the two latest presidential elections have been "a bit" contested?

                They were contested because they were incredibly close elections. Politically America is split into several different philosophical camps, and none of them have a strong and overwhelming command over the general population.

                If you are thinking about the elections that George W. Bush were involved with.... in spite of some of the screamers on the internet and a few media outlets that would have you

        • by TheLink (130905)
          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
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vonPoonBurGer (680105)
      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 b
  • 10 lines voting and 1000 lines security
    • by Wowsers (1151731)

      10 lines voting and 1000 lines security
      Sounds like the opposite of Microsoft programming.
  • How to do this right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:48PM (#22284756) Homepage

    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.

    • 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 t
    • by ajs318 (655362)
      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
      • by Jesus_666 (702802)

        (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.

    • by pentalive (449155)
      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 o
    • 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

      • 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.

    • 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.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      • Provide a way to accurately check that the OS running is the OS published.
      This is really hard
      • by AceJohnny (253840)
        The solution is called TPM [wikipedia.org].

        I'm serious. Yes, TPM in a home computer where you, the owner, lose control is bad. There are lots of other scenarios where it's good.
        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          I fail to see how this solves anything. We are talking about the possibility for the manufacturer of the machine to be fraudulous. It can be extended to the manufacturer of the chip. TPM works when two entities trust each other : the program maker and the chip manufacturer. Here the program maker could be the voter (it wouldn't really be a programming act but a choice between several possible programs, one for each possible choices), but the chip manufacturer would be able to decipher the program, change it
          • by AceJohnny (253840)

            We are talking about the possibility for the manufacturer of the machine to be fraudulous. It can be extended to the manufacturer of the chip.
            OK, I hadn't understood this as a basic hypothesis. I thought we were talking about trusted hardware, and how to prove that the software running on that hardware was trustworthy as well.

            Indeed, if you can't trust the hardware, you're fucked.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:52PM (#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...

  • Simplification (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:52PM (#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.
    • by Teancum (67324)
      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 an
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:52PM (#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.
    • 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 vo
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      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?
    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arevos (659374)
        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.
    • Agreed. E-voting is a solution in search of a problem, and one which brings more baggage than it's worth.

      And the best solution to the potential drawbacks of old-style voting (like speed) have solutions which are actually improvements (use more people; increase participation).

      I love technology, in its place. The voting system is not such a place.
  • 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 aga
    • 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.

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        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
        • 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.

      • "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 e
    • 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.
    • by Teancum (67324)
      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 i
      • "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.
        • 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...

          • "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..."

            Then again you are shifting the problem. On one hand, can't it be more of a concern the ability of the voter not to make a mistake than the ability for a fast counting? Then you s
            • Then you shouldn't overburden the election day: having one per year instead of one each two years surely won't sink your economy not even a significant fraction of a 1% but it would cut in half complexity.

              Actually, many states *do* have elections every year. In my own state of Virginia, the election for governor is held the year after the presidential election. Elections to the House of Delegates happens every odd year, and we have state Senate elections the odd years that don't have a gubernatorial elect

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

  • Does anyone here believe the voting process is rigged one way or another?
    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      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.

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • by doom (14564)

      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.

  • 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?

    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.

  • by dannannan (470647) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:16PM (#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
    • by pcmanjon (735165)
      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.
      • by pragma_x (644215)

        The code is only as honest as the person who compiled it.
        If you want to be truely pedantic, just ask yourself: Who makes the chips that the software runs on?

        There are simply too many layers of complexity present in any electronic system to deem it 100% secure.
    • 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.
      • by dannannan (470647)

        "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

  • 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.
  • 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 propriet
  • 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

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

Working...