Computer Assisted Voting Can Work

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But right now, they’re doing it rong!!!

According to an exclusive report in Salon:

Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control: Exclusive: A laboratory shows how an e-voting machine used by a third of all voters can be easily manipulated

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, …

Good thing our educational system is so borked that nobody has an 8th grade science education!’

But seriously, this is serious. I personally believe that the only valid voting technique is filled-in paper ballots which are initially read my machines, results audited, and if necessary, hand counted. I do think that the paper ballots could be produced by a machine. You go up to the machine, pick your choices on a touch screen, etc. etc. and then the ballot is printed out. You then submit the ballot in the usual way. The advantages of this would be: a) The lizard people effect does not happen and b) there is an instant preliminary count that might be more accurate than counting machines.

You do all realize that this is a conspiracy to end democracy as we know it, right?

Hat Tip: Ana

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6 thoughts on “Computer Assisted Voting Can Work

  1. Three years ago, I was asked by a candidate to sit in during the counting of the votes for her. It was an enlightening process.

    There were three company reps, a laptop, and the county clerk present in the vote counting room. When each voting station closed, the head person brought a handful of USB memory sticks to the counting room. These were plugged into the laptop and votes added up.

    I asked what kind of encryption was used by the machines and memory sticks. No one, not any of the company reps could tell me. They didn’t even say it was confidential, they said “I don’t know.” Now, they may not have known, but you’d think encryption would be a big deal for something like this.

    I asked them what would happen in the case of a recount. They said that the USB memory sticks would be scanned again. No paper trail at all, anywhere.

    Given that many (not all, but many) encryption schemes are relatively easy to attack (especially given that the content of the drives are known (names of candidates or numbers)), I have serious concerns about these voting systems.

    I would much prefer, as you say, anything with a paper record. I’d like a voting machine that printed a two part record, one part given to the voter and one part dumped into a locked bin underneath the machine.

    Recounts should be using a different system than the original count. It’s just robust. It’s not cheap though.

    I’d rather vote online using SSL than using an electronic voting machine.

  2. “Computer assisted voting” is idiotic.

    Most democracies have parliamentary systems where the government is elected and takes office within a week of the election. That means within only a few days:

    (a) the country votes,
    (b) the votes are counted,
    (c) the votes are recounted, and
    (d) the government is sworn in.

    Some countries have multi-stage elections that run over days or weeks. Many countries have huge numbers of voters over large geographic areas, just as the US does – Canada, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Australia, etc. And this all happens with paper ballots – ballots marked with an X, using a pencil. To see “electronic or butterfly ballot” as the only options requires swallowing a lot of koolaid.

    The US, for some idiotic reason, sees a need to have instant results, final totals within five minutes of the polls closing. This is mindbogglingly stupid considering there are two months between the election and swearing in of government.

    Are Americans so impatient, so unwilling to take one or two weeks and have accurate counts that they’d give up having a real democracy or give up electing the person with the most votes? If voting is such a hardship to you and instant results that important, give up democracy and become a plutocratic theocracy. You’re already halfway there.

    But as usual, the US doesn’t want to listen to how things work just fine in the rest of the world, instead it “has to be done the ‘Murrican way!” Who says the US is nothing like North Korea with its “juche” attitude?

  3. P Smith, I think you are correct that the US has an inappropriate demand, culturally, for instant election results, but note that rapid results was the second, not the first, reason (and one that I personally don’t care about, but others do) for computer assisted voting.

    Having spent quite a bit of time helping with and/or reporting on a contentious and very important recount, I maintain that computer assisted voting has value and is not idiotic.

  4. I am reminded of the clip on Youtube of the computer expert (so described) standing before a judge in a courtroom, being questioned regarding the security measures of these voting machines. He was the coder responsible for creating a program that was capable of taking a close vote, such as 48% vs 52% and either switching the names around or altering the count to ensure that a specific candidate would win that election.

    He described how easy it was, and assured that judge that his program could alter just about any election in the country that uses computers to count votes. Very confident, he was!

    Do you still feel safe?

  5. GL –

    Since the US is big on outsourcing, maybe the US should outsource electronic voting machines from India.

    They have electronic voting but unlike the US, they haven’t had problems with insecure systems or questionable results.

    And when I said “idiotic”, I used it as I would for “ludicrous” or “mind boggling”, not “stupid”.

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