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Two Faces of Electronic Voting 33

Posted by Hemos
from the the-changing-times dept.
IEEEmember writes "The Swiss are claiming the world's first binding Internet vote in a national referendum. Voters were given lottery style scratch-off cards that allowed them to vote either by Internet, snail mail or in person. Internet votes can be cast from any computer accessing the elections site securely over the web. Electronic voting has been implemented to combat declining participation in elections. Stories from The Age, swissinfo and CBS available at Google News. The IEEE is calling attention to the current process for establishing standards for electronic voting. Project 1583 - Voting Equipment Standard and Project 1622 - Electronic Data Interchange are being developed by Standards Coordinating Committee 38 rather than being relegated to a single society to ensure the broad range of electronic voting issues can be addressed adequately. These standards are being written for use in the U.S. however some parties have shown an interest in extending them to other countries."
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Two Faces of Electronic Voting

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  • Verification (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sofakingon (610999) * on Sunday September 26, 2004 @11:19PM (#10359418)
    Two Words: Paper Trail.

    There must be a verifiable, permanent, physical record in any election to ensure that any and all democratic elections are not tampered with.

    • Re:Verification (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rhakka (224319) on Sunday September 26, 2004 @11:39PM (#10359535)
      for now, perhaps.

      However people who spout this act like you can't tamper with physical records. You can. Physical records are not secure.

      The question is not can elections be secure. They cannot. The question is HOW SECURE can they be, and while we may not be there yet, it is certainly possible down the road that a fully electronic method could be made AS secure as leafs of paper in boxes in someone's basement, IMHO
      • Re:Verification (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sofakingon (610999) *
        People do things that they believe are in their best individual iterest.

        Online transactions are, for the most part, secure and trustworthy because it is in the best interest of the businesses and financial institutions to provide the best service possible.

        What, then, would be in the best interest of the [current] government in regards to electronic voting?

        Food for thought.

        "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -Lord John Acton

        • Not allowing it to progress at all, since if it ever did become reasonably secure and easy to access, things they would be changing pretty quickly....
      • Re:Verification (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jerf (17166) on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:37AM (#10359850) Journal
        However people who spout this act like you can't tamper with physical records. You can.

        No, people who "spout" this think that it is much harder to systematically tamper with physical records than electronic records, and that this fact shows no signs of becoming less true any time soon.

        Moreover, auditable electronic voting combines many of the nice parts of electronic voting with all of the nice parts of physical voting.

        I think us "physically auditable voting"-type folks understand what is going on; it is exactly that understanding that has us calling for the hybrid, best-of-both-worlds solution, instead of the "God only knows what happened for sure" world of electronic-only voting.
      • Agreed. Look at financial services, who try to eliminate paper to save costs. There are techniques to create auditable records, accepted (heck mandated) by third parties such as the SEC.

        Problem is getting everyone to agree that it's secure. A box of paper seems not to be the best we can do, but people are comfortable with it.
      • Re:Verification (Score:3, Insightful)

        by swillden (191260) *

        However people who spout this act like you can't tamper with physical records. You can. Physical records are not secure.

        Yes, they are.

        Not because there's anything about them that's inherently more secure, but because we know how to secure physical objects. After all, we've been doing it for tens of thousands of years.

        Physical records have the advantages that they are visible to the naked eye, cannot easily be modified en masse (except destructively), and take up space. This means that even non-tech

        • I largely agree, but I think you are glossing over voting fraud. Sure, once it's on paper, it's hard to screw with it.

          Of course, that piece of paper could be generated by fake people, or "dead" people, or what have you. Fraud is not only possible but happening in every election cycle. How big is it? Hard to say.

          Frankly I think the time is coming where we are going to have to choose between anonymous voting and secure voting.
          • Of course, that piece of paper could be generated by fake people, or "dead" people, or what have you. Fraud is not only possible but happening in every election cycle. How big is it? Hard to say.

            Yes, elections are also manipulated through voter registration fraud.

            But how is that relevant? Electronic voting won't solve that problem -- won't even affect it. Just because the system can be manipulated in one way doesn't mean it's a good idea to make it manipulable in other ways. Particularly since regis

    • Paper Trail (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "When you can walk the rice paper without tearing it, then your steps will not be heard."

      --Master Kan [imdb.com]
    • Do current electronic voting machines do this? I mean doesn't it just make sense to print out a receipt after the voting is done, and have it dropped into a box as the voter leaves the booth? Hell why not print out two and let the voter take one home. It would be almost like going down to OTB and playing the ponies!
    • And use a pencil so we can correct your mistakes.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A REAL tech article dealing with REAL tech issues!?

    I mean, c'mon it's an IEEE article, how much more does it need?!
  • by JimMarch(equalccw) (710249) on Monday September 27, 2004 @02:40AM (#10360267)
    San Francisco recently had a scandal in which city employees were herded through the absentee voting system and browbeaten by supervisors who watched over their shoulder to make sure they "voted properly".

    To solve this problem and numerous others, the idea of private voting at local polling places where this sort of thing can be monitored developed. When done right, polling-place voting leads to the LOWEST level of overall fraud.

    Right now, Black Box Voting and other advocacy/reform groups are talking about using absentee voting to create a paper trail when polling places lack them. BUT we know about this issue! Our stance is a condemnation of the worst of the elecronic voting systems, NOT a condemnation of polling place voting.

    Internet voting is worse than absentee, for several reasons:

    1) A small script could record exactly how you voted, allowing you to sell your vote. Concerns over mechanical voting systems in New York and other urban areas led to an experiment with "paper reciepts" about 70 - 80 years ago and it turned into a vote-buying bonanza for crooked unions. (That's why Voter Verified Paper Trail plans today involve leaving the paper in a secure ballot box at the polling place.)

    2) There's still a sizeable non-Internet-connected population out there, esp. at retirement homes and blue-collar unions. "Free Internet Voting Terminals!" at union halls and nursing homes would be a hotbed of "browbeat fraud" similar to the San Francisco case above...in the case of unions, people who didn't vote at the union hall (where the networked PCs are monitored with a remote view application) would be exposed to considerable pressure for not voting "the right way".

    -----------

    Note that these issues are present EVEN IF THE SYSTEM IS TECHNOLOGICALLY PERFECT(!), written in Open Source with strong crypto by /.ers.

    Upshot: Internet Voting cannot be made to work right, due to "human hacking" even if "computer hacking" is somehow made impossible (which is pretty damn doubtful).

    Jim March
    Member, Board of Directors, Black Box Voting (www.blackboxvoting.org)
    • Any election can be rigged or bought. Just look at 90% of the elections held in Chicago in the last 80+ years. Capone, then the "Dailey machine", seems like a never ending story with another Dailey in the Mayors office now.
      • Are they? Lets look at the facts- CHicago is a largely democratic town, most of the officials are democrats. As for mayor Daley- he's a good mayor, ofr the most part. The city works- streets are kept relatively clean, roads are plowed, schools stay open, etc. He keeps winning because he has yet to screw up, and probably will hold office til he decides to leave it. The republicans haven't sent him a real challenger since his first election.
  • Correction (Score:3, Informative)

    by InternetVoting (809563) on Monday September 27, 2004 @03:37AM (#10360471) Homepage
    I can only make these corrections so many times...
    This is not the world's first legally binding internet vote
    This is the first Swiss legally binding internet vote.
    The first legally binding internet vote:
    "The US, which held the first legally binding internet election, the 2000 Arizona Democratic Primary, is treading more carefully. While the government is spending $2.6bn on modernising voting systems following the 2000 fiasco in Florida, the only Americans able to cast remote internet votes next year will be 100,000 service personnel posted overseas."
    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/egovernment/story/0 ,12767,994790,00.html [guardian.co.uk]
    I would expect a little better from and IEEE member. IEEE used the company that ran the world's first legally binding internet vote to run their internal elections online for some time.

    The overseas votes the story references are none other than that of the recent SERVE project that was cancelled recently. A similar story was posted on /. riddled with undue criticisms
    I ask you /. community, please be more careful in your statements. Internet voting is the future of the electoral process. We the tech community, of all people, must understand this or at least have a well researched response as to why not.
    • Re:Correction (Score:3, Informative)

      by IEEEmember (610961)

      The article and my summary clearly said, "binding Internet vote in a national referendum".

      This is as significant as the first solo flight over the Atlantic versus the first solo flight. Both are significant milestones, but they represent different levels of adoption of technology.

      Perhaps more important in this story is the reason that electronic voting is being adopted, lack of voter turnout. The adoption of Internet voting has the great potential to shift the voting demographic in the US away from the

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Monday September 27, 2004 @06:53AM (#10360946) Homepage
    In 2002 I helped a relative run for office in a county in east-central indiana. What I learned there is that any system that you don't have to show up and identify yourself before you vote is very easy to defraud. That's why internet voting is scary. It's also why absentee ballots are scary.

    Parties would look for nursing homes, hospitals and homebound senior citizens and help people there get absentee ballots. Sounds great until step two: Operatives would then come back and help them fill in the absentee ballots. Amazing how many straight ticket R or D ballots came in. In this particular year, the D's won the foot race to get more ballots.
    • What I learned there is that any system that you don't have to show up and identify yourself before you vote is very easy to defraud...It's also why absentee ballots are scary.

      I agree internet voting would be harder to protect against fraud, but:

      In Washington state, you identify yourself by no other means than your signature.

      At the polls, you sign your name on the voter registry, get a ballot and vote.

      With absentee ballots, you put your ballot in a 'security envelope', then in another envelope which yo
  • I'm sure this will be seen as "off topic" but I'm afraid the world will implode this election.

    I'm afraid that both sides of these elections will try to cheat so much that the world won't be able to take it and the election itself will cause a war.

    (Then again, if I lived in Florida and was turned away at the polls or something I would have picked up a firearm and returned...)

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