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I am short on time, but this is a topic very close to my heart.

The problem, put simply, is that voting machines do not record voter intent.  They only record what the machine interpreted the voter intent to be.

When we vote with physical media, there is a chain of trust from the voter intent, through to the mark on the media.  The voter intent is directly recorded and is used to form the final tally for the election.

When we insert a machine in there, it's a vote by proxy.  There are varying degrees of this, ranging from mechanical assists through to full on electronic solutions that don't mark media at all!

More...

Secondly, when we mark media, it's marked.  Media is actually changed by the act of the voter imparting their intent to the media.  Undoing or modifying that intent in a way transparent to those counting for the final tally is actually difficult to do.

Bits change easily.  In fact, we design computer bits to change over and over again, and we do that so we get the benefit of fluid information processing, and this is a good thing.

Media of various kinds do not require enabling technology to use.  Humans can work with the record of the voter intent directly, in a court room, under the watchful public eye.

Enabling technology is always needed for humans to see bits, and due to the nature of how bits are handled, we never actually see the bits that encoded what the machine thought the voter intent was, just some copy, or processed version.

So then, how can electronic voting work?  How can Internet voting work in a trustworthy way?

Before I give that answer, consider these four pillars of a trustworthy election:

Anonymity.  Voters are not personally linked to their votes.  

Oversight.  No secrets.  The public should be able to follow the voter intent from the voter, and the direct record of their intent, through the process and see it accumulate into the final tally.

Freedom.  Voters may vote or not as they see fit.

Transparency.  This is required for oversight and the process itself should be documented as a matter of law and procedure, observable by the interested public.

Trustworthy elections embody all four of those to the maximum extent possible.

Now, what is the difference between electronic voting on the Internet and banking, for example?

Loss of anonymity!

The only way we can make electronic systems even remotely plausible is to record what everybody voted everywhere and keep that as an enduring record.  Voters then could verify their votes, protest them, detect inaccuracies, and that comes at the cost of being held to a greater account for them too.

Unless we are willing to do that, no electronic system is trustworthy, because the nature of computer bits and the failure to directly record voter intent, forcing us to trust a proxy, means we must hold an election where we never, ever actually record voter intent!

That is madness!

Now, if we use machines to assist voters in the generation of human readable records to be used for the tally, a person can verify the record is an accurate expression of their intent.  

People want the quick Internet voting, but they also want to trust it, and the point I am making in this diary is very significant!  Read it again:

Electronic touch screen machines do not record voter intent.  They parse input and record what their designers want them to record.  Home computers are no different!  A voter can click something and something else says their vote is X and what then?

NOBODY KNOWS!  Without the loss of anonymity, nobody can know.

Notice how those machines have strong IP protection?  Funny how that works isn't it?

When you add up the vote by proxy, IP considerations, change nature of computer bits, and the overall secrecy surrounding voting, it's pretty easy to see an Internet election, or one where it's done on machines simply isn't trustworthy at all!

Worse, doing this doesn't solve any real problems that we can't solve with people and some basic process considerations.

Please don't go down this road.  I know it's compelling to get Internet votes because we generally rule the Internet.  But it's a mistake!  It's a mistake because we won't be recording voter intent anymore, and once we fail in doing that, the elections are no longer something we can verify and with that, no longer something we can trust.

More here:

http://opengeek.blogspot.com/...

http://www.quora.com/...

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    ***Be Excellent To One Another***
    The ACA is all about getting started toward great health care. No turning back. The way forward is through. Every Democrat is married to this law and we all need to work together to make it awesome.

    by potatohead on Mon May 12, 2014 at 05:18:41 PM PDT

  •  But the internet is so new and shiny! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Simplify

    It must be the best way to do everything! I mean what could possibly go wrong?!
    Anyone who doesn't think the internet is the best solution to every problem must be a Luddite who hates all new technology.

  •  The League of Women Voters did a study (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Wee Mama, BruceMcF, martini

    on this after the national League said it was just fine.  The group from Silicon Valley concluded there was no way to make it secure; this was several years ago.

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Mon May 12, 2014 at 06:06:35 PM PDT

    •  If we give up anonymous vote records, it can (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slowbutsure, BruceMcF, martini, kurt

      be made trustworthy.

      And that's really the question.  Should we do that?  Is doing that wise?

      Without it, there is no record of the voter intent and because of that, no basis for trust.

      ***Be Excellent To One Another***
      The ACA is all about getting started toward great health care. No turning back. The way forward is through. Every Democrat is married to this law and we all need to work together to make it awesome.

      by potatohead on Mon May 12, 2014 at 06:17:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I agree with you! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        potatohead

        ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

        by slowbutsure on Mon May 12, 2014 at 06:32:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That is the key ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        out of left field, potatohead

        ... the record of voter intent.

        In the revised electronic voting rules in Ohio, the machine prints up a ballot record on a receipt roll and you can look at the paper version of the recorded vote. Politics is corrupt enough in Ohio that that is not a perfect guarantee, but it does mean that if someone jimmies the electronic record to be different what is being presented to the voter, there is a permanent record of the rigging.

        Its not ideal, because many voters in a hurry do not check the paper roll, but its better than the original system with votes going blind into an electronic data storage card and no human verifiable record of what was supposedly recorded.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon May 12, 2014 at 06:37:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Is that paper record used directly for the tally? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt

          If so, I would agree it's reasonable.

          If not, I'm afraid it's snake oil.

          ***Be Excellent To One Another***
          The ACA is all about getting started toward great health care. No turning back. The way forward is through. Every Democrat is married to this law and we all need to work together to make it awesome.

          by potatohead on Tue May 13, 2014 at 12:14:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Its only used in the event of a recount. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            potatohead

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Fri May 16, 2014 at 10:06:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Are there audits? (0+ / 0-)

              If not, then it's still very highly exploitable.

              ***Be Excellent To One Another***
              The ACA is all about getting started toward great health care. No turning back. The way forward is through. Every Democrat is married to this law and we all need to work together to make it awesome.

              by potatohead on Fri May 16, 2014 at 05:21:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I do not know whether there are audit ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                potatohead

                ... provisions. Recounts are to be done based on the paper tape, not the electronic records, but recounts are only automatic at 0.5% for district level elections and 0.25% for statewide elections, and for recount by application, the losing candidate requesting the recount must pay a share of the cost of the recount if the results are upheld.

                So there is an obvious bias in that someone backed by a sufficiently wealth interest could demand a recount in circumstances where someone with a grassroots campaign may not be able to afford to.

                Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                by BruceMcF on Sat May 17, 2014 at 03:48:21 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yeah, that's pretty exploitable, and sadly (0+ / 0-)

                  increasingly common.

                  ***Be Excellent To One Another***
                  The ACA is all about getting started toward great health care. No turning back. The way forward is through. Every Democrat is married to this law and we all need to work together to make it awesome.

                  by potatohead on Sun May 18, 2014 at 12:57:50 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  My electronic touch screen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, kurt

    prints , ink on paper .

    Make a list on your computer ,
    check it over on screen ,
    make sure it is accurate .
    Print that list ,
    check the print ,
    make sure it is accurate .
    Once you have done all that ,
    press the last button and drop it into the ballot box .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Mon May 12, 2014 at 06:59:16 PM PDT

  •  Even having a printout (4+ / 0-)

    and a verification screen to check at the end is not a sure-fire confirmation of a correct vote count. What's on the screen and on the receipt don't say for sure what's on the disk.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:10:51 PM PDT

  •  LOW tech is best for voting! (4+ / 0-)

    I have worked as an election official and poll worker in Washington, Oregon and California. The first time I voted on a touchscreen machine I realized how unsecure it was. The poll worker kept telling me it was secure because no one could vote as "ME" but that wasn't the most important issue, it was that I had no way to be positive my vote was recorded properly. We all remember the stories of Diebold machines that showed Bush when the vote pushed Gore, but it also could have displayed you voted for Gore but recorded a vote for Bush internally.

    My preference is this: Totally low tech voting. We mark ballots by hand with pens, no Inkavote or punching of chads and at the end of the voting period those ballots are counted at the polling place before being moved. The vote totals are recorded at the poling place, posted publically that night and kept so that if the ballots are lost or damaged, there is still a record of the vote. It is counted again at the county level and those totals must match or there is a follow-up. Vision-impaired votes can use a braille template and still have a secret ballot.

    I now live in Oregon, where we have all mail-in ballots and I have worked at the County headquarters to see the counting procedures in person and I am confident they are safe and difficult to tamper with. We mark our ballots with ink and send them in. Low tech is best for voting!

    You're a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be scared of?

    by madame damnable on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:18:22 PM PDT

  •  Even if it worked, consider the time and money (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, kurt

    Software trustworthy enough for mission-critical applications is really expensive.

    Security software and protocols take years to get right. Their life cycle starts with a brilliant person covering every base he can imagine, and continues with years or decades of other brilliant people saying "But what about ..." and pointing out holes.

    Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:30:05 PM PDT

  •  I am so very glad to see this being discussed (4+ / 0-)

    sensibly- in more than one diary even.

    So let me say over here what I said over there, the same thing I've been saying since I found out about it.
    #1. I like to hand-count the vote. I think it should be considered a civic duty.

    #2. Your voting machine is exactly as secure as your average office file cabinet       or hotel minibar.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:10:05 PM PDT

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