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Journal rfc1394's Journal: A cheap, simple method to do verified elections fast 2

I post on the politics section of my blog a method I've discovered (or invented, take your pick) to provide verifiable, auditable, fraud-resistant, reliable secret elections that can be done simply and cheaply, without fragile complicated electronics, that you can get election results in most cases in the polling place as fast as 30 seconds after the end of the election, without even having to break the seals on the ballot boxes. You can also use automated equipment to count the votes. My method will even work in places with no electricity. I have not seen anyone else propose anything as easy or as basically inexpensive as this, that produces fast, reliable results in most cases. I summarize how it works below.

All you need are some transparent boxes with seals (padlocks or cable ties that have to be cut to be opened), some tokens - these can be coins or anything with a consistent weight - a cover to conceal the contents of the boxes so the voters can't see how others have voted, a booth so the voter can't be seen as to their vote, and (optionally) a scale.

You need one transparent box for each choice for each ballot question, for each voting booth. So if you have an election of 3 offices each with 4 candidates, and 2 ballot propositions or bond issues, we'd need 5 boxes for each office (one box for "write in"), and a "yes" or "no" box for each ballot proposition. So we need 19 boxes for each voting booth, and for each voter we need 5 tokens. Tokens might be different for any specific office or proposition to keep them from voting twice on any office or they only get one token at a time for each office or ballot proposition.

The voter selects which choice they want for each office or ballot question, and puts their token in the box for their choice, either a particular candidate or a yes/no proposition. At the end of the election, the boxes are removed, and you don't have to open them, or even break the seals to count the ballots, you just weigh the boxes! As each token and each box weighs the same, you know exactly how many votes they got without even needing to open the box. As the box is transparent, you can see the vote tokens so you know they haven't stuck other things in the box. Since each vote is a token, you can break the seal on the box and count them if you want. Since there's no electronics, there's nothing to break down or need repair. You can even get rid of the scale and just count the tokens, but by weighing the boxes, you can get an immediate total as soon as the election is over, as little as the 30 seconds it would take to move the box from the voting booth to the scale. And if you use coins or similar types of tokens, you can use ordinary coin-counting equipment for that size token to do automated counting.

Outside of things to do for fraud prevention and a few fixes to cover write-ins, you could run a whole precinct on a bunch of plastic boxes with cable ties, a few thousand coins (one for each person registered to vote, for each ballot question or candidate), a scale, some labels (to mark which box is which candidate or response for a ballot issue) some blankets (to cover the boxes to keep the existing vote secret) and some partitions for the booth (to keep the voter secret) if you had to.

Since I thought it up, I call it the "Robinson Method."

I give more details including fraud prevention points and some types of elections where this won't work on my blog, but the idea seems so simple, easy and cheap to do, that I'm wondering what I've missed, if anything.

Paul Robinson - My home page
"The lessons of history teach us - if they teach us anything - that no one learns the lessons that history teaches us."

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A cheap, simple method to do verified elections fast

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  • I haven't read your blog posting, but I see a couple of issues:

    1. Scale. During the primary election this year, I cast something like ten or twelve votes (for the individual primary delegates, plus one or two other unrelated races.) The ballot was like ten pages long (over a dozen names for each candidate, and there were plenty of them.) Can you imagine how many different boxes and tokens you'd need to do this with your system? In the above example, there would have been at least a hundred boxes.

    2. Ball

  • I haven't even opened up my ballot yet, but the voter's pamphlet (ha) for Oregon looked like a phone book again, which usually means between 15-40 races to decide.

    You'd need a small van for each voter's booth.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith