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The Internet

Swiss Town Holds First Internet Vote 277

felix.rauch writes "According to an article on Swissinfo, a small town near Geneva (Switzerland) held the first Internet-based vote this weekend. 44% of the voters (323) cast teir ballot over the Internet. Officials believe it may have been the first Internet-vote worldwide. While the Swiss media seem enthusiastic about the project, I see serious security and privacy concerns. The voters had to enter a 16-digit password, as well as their birthplace, date of birth and another number sent to them by post. Personally I think Internet-voting should be avoided until it's implemented by an open zero-knowledge protocol and checkable afterwards. Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?"
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Swiss Town Holds First Internet Vote

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  • by Emperor Shaddam IV ( 199709 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:42AM (#5118172) Journal
    Cool, I wish they would get this in the US. I could vote while playing Civilization. I could setup a leader for each candiate and vote according to which one is doing best against me!
  • Zero - knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by frp001 ( 227227 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:44AM (#5118176)
    an open zero-knowledge protocol and checkable afterwards.
    The only issue is that voting implies that you are who you claim to be! Technically is seems difficult to break the link between identification and vote... especially if you want it to be checkable afterwards.
    • Re:Zero - knowledge (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Randolpho ( 628485 )
      Very true, but there is also the issue of tampering with votes. Once identified and cast, electronic votes could easily be changed by someone with knowledge of the system.
    • Re:Zero - knowledge (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@nOspam.etoyoc.com> on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:11AM (#5118284) Homepage Journal
      Well heck, even with the voting machines, they tell you you are voter #x, and only go to machine #y. The polling folks periodically check the counters on the machine.

      Take that system, bottle it, and you have just what you need for a network based voting system. You need a counter Y, and a head count of how many people cast the vote X. If X > Y you have a problem. Y can be less than X because some folks don't vote for every slot in the election.

      Now the problem is such: you need to compartmentalize the counts into managable chunks. What is great about the present system is how you can only physically screw up a few thousand votes at a time. My idea: keep the present voting districts that we have presently, and keep the counters an logs seperate for each district.

      Such a system, with a sufficient enough airgap between the finally tally and the auditing logs, could be done rather cheaply.

    • This is exactly the problem with internet voting.

      You can't be garunteed anonymity that needs to exist in the voting process.

      You can't be garunteed that your vote gets anywhere, or is even counted.

      Sure voting from home would be a lot easier, but it is fraught with so many problems.

      And, yes, I realize that there are no real garuntees with the current system as to whether they actually count your vote, or they use stuffed ballot boxes. Having a bunch of people watching the boxes, and checking the people as they filter in is more anonymous, more trustworthy, and less likely to be widely abused. On the other hand, it is significantly less efficient.

      Remember, someone has a list of all those numbers that they sent by post. Spoofing everyone that hadn't voted yet right before the end of the polls wouldn't be that far out of the question.
      • by Xner ( 96363 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:57AM (#5118499) Homepage
        Academic types have developed systems based on cryptological primitives (such as one-way hash functions, digital signatures, cut-and-choose, public key cryptography) that satisfy all requirements you specify.

        In fact, some protocols involve the goverment publishing a list of numbers after the election. The people can then perform some (non-invertible) operations on their private key and vote. If the number they obtain is listed, they can be sure their vote has been counted. The number of votes can also be checked to avoid stuffing.

        For an overview of these protocols, pick up a copy of Bruce Schneier's "Applied Cryptography" and look at the literature references in the "Esoteric Protocols" chapter.

        This does not change the fact that electoral offices everywhere would NEVER allow this to happen. Imagine aunt Lydia's vote did not get counted for some reason (including her not clicking the SUBMIT button), would they really want to hold another election in the name of democracy?

      • Re:Zero - knowledge (Score:3, Informative)

        by afabbro ( 33948 )
        Here in Oregon we vote by postal mail. It's wildly popular and I doubt we'll ever go back. All the privacy concerns, etc. mentioned are present in mail-in voting as well. Typically, the ballots sit for weeks in the county election boards' office, waiting to be counted. Voting by Internet is the next step.
    • Another problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:24AM (#5118343) Journal
      This will potentially lose the concept of the secret ballot. There is no way to show that the voters were not coerced into voting the way that they did. It's quite easy to have someone look over their shoulder and tell them which way to vote.
  • by ColdGrits ( 204506 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:44AM (#5118177)
    "Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?"

    Given that this can already be done now with existing paper-based voting (certainly in the UK and the US anyway), I don't see that it is any different.

    I guess the best solution is to maintain the option for Internet or in-person voting, that way people can chose which way to vote as they please.
    • Swiss voting has been different in the first place.

      They use a "town hall" style of voting, where they meet in the town square, debate and vote normaly by a show of hands.

      Yo may think that is arcane. But at least the woman got the right to vote in the late 1980s.
      • by Matthias Wiesmann ( 221411 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @11:08AM (#5118550) Homepage Journal
        They use a "town hall" style of voting, where they meet in the town square, debate and vote normaly by a show of hands.
        Groan. This system was only used in a few cantons and has been abandonned.
        Yo may think that is arcane. But at least the woman got the right to vote in the late 1980s.
        This was only in one of the smallest cantons and only for local affairs.

        While I agree that the whole Appenzell affair is quite embarassing for Swiss democracy, your comment is a very broad and a gross generalisation. By this measure, the US is a dictatorship (well Bush was not elected democratically) with religious laws (sodomy laws).

      • They use a "town hall" style of voting, where they meet in the town square, debate and vote normaly by a show of hands
        this is called "landsgemeinde" and is only used in two very small cantons. the rest of switzerland votes "normally" www.admin.ch [admin.ch]

        Yo may think that is arcane. But at least the woman got the right to vote in the late 1980s
        women can vote on national elections/referendums since 1971 (not much better)
        on the other hand, the death penalty was abolished in 1944 (mmm... maybe that's arcane too) ;-)
      • by Max von H. ( 19283 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @12:33PM (#5118987)
        Oh, come on! This is utter BS... It only happens in a tiny remote place and is a national embarrassment.

        As a Swiss, I believe we have a pretty good voting system even though too few of us seem to bother with it. Thing is our system is such that we vote often on various objects. For more practicality, we vote on many objects at once, several times a year, whether they're local, state or federal.

        Here in Geneva, we've been voting from home for a long time. It's a simple system: you get an envelope in you mailbox containing:

        a card with your name and SS number on which you have to write down your birthdate and which you have to sign.

        a booklet containing the texts of the laws being modified/added/canceled and a simplified explanation.

        a booklet containing the opinions (explanations + voting recommendation) of the government AND various political parties represented.

        the voting bulletins themselves with checkboxes, perfectly straightforward (if you're confused with them, you're either blind or shouldn't be allowed to vote).

        an anonymous voting envelope in which you put your voting bulletins and then seal.

        You return the card and the voting envelope in the envelope in which it all came in (it's a recyclable thing), drop it in a mailbox (no postage) in time (max 2 days before actual voting day") and that's it.

        Now, with such an easy system and all the required information at hand, I wonder why sometimes less than 40% of us express our opinions. Hey, we have the chance to live in a super-democratic society in which we vote on every aspect of what's going on yet most of us don't make any use of it and then dare complaining about the "system" in which we're (supposedly) in control. Yup, we are in control from A to Z, unlike some other so-called "democracies" but this idea seems to be getting quite fuzzy in the general consensus, given that we're surrounded by much less democratic entities. Furthermore, our system isn't EU-compatible ; the people have too much control to allow the application of EU directives by a central government.

        E-voting is only a natural evolution of our current system. It will allow instant and accurate results. I can only hope it will motivate people to vote a bit more, some great changes could come from having another 30% of the population casting votes. Regarding the anonymity of the system, I believe such concerns received great consideration given the fact we're far from being amateurs when it comes to anonymous stuff (Swiss private banking anyone?)... The security is similar to the the system used for e-banking, which has a proven record (we've had e-banking for at least 5 years with no known breach). OTOH, one of the companies behind such projects was the same responsible for digital satellite receivers cards, which have been cracked ages ago...

        It's a great test-bed for e-voting systems, which are a great opportunity for newly democratic states to cheaply implement a safe voting infrastructure and other states to implement a proven, tested system at a lesser cost (Florida, you listenin'?).

        Now as for the women voting status, they only got it on a federal scale in 1970, which is indeed embarrassing in a country so fundamentaly democratic. But it's getting better, we even had a female President the other year (changes each year, hard to follow!). Sure, when you come from countries where your "representatives" are as representative of your opinions than your tax declaration or party donation check, it's quite funny seeing your local shopkeeper vociferating his claims to the higher establishment on the local congress live tv feed :). It's a small country divided and subdivided in tiny entities, with little overhead from the federal government or even the state itself. Makes the whole thing awfuly bureaucratic, but we also got e-government "booths" which makes it easier to accomplish many administrative procedures. This site [geneva.ch] will link you to most official resources.

        So, before dissing our electoral system with an old cliché, please get your facts straight ot you might once more make 7.5 million foes :)

        Cheers,
        max

    • True, but with paper based voting there is a logistical barrier to prevent this. You need to actually employ some people to input the data. Its a lot of work for one person.
    • Another thing that one might have to concider is how free then voter is. How can they guarantee that there is only one in front of the computer? I can see some potential for influence by some other person. There is a reason why we go into the voting booth one by one. Everyone should be free to vote as they see fit, without someone else influencing them.

      .haeger

    • I think now a majority of Swiss people votes by mail, and in the cantons Geneva and Basle-City it's usually over 90%. I think most risks of Internet voting that have been mentioned are the same or even bigger with voting by mail.
      - Tampering with results: With voting by mail, abuse is relatively easy, and some cases have been detected. In a neighbouring city, an employee of a home of elderly people filled out and sent the ballot papers of old people about whom he knew that they wouldn't miss them. It was detected because he filled out all of them with the same pen and sent them all together. If he had to enter all these additional data (birthplace, date of birth, password etc.), such abuse would have been much more difficult.
      - Privacy: To make it a bit easier to detect such abuse of mail voting, the envelopes with which the voting forms have to be sent have unique codes (at least in Basle). People who choose to vote by mail have to trust, too, that the information on the envelopes isn't connected to the vote. I think that surveillance of the process and making sure that anonymity of the votes is guaranteed is even a bit easier with Internet voting than with voting by mail where local cases of vote tracking might be more difficult to detect.
      - People being influenced: Of course, we do not know whether someone is in front of the computer alone. But that's the same when ballot papers are sent by mail.

      On the whole I think that possibly, in-person voting offers a bit more security, but as soon as voting is facilitated - be it by mail or by Internet, there are some risks (in my view, they aren't too big), and then Internet voting is perhaps even one of the more secure methods.
      The main reason why voting by mail was introduced was probably that there are so many votes (referendums, initiatives) in Switzerland because of the system of 'direct democracy', so there is the fear that turnout will be too low because people get tired of voting (even with the possibility of voting by mail, on average only about 40% of people participate).
  • In the US (Score:5, Funny)

    by Emperor Shaddam IV ( 199709 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:45AM (#5118180) Journal
    In the US we don't need the internet to tamper with voting result. Heck, even Dead people vote sometimes. In fact, voting 2 times is pretty easy. You can even give someone a beer and cigarettes to vote how you want them too!
    • by Vengie ( 533896 )
      >Heck, even Dead people vote sometimes
      Heck, even dead people get ELECTED sometimes.
      • by Vengie ( 533896 )
        Moderation Totals: Funny=3, Overrated=2, Total=5.
        We need a new moderation: -1, I didn't get the joke, because I didn't realize that the american populace recently elected a dead senator.
        AND
        -1: I didn't get the joke. (moron mods)
        *grumble*
    • _Gangs of New York_ (Score:3, Informative)

      by devphil ( 51341 )


      One of the rare funny scenes in this movie is when an election for sheriff is being held. (This is the New York City of Tammany Hall, remember.) They show gang members raiding bars, workhouses, and tenements to round up anybody who can walk, and send them down to vote. Then they grab them on the way out of the voting hall, hustle them down the street to the barbershop, clean them up so they look different, and send them back to the voting hall.

      One old guy complains how "they done already bought me out, and I already voted. Twice!" And Leo DiCaprio's character goes, "Twice? You call that doing your civic duty? Get back in there and keep voting!"

      The next scene was rather insightful, I thought. Cut to Tammany Hall. A clerk walks up to "Boss" Tweed:

      Clerk: Boss, they've won.

      Tweed: Keep counting.
      Clerk: They've won by 3000 more votes than there are voters, sir.
      Tweed: How many times have I told you? It's not the voters that decide the election, it's the counters. Keep counting!
  • Sounds like a plan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:45AM (#5118183)
    This sounds damn cool, and I wish them luck. This sort of thing could be really significant - today democracy isn't working as well as it should because people feel out of touch with the decision making process, Labour/Conservative, who can tell the difference? They both privatise everything. I guess the same is true for Republican/Democrat parties in the states.

    So, being able to make the decision making process finer grained is a seriously good idea. Of course people won't vote on everything, why should they, they'll vote on what interests them but then the same is true of MPs. I await the results of the experiment with interest.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Your two party system is a result of your majority election system. Get yourself a propotional system instead and you will have a lot of new ideas.
    • by Beansack ( 542386 )
      So people don't even need to go outside to vote.... How are they more intouch? TV? IRC?
    • So, being able to make the decision making process finer grained is a seriously good idea. Of course people won't vote on everything, why should they, they'll vote on what interests them but then the same is true of MPs. I await the results of the experiment with interest.
      Err, this is already done. In Switzerland if enough people petition for it, any question can be voted on. This is called direct-democracy [iandrinstitute.org] and has been used in Switzerland for more than 150 years...
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:45AM (#5118184) Homepage Journal
    Having read some other reports on this, the Swiss are not claiming this is the first internet vote, they are saying that they believe it is the the first legally binding internet vote.
    • It certainly can't be because in the last county elections (in the UK), my area had the option to vote via the net. I believe the response was rather poor, however.
    • ...the first legally binding internet vote

      Good point.

      The claim that the Swiss had the first Internet vote is rather silly. I took part in quite a number of Internet votes back in the early 80's. The techniques were fairly well worked out in a number of newsgroups. A lot of mailing lists have held votes over the years.

      Of course, there is little if any secrecy involved in these votes (and little need for it). The main concern has usually been with minimizing multiple votes and votes by "outsiders".

      Some rather large-scale votes were held before the major reorg that produced the current newsgroup heirarchy.

      But I suppose the political crowd can be expected to ignore such voting. It's just a bunch of silly geeks, after all. We don't need to give them credit for anything, do we now?

  • I thought the US allowed some people (military personel?) to vote using internet. The project costs were high (millions) while the number of people served (a few thousand) was very small.

    • Having served in the military, I can say I've never heard of anything of the sort. Even if the Federal government would allow military personnel to participate in an Internet vote, you'll still have to get all those States to agree as well, since each is entitled to deterimine voting laws for their own state (Title 3 USC, I believe).

      As for costing millions to support few, that is the norm in government programs.
    • Nope, still done w/ Absentee Ballots (sp?).

      I know several people who had issues about that while over seas during the last elections. Alot of people were unable to vote, as they never got the paperwork, others recieved it late.

      All part of human error.
  • Not in the USA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tiger Smile ( 78220 )

    Here we'd never be able to trust our government not to track how we voted. I would never enter information like that to vote, they'd add it to their "Total Information."

    -- James Dornan

  • Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?

    Who can garuntee that now with the papaer based systems? At some point you have to trust somebody.
    • Who can garuntee that now with the papaer based systems? At some point you have to trust somebody.

      There's a major difference here. With paper voting, there's a limited number of people involved who are needed for the "trust" factor. It's much more difficult to tamper with the voting. If you put things onto the internet, it's like leaving all of the ballot boxes in a locked cabinet along a major interstate with nobody watching. There's just way too many people who could stop and pick that lock.

      Given how much animosity there was over the results of our last presidential election (US), how much more comfortable do you think people will feel about the outcome of an internet-based election?

      • > With paper voting, there's a limited number of people involved who are needed for the "trust" factor.

        I'd say it's the other way around. In paper voting, a lot of people are required to be trusted (all those people in the voting comittees).

        In contrast, with a digital voting system, there are only few people responsible for the evaluation, and those few people have to be trusted.

        But having a lot of people to trust is actually a good point, because the power those people have is antiproportional to the number the people to be trusted.

        Not to mention, that people tempering with the results have the same problem. They have to trust the same number of people, that they don't make the whole thing public.
    • Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?

      Who can garuntee that now with the papaer based systems? At some point you have to trust somebody.


      I don't know how it's done where You're at. But where I come from, I show my voters card, show my ID, then I get an envelope, I go behind a screen, put my vote in the envelope (no ID on either envelope or vote paper), and put the envelope in the ballot box with hundereds or thousand other envelopes.

      Now, how can they identify MY envelope among all the others?

      That kind of anonymity is much harder to do on the web. I'm sure there is a way, but its much harder and much more easy to abuse.

      .haeger

  • by cyberlotnet ( 182742 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:47AM (#5118194) Homepage Journal
    You do realize that when you vote pretty much anywhere in the US they have all that information on file all ready?

    How else to they send you voter registration cards, and political junk mail?

    That information is required to verify that the vote was made by a person who is legally able to vote, This means the vote is for person is of age, proper citizenship, not dead.

    Without tracking this information it would be near impossible to keep track of legal votes, Prevent someone from voting twice, or stealing another persons vote.

    Before a person goes off and throws on there Tin hats they should take a close look at what has already been going on for years before they cry foul and call it a poke into there privacy rights.

    Whats next? All toilets should have built in Radiation generators to ensure no DNS can be recovered after you take a dump, because god knows the goverment has DNS tracers in every toilet in the US And can track your movements by them..
    • Whats next? All toilets should have built in Radiation generators to ensure no DNS can be recovered after you take a dump, because god knows the goverment has DNS tracers in every toilet in the US And can track your movements by them..

      I don't go leaving my DNS in public toilets! The only place you can get my DNS is up my port 53!

    • Whats next? All toilets should have built in Radiation generators to ensure no DNS can be recovered after you take a dump, because god knows the goverment has DNS tracers in every toilet in the US And can track your movements by them..
      I'd hate to be the poor schmuck whose job it is to track the "movements" I leave behind in public toilets...
    • You do realize that when you vote pretty much anywhere in the US they have all that information on file all ready?
      With one vital exception... they don't know how you vote. They can't correlate your personal information with your voting behavior.

      At least here in PA, I go into a booth with a curtain all around it (so some little man can't look at the back of the machine) and make my selections, then hit a lever which records and clears the machine. Then I come out.

      You could argue that they do know your political party and that many people vote straight tickets for their party. That's about as close as they can get, though.

  • Bad idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Adam_Weishaupt ( 636032 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:48AM (#5118198) Journal

    Simply put there is no way to protect from direct voter tampering. Whats to keep an abusive husband from forcing his wife to vote his way. Whats to stop Unions from setting up there own Internet connected voting places where they can stand over peoples shoulders. Or what if someone decides to vote from work and thier conservative boss walks up behind them and notices they are voting Democrat. Nope, bad idea.

    • by zwoelfk ( 586211 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:16AM (#5118308) Journal
      Simply put there is no way to protect from direct voter tampering.

      As many people have already pointed out - There is "no way to protect from direct voter tampering" using traditional systems. I would accept the argument that any new system should be at least as secure as whatever system it is replacing/supplementing. However, to not implement a system until it is 100% gauranteed is foolish at best, especially when the result is more participation in the voting process, which is good for everyone (except perhaps the groups that depend on low-turnout.)

      Whats to keep an abusive husband from forcing his wife to vote his way.

      Nothing. Other than the laws designed to protect wives from abusive husbands in general. i.e. What's to protect her from being beat up nomatter how she votes?

      Whats to stop Unions from setting up there own Internet connected voting places where they can stand over peoples shoulders.

      Nothing. What's to stop unions from sending a couple of goons to stand outside the polls and remind you about the union stance and imply they might be checking your results?

      Or what if someone decides to vote from work and thier conservative boss walks up behind them and notices they are voting Democrat.

      This is just dumb. If you don't want to have a political argument at work, don't vote from the office. What's to stop your boss from checking the net logs and seeing that you regularly log into pro-abortion sites (or whatever)?

      Nope, bad idea.
      As far as I'm concerned, you gave no real reason why this is a "bad idea" - nothing unique to this implementation.

      One real concern that I would have if this was implemented on a large scale, would be a proliferation of black-market votes. Certainly people sell their votes now, but as voting becomes easier, entering into the vote market also becomes more convinient. Whether or not this should be illegal is a completely different issue though.
      • >>Whats to keep an abusive husband from forcing his wife to vote his way.
        >Nothing. Other than the laws designed to protect wives from abusive husbands in general. i.e. What's to protect her from being beat up nomatter how she votes?

        >>Whats to stop Unions from setting up there own Internet connected voting places where they can stand over peoples shoulders.
        >Nothing. What's to stop unions from sending a couple of goons to stand outside the polls and remind you about the union stance and imply they might be checking your results?

        Lying. In both of these cases you can vote for Alice and tell the husband/union you picked Bob. The original poster makes the point that anyone can observe your vote with Internet voting.
    • Re:Bad idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@nOspam.etoyoc.com> on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:19AM (#5118325) Homepage Journal
      Whose to say that can't be done with absentee ballots?

      The joy of the internet is how you can access it from everywhere. If you felt the need, you could vote from a mobile phone in a public restroom 2 states away. (Just make sure you have your voter ID.)

      You will always have the option to vote in the traditional manner for at least the next 50 years or so, because a lot of folks (young and old) don't have internet access. You will also have those tech savvy paranoid people who wear tinfoil over their heads too.

  • I've never quite understood why people will only use technological solutions which can achieve a logical limit, eg. a system where it is impossible to work out how you voted, etc. , when you don't have that in the current low-tech solutions.

    With a paper ballot it isn't too hard to check the ballots for your fingerprints, get the person who gives you your ballot to mark them beforehand. Or do many other things to make sure you don't have zero knowledge. If someone really wanted to they could find out how you voted.
    • Not in Virginia

      In Virginia you go to a desk and you check in. They check off that you have checked in and they give you a ballot card. These cards are then taken to another line (in the same room, usually a gymnasium of a school) and when you get to the front they let you into a voting booth when you present them the card.

      You vote "electronically" by pressing in a box next to the choice that you make. Your choice is illuminated by an LED from behind and recorded in a computer as well as on a printed piece of paper from the machine (for redundancy and accuracy).

      Now then, the ballot cards are reused. All they are is a "hall pass" or "permission slip" to let you into the machine. They are not placed into the machine or anything. They are just a blue rectangle of paper with no identifying marks.

      And there is nothing saying that you cannot wear gloves or push the buttons with your knuckles.

    • I've never quite understood why people were so enthousiastic about this 'round wheel' thing. Why can't we just walk and carry stuff? What's the need of all this so-called technological advancement if I can still carry stuff around with my bare hands?

      The fact that we don't have a perfect low-tech solution (and have used this one for decades) doesn't mean that it's a good system. You already show the problems with current voting system. New technology (read up on mathematical papers around e-voting, they really are interesting) can achieve better privacy and correctness of elections.

      I am sure that electronic voting has future, but I agree with the original submittor of the story. It needs to be completely open and verifiable. We might not be there yet, but we will eventually.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, actually, I think people shouldn't care if their vote can be tracked and seen. I think if we can guarantee 99% accuracy and that the vote cannot be and is not cheated, then I'm fine...whatever is the method.
    Sure, privacy is important, but what is most important in voting? A fair and honest result.
    I think Internet voting would be more secure for that matter...but maybe not for privacy.
  • computerised voting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Interfacer ( 560564 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:51AM (#5118206)
    "Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results"

    As opposed to the florida voting fiasco that made the US look incredibly stupid?

    seriously there are always possibilities to cheat.
    In Belgium everybody has to go to the voting office, you grab a blank credit card type card, insert it in the computer, you do your thing(you can still vote blank) you get the card back, and they insert it in a another computer to count your vote. a good fraction of the cards is kept apart to check them afterward, the others are reused.

    the advantages of this scheme:
    -you remain anonymous.
    -they can still recheck the cards to see if the result is correct.
    -votes do not have to be counted manually anymore.

    in Soviet Russia, the vote counts you.
  • Dumb idea. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:51AM (#5118207)

    Online voting protocols are interesting from an academic perspective, but useless in practice. No such protocol, however clever, can get around the forced vote problem. Only by physically seperating people in a controlled environment can we be sure that everyone is completely free to vote exactly as they please (and that they can't even sell their vote, since they can't prove how they voted). Trying to achieve this online is obviously intractable.

    Democratic voting, as a concept, is intimately tied to the nature of the meat space: one person, one presence, one identity, one vote. The very beauty of cyberspace is that these properties do not hold, so the two ideas are fundamentally mismatched. Let's keep democracy where it belongs.
    • Not so. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eddy ( 18759 )

      Of course you can force someone to vote some particular way. "Vote Klopper or we'll kill your child". First of all this could be a very real threat and most people would rather lose their vote than risk anything, and secondly, with todays tech checking up on that vote wouldn't be too hard. (Think small camera, tampered voting cards (radioactive marking?), etc, etc.).

      Anyone proclaiming the current systems to be tamper-proof, are of course in a state of sin.

    • You have to understand that voting in Switzerland is very different from voting in other countries (especially the US). Switzerland uses a system called direct democraty. Basically if enough people ask for it (by the way of petitions), any question is subject to voting. Add to this the fact that Switzerland is a three level confederation with votation at each level and your realise that there is a lot of voting in Switzerland.

      So there are more than four votations a year in Switzerland, each votation concerns itself with laws or elections of multiple levels (votations on six objects are common). All this requires a very streamlined process and people are not very willing to go to polling stations because of voting. Because of the system, people have a very different relationship to voting.

      While internet voting certainly could be tampered with, believe me, the other system was not very secure. For instance in my canton, vote by mail is done in the following way:

      • I get my voting papers by mail.
      • I write my birthday on the card.
      • I sign the card.
      • I fill in my voting bullletins.
      • Put everything back in the enveloppe.
      • Send it back by mail.
      There are many ways to cheat, but the truth is nobody cares. Swiss people are all in all quite honnest and trying to cheat would be political suicide - something like the last US election would probably mean a lot of manifestations and a full redo.

      Also the truth is, Swiss politics have little impact on the overall world...

  • by terrencefw ( 605681 ) <slashdot@@@jamesholden...net> on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:52AM (#5118209) Homepage
    I can't really see (unless somebody would like to point it out) the real differences between voting online and voting in person. The same risks of ballot-rigging or corruption are present. The only thing they would need to consider is that your vote is never linked to your personal identity, eg: presenting your voter identity (via a PIN number etc...) gives you the right to increment whichever counter you choose. Your actual vote should never be stored against your identity.

    Personally, I would like to see this here in the UK as well. It has already been suggested here that voting by SMS might be on the cards for UK citizens, to encourage the 18-25's to be less apathetic. I can't see that being workable though, because it would involve the phone networks who can't necessarily be trusted.

  • 2 points (Score:2, Informative)

    by mirko ( 198274 )
    The voters had to enter a 16-digit password, as well as their birthplace, date of birth and
    another number sent to them by post.

    I guess it's like using some nmber list for internet banking, which mean they shall use some SecurIDs some day which will make it quite secure.

    Personally I think Internet-voting should be avoided until it's implemented by an open zero-knowledge protocol and checkable afterwards.

    Well, I also think it's better to move to the voting booth but not because of privacy matters, rather because I consider that it shouldn't be as easy to vote as watching tv.

    Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?

    In Switzerland ?
    They've got some huge concerns about privacy there, they don't want people to feel harassed so I guess they have the will to make it safe.
    BTW, as the Swiss president is elected for one year it doesn't make any sense to fake the vote as, on the other hand, the people will surely know how to turn him other in case he does some stupid things.

    Now, they'll retain the possibility to vote in the booth so the Internet vote should rather seen as a possible other way to vote mean as as a replacement.
    • ... it's the Swiss.

      Don't forget they have a very open democratic tradition, and a strong social fabric to back up the technological security. Incurring the severe displeasure of the usually well-informed Swiss police is also not something one risks lightly.

      IMHO, Any big voting fraud would require a monumental social engineering hack before you got away with it there.

  • Arizona (Score:5, Interesting)

    by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:52AM (#5118211)
    Arizona (USA) made this claim almost three [forbes.com] years [fcw.com] ago [itrain.org].

    • Being an Arizonan myself, I wish I could agree, but I don't think that a primary election for a party is really the same thing as an actual election (or a referendum in the case of the Swiss).

      • The claim was:

        "Officials believe it may have been the first Internet-vote worldwide"

        This proves it false. Now you can say what you like about primaries or what have you, the Arizona vote was an offical political election that allowed for voting on the Internet.
        • This proves it false.

          I still beg to differ. There are tons of "votes" made on the internet all of the time. Now, are they official, political votes? No. The Arizona Democratic Primary was run by a private political party to choose their nominee. While the two big political parties get to have their primaries run by the states, I believe they still pay for them. It doesn't mean that it was some official government election. I could definately be wrong though.

          Regardless, I still think that a real vote, on a real issue, not just picking someone to run in a primary, is what is at issue here.

  • Internet Voting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blahlemon ( 638963 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:52AM (#5118214)
    Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?

    Who can guarantee that doesn't happen with regular voting? When it all comes down you are trusting the people who count the votes, and the people who collect the votes, that nothing shady is happening from when you vote to when it's counted.

    They had four points of authentication and if you want two more points have them authenticate both their MAC address and IP. Sure, both can be forged but to have all 6 points of data line up in a database would take a determined person.

    The real concern I have with Internet voting is that to the general public, the security concerns it raises makes having identifier chips on electronic devices seem like a good idea. The answer lies in education. So long as you accept the fact that NO security is absolute then you can move into the grey areas of increased security.

    • Who can guarantee that doesn't happen with regular voting? When it all comes down you are trusting the people who count the votes, and the people who collect the votes, that nothing shady is happening from when you vote to when it's counted.
      Don't know in US/UK, other, but the french system is very transparent and public, and any voter arriving sufficiently early in sunday morning of the vote can be inscribed to be one of those who count the ballot. They are many others check and controls in the current process, permitting to garantee, even for a not mathematically inclined voter, that his vote is correctly counted.
      Using a not transparent process is necessary to pass the message that the vote come from the voter, and not from a machine, or worst from a computer. Why not from God ?
    • ..real concern with moving the actual voting to the 'net' is that you can't be sure of the anonymity..

      like overactive husbands/wives/whatever forcing their partners to vote something & etc. obviously they can't really force their partners to mark something on paper they can't see.

      it's a lot easier to stand behind their backs at computer in your own home("you have to vote for this feminist or you wont get sex").
  • by klosskorban ( 560039 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:54AM (#5118218) Homepage
    If Internet voting is ever implemented I will just stop voting. Because not only will it be too damn easy to fix the election. But afterwards the party in power can come after its enemies. Some times the old fashion way is better. Give me a booth and a #2 pencil thank you very much
    • Well, in evaluating this, you have to consider that the Swiss system works somewhat different from the US system. Their democracy has some more direct elements. In addition to electing the government, they can also vote on certain issues directly.

      So for the Swiss this technology is more interesting, as they could organize more of these direct polls.

      What worries me though, is the possibility of someone writing viruses which would infect voters' PCs, and then tamper with the vote. These sort of programs are already in circulation, currently used to dial expensive phone numbers and the like. PCs are just not save enough for this sort of use.

  • The Results (Score:5, Funny)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @09:57AM (#5118231) Homepage Journal
    ...44% of the voters (323) cast teir ballot over the Internet. Officials believe it may have been the first Internet-vote worldwide. While the Swiss media seem enthusiastic about the project, I see serious security and privacy concerns. The voters had to enter a 16-digit password, as well as their birthplace, date of birth and another number sent to them by post...

    The Result:

    31% Pepperoni

    26% Sausage

    17% Mushroom

    15% Cheese

    6% Capers

    5% CowboyNeal's BBQ'd Bits -o- Spam

  • Posters / replies have mentioned that online voting should be linked to identity - that poses the question of voters being able to be tracked based on political philosophy. This could become part of a government record and then used against you. For instance, I vote against ANY tax increase, would this flag me for an audit if my voting record were associated with my name in a government database? As it stands now, votes are counted and held for 30 days then destroyed in the US. Any recounts, discrepancies, must be checked in that time period. If not, a revote has to be held, if suspect tampering/fraud has occurred.
  • They have dissasembled the gallows, as for this vote they no longer need Hanging Chads.

    Now pregnant Chads... that I leave to science.

  • people signing up for spam offers and voting during load time.
  • Results (Score:3, Funny)

    by CaptainSuperBoy ( 17170 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:05AM (#5118262) Homepage Journal
    The article didn't mention the results of the election, so here they are:

    1.4% voted yes
    .9% voted no
    97.7% voted for Cindy Margolis

    Also, 34% pressed 111 to indicate that they wanted to cyber.

  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by sfled ( 231432 ) <[sfled] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:05AM (#5118263) Journal
    ..did Kevin Mitnick win the election?

  • "44% of the voters (323) cast teir ballot over the Internet", And what did they think?
    Is the internet good,
    Not enough sweedish porn out there?
    Too many popup adds.
  • by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:11AM (#5118286) Homepage
    I'm sorry, maybe I'm a little too old school. Voting is a privelege in the US, and should not be a convenience. When I vote I should accept the duty to chose the better qualified candidate and make the march to the voter booth as if a pilgrimage to Mecca. I shouldn't be able to click a few keys on the keyboard while lying in bed to decide who the next President of the US will be--then be able to roll back over and go back to sleep for two more years.

    Distancing the voter from the booth serves those criminals who use absenteeism as an opportunity to stuff your ballots. There are cemetaries across the US that vote in record numbers. Forget that the voters have been dead for years--they vote in absentia. Now all I need to is set up a reasonably sophisticated script and *bang* 60k more votes for the good guys.

    Distancing the voter also distances him from the importance of his decision. If you don't think it's important enough to take time off of work, freeze for an hour in a line with two feet of snow, buy a suitable magnifying glass so you can read the candidates' names and pay attention when selecting a candidate--then maybe your vote should not count. Making the effort to vote connotes seriousness to me. There are some people who sacrificed their lives so you could do all of the above.

    As an aside, I recall an incident where I saw a 20-something young woman vote using an optical ballot--you know, fill in the bubble. You'd think that after x number of years seeing that sort of form that filling the bubble would be natural. The instructions were clear on the ballot, and there was a very large example displayed whilst in line. Yet, she managed to use checks instead.

    • by zwoelfk ( 586211 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:35AM (#5118388) Journal
      Voting is a privelege in the US, and should not be a convenience.

      Voting is a right. Period.

      All citizens should be given equal access to vote. Currently city-dwellers have a much shorter trip to "Mecca" than those in rural areas. Internet voting, coupled with phone voting, and snail mail voting helps to balance the inequities in access. Not to mention, there are those who are physically disabled and may find it more than just "inconvenient" to go to a poll.

      The purpose of a vote is not to challange the citizenry, or setup some kind of obstacle course were they "win" the right to vote, but to provide them with the oppurtunity to express their opinion. We should not loose sight of that end.

      There are some people who sacrificed their lives so you could do all of the above.

      This is exactly the reason we should enable as many people to vote as we can. That right was/has been/is being fought for and earned for everyone not just those who "take it seriously" and want to navigate some jungle so that the process coincides with their mental heroic fantasies.

    • You used to walk to school uphill both ways, Didn't you?
    • By the way, voting is a constitutional right, no a privilage. (Granted you do have to register, but you get to fill out your draft card at the same time!) The right to vote is take away for certain felons, but that's it.

      Considering that the elderly are the most consistent voters, I would think they would welcome NOT having to stand out in the cold.

      And damn, why is an election always on Tuesday, and why November? November is damn cold in most parts of the US. I happen to live within walking distance to work, so I can pop out on my coffee break. But think of all those folks who commute for hours a day to NY. When do they find time to get back to NJ or CT to vote? They would have to take time off from work, or vote when they get home. And those lines get VERY long.

      If they could vote at the office, or the local starbucks, I think they would appreciate that. Besides, there is nothing as comical as trying to figure out where they stuffed the voting machines THIS year.

    • Privilege? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dusabre ( 176445 )
      Voting a privilege? I thought it was a right. Constitutional right. And like any right it should be made as easy and convenient to exercise as possible once granted. Otherwise its a paper right like the right to vote in the southern states of the USA a while ago. The more you distance a right, the less it means. Making it harder to vote doesn't make the voting mean 'more' or be worth 'more' in the same way that 'good' 'honest' farm work is more 'honorable', 'worth more' or 'better' than sitting behind a desk and coding.

      The current 'representative' model of democracy that most countries have, reflects the difficulty of organising an efficient democratic system. Instead of citizens directly deciding on laws and policies, which would be impractical with paper ballots and poll stations in most countries, these countries have people vote for somebody who they believe will be able to do decide laws and policies. They vote because they trust the candidate or at least trust him more than the other guy.

      Switzerland is an exception with very democratic politics (mostly because the basic democratic deciding unit is very local level) and I think internet voting will make it even more so. The easier it is for a citizen to make their voice heard, the more the citizen will be able to say and decide on. This means that the role of professional politicians will decline. I don't have the time to sit in parliament and listen to debates and make deals and campaign and cast paper ballots and solicit financing but I do have the time to click yes/no on a tax rise/cut. And if I have the opportunity to do so, it means less horseplay opportunities for a professional politician and less justification for their existence. And I have more time to consider the issues than to spend freezing my feet off.

      If you give people the facts and give them the tools to act upon them and create laws and policies, you give them democracy. Democracy is not freezing your feet off in the snow to put a cross on a piece of paper for somebody who will spend the next half of his term asking for you to freeze your feet off again.

      In Soviet Russia the privilege votes you.
    • by Wizord ( 570777 ) <twizord@@@yahoo...es> on Monday January 20, 2003 @11:07AM (#5118537) Homepage
      Voting is a privelege in the US, and should not be a convenience

      Maybe in the US voting is considered a privilege. In my country, voting is considered a right, even a necessity to legitimize the democratic system. Low participation rates are considered a Bad Thing so if internet voting raises participation, this would be good.
    • Once upon a time, I was greeted by a poll-worker upon exit from voting, with "Thank-you for doing your duty to vote".

      I turned and replied, "It is not my duty, it is my right and privelege. No one has a duty to vote, and in fact, anyone who hasn't taken the time to study the candidates and issues needs to stay home and let those of us who have run their government for them."
  • What do you guys think would be some of the security/privacy implications if this was extended to give over the phone voting functionality for those without access to the internet. Maybe using something like VoiceXML?
  • by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:15AM (#5118303) Homepage
    This is (in terms of voters convenience) not that big a deal as it sounds.

    Dependent on the community you live in you can vote by mail at no charge. In Zurich it works like this:

    3 to 4 weeks prior to a referendum (there are 2-3 per year) you get an envelope, which contains the official information, the voting forms, a card and a small envelope. You fill out the forms, place them into the small envelope, on which you seal the flap (so voting confidentiality is guaranteed), sign the card, stick everything back into the envelope it came in, close it (it's supplied with a mechanism to do just that) and drop it into the next mail box at your convenience (no stamps required).

    So there is really no excuse not to vote.

    I really don't see e-voting as that much more convenient and loaded with a whole pile of potential problems.

  • by xianzombie ( 123633 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:16AM (#5118310)
    FIRST VOTE!!!!!!!!!!

    I mean, what would an online voting system be with out a few random trolls....
  • How do you know? (Score:2, Informative)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 )
    How do you really know that this does not work? Did you happen to spend any time at all on the workings of their security mechanism?

    Because you see as a foreigner living in Switzerland I tend to think if they can do it via the Internet then I know it works.

    Swiss are conservative cautious people, who oddly enough embrace technology. Hence if it works in Switzerland then I know it will work. Case in point is 100% attendless gas stations. They are all over Switzerland now. They were introduced in 1995, but caught on really quick. And let me tell you how nice it is to have a gas station that is open 100% percent of the time. Sure people in North America have 24x7 gas stations. But I live in the country and hence that is not always the case.
  • by nesneros ( 214571 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:27AM (#5118360) Homepage
    Even beyond base digital sercurity concerns is the fact that internet voting occurrs from non-monitored locations. So what's to stop Candidate X's staffers from driving a couple of vans through the ghetto or a senior citizen's retirement community, load 'em up, bring 'em to a computer and say "If you let us watch you cast your vote for Candidate X, we'll give you $50".

    Even with webcams,etc.,etc., there is NO way to ensure that internet voting is not coerced voting.
  • by syle ( 638903 ) <syle@nOsPam.waygate.org> on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:33AM (#5118377) Homepage
    ... And that's how CowboyNeal got elected president of Geneva.
  • the worst danger. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by capoccia ( 312092 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:34AM (#5118385) Journal
    the worst danger from not voting in an open and public place is voter fraud and bribery. your vote can be bought.

    currently, in the us, you go into a curtained booth and no one knows what anyone voted for. there is no incentive for someone to try to buy your vote as your actions in the booth are unknown.

    if you vote from home, a politician could be standing right behind you while you enter in your 2048 bit pasword with a $50 bill and defeat the integrity of the electoral process. this is a problem no matter how secure you make the computer transaction.
    • by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      if you vote from home, a politician could be standing right behind you while you enter in your 2048 bit pasword with a $50 bill and defeat the integrity of the electoral process.

      I don't see that really as a problem in itself. After all, the person liked the candidate better because it got them $50. All voluntary.

      It's no different from the current state of affairs, where some politician promises a tax cut, the net effect is the same, "Vote for me and I will give you $50". We saw that in Virginia with Gilmore and "No car tax!"... of course that translated into "Reduced car tax that is about to get put back to Full Car Tax!".

      The root of the problem is not the potential to bribe voters, it's that voters are willing to sell out for such small amounts. I think there is little that can be done about that, it's an almost fundamental flaw in democracy.
  • Confidence? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Inflatable Hippo ( 202606 ) <inflatable_hippo@yahoo.co . u k> on Monday January 20, 2003 @10:50AM (#5118464) Journal
    Even if a system could be invented that guarantees security, integrity and privacy, the "proof" that it could be trusted would be beyond the man in the street.

    Everyone (well nearly everyone) can see and understand Xs, bit's of paper, security vans and vote counting.

    Try explaining non-repudiation, PKI infrastructure and certification to one of your maiden aunts.

    Will she be more or less convinced that the next President really won?

    If people don't understand it they won't trust it. And if they don't trust it they won't use it.

    VoterApathy*=2;
    • Re:Confidence? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ElfKnight ( 212040 )
      If people don't understand it they won't trust it. And if they don't trust it they won't use it.

      Exactly.

      There's a recent article: Security Considerations for Remote Electronic Voting, Communications of the ACM, December 2002, Vol 45, No 12, pp 39-44

      which concludes that we should steer well clear for the moment. Why?:

      • Although fraud exists in the offline election system, it is tolerated because there is no choice. The system is localized so it's hard to propagate fraud beyond a district.
      • Possibility of DDOS - the whole election system crashes
      • Unreliability of DNS
      • Well-financed groups have a big incentive to interfere, including foreign governemnts and multinational corporations
      • Widespread cluelessness - most people would not be able to assess whether the system was secure or whether a voting website was a fake, or whether a certificate was valid, etc.
      • Exploits that change setting to a remote, hostile web proxy (and other types of virus or worm attack coinciding with an election)
      • No way to audit the whole system; software vendors could even install code in commonly used applications (can you think of a suitable one?) to interfere with the election.
      • Various social engineering attacks (Latest! election system bugged - please submit your vote again)
  • I think security is less of an issue than turnout, considering quite a few people still don't have web access and are still quite computer illiterate even if you provide it for them, which will be a feat unto itself. Sorry, but security aside, America is nowhere close to being ready for this.
  • Not the first (Score:2, Informative)

    by bulgroz0 ( 200972 )
    The Reston Association [reston.org] in Northern Virginia, which manages the city of Reston has held quite a few votes over the Internet.
    • I see serious security and privacy concerns. The voters had to enter a 16-digit password, as well as their birthplace, date of birth and another number sent to them by post.

    The Swiss government already has all of the above on file anyway. To me, the methodology employed is simply a very serious attempt at making sure that every vote is cast by the indivudual who can prove who he is In Real Life(tm) (and votes are for real, remember)....

    Which leads us to: on the Internet you never know what's behind the curtain, but in this case it seems that they do ! :-)

  • This is laudable (at least in theory), and hopefully a sign that Switzerland is continuing to shrug off its rather shakey reputation w.r.t democracy.

    In Switzerland, women were unable to vote on national issues until 1971, and voting on regional issues was restricted in some cantons of the country until 1990.

    Perhaps, on the internet, no-one knows you're a woman.

  • by orange ( 12033 )
    "Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with the results or creates a database with citizens voting information?"
    Why - the same people who guarantee that a normal election is not rigged - these things are auditable, and so what if the techniques employed might have to change slightly, but certainly the methodology doesn't have to.
    Or are we now making the mistake of saying the Internet introduces new things that havn't been around before - again - *sigh*.
  • > Who can give a guarantee that nobody tampers with
    > the results or creates a database with citizens
    > voting information?"

    That isn't good enough. Not only must the system be provably secure, an ordinary citizen must be able to examine it and see that it is so.
  • by rklrkl ( 554527 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @01:38PM (#5119527) Homepage
    Those Swiss folks obviously didn't search for e-voting info in the UK, because 13 towns in the UK had e-voting [electoralc...ion.org.uk] for the local council elections in May 2002. So the Swiss initiative certainly isn't a "worldwide first".

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