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United States

Open Voting at OSCON 135

fmclain writes "The Open Voting Consortium (OVC) which has already been mentioned here will be demonstrating its open source voting system, which includes a voter verifiable paper trail, at this year's OSCON in Portland. The Mercury News (free reg.) describes this as the touch-screen holy grail. Given Diebold's troubles in California this can't come too soon. The OVC has already demonstrated a working system in Sacramento."
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Open Voting at OSCON

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  • This is exactly what the voting system needs in order to become more accurate. A multi-system machine. Or multiple machines to record the votes. The primary machine to do it in real time through a computer, and the secondary machine to validate the votes to prevent fraud.

    Of course, that is exactly what I said here [slashdot.org] as well. But that didn't fly to well with the slashdotters then either.

    • by persaud ( 304710 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:49PM (#8944151)
      Is at least as important as a paper trail. Since we already have systems that have a paper trail (i.e. paper ballots), computers could be better used to improve the accuracy and reliability of the voter registration process. This would reduce tampering by hostile insiders *and* outsiders.
      • In California, there's the Motor Voter bill, which registers you to vote automatically if you have a driver license. This automatically makes every resident driver a voter, whether or not they are a US citizen. The voter registration process is majorly flawed.
        • Mod this guy up! He gets the issue. Voting is a right of Citizenship. It should not go to non-citizens and or to persons of no account who have violated society and shown their irresponsibility to the health, safety and good will of their community. Such persons lack the right or the judgement to manage our society and should not pick its leaders.

          I live in Alabama. My Wife is a Philippine national. She applied for her learners permit took the test and after checking her passport and handing her the le

      • Fireproof does not mean it can't burn. But making something from explosives makes the problem worse. Its fine if there is no fire...but if there is always smokers hanging around and few ash trays...

        Computers in elections are the same thing. They make the problem much larger should anything happen. Stuff DOES happen.

        I don't care if you open source and use military grade security. If its a computer and a party has billions of dollars of power on their side, like we have at stake in every national election
    • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:53PM (#8944188)
      What I've been saying for a while now is we need:

      1)Multiple ways of counting the votes (electronic, paper, OCR). One way must be paper.
      2)Different groups doing each count
      3)All methods MUST be counted
      4)All counts must agree within a small percent error, and the percent error must be less than the margin of the election. If they do not, revote.
      • Bravo, somebody else gets it. In order to have an accurate voting system. It must have redundancy. And all fall backs must be check, how else would you know if it were inacurate or not?
      • by pangian ( 703684 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:22PM (#8944420)
        2) Different groups doing each count

        This used to be done by having representatives from each party there for the vote counting, corroberating the results. In some countries, in addition to party monitors, independent non-partisan groups check the vote count. In the U.S. however, we have been lulled into trusting the vote count and so as far as I know these efforts haven't been organized recently. Now electronic voting machines that don't produce any sort of auditable trail prevent citizens from exercising this level of oversight should they desire to. There are a few groups talking about non-partisan election monitoring this November. I'm aware of VoteWatch [votewatch2004.org], and perhaps the League of Women Voters and the ACLU will organize monitoring in particularly vulnerable districts. Is anyone aware of other efforts?
      • by hummassa ( 157160 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @07:06PM (#8944789) Homepage Journal
        Till these topics die.

        I live in Brasil. We have had voting machines in the last 12-14 years (yes, twelve to fourteen -- it depends the size of the city you are in). Brazilians here: the first election here in Belo Horizonte to use the machines were the mayoral (and city council, state representation, governor, house and senate) before FHC was elected (as I count it, 2 years + 8 years + 1 1/2 = 11,5 years). I know it, because I was "mesário" (election "table" official? election "clerk"? what is a good English translation?) in the previous election, and in the two subsequent elections). IIRC, there were electronic ballot boxes in Rio and Sao Paulo in the election before that (the only two cities larger than Belo Horizonte).

        Our voting machines are mainly of three different (internally) models: (a) the old ones, that use VirtuOS (*) as the OS, (b) the new ones, that use WinCE as the OS, and (c) the newest and deprecated ones that have the second printer to print your vote, show it to you inside a clear acrilic case, and mix it with others inside the machine.

        Externally, all of them look roughly the same: a box similar to the old "portable computers" of the eighties, with a 5-6" diagonal LCD and a big numerical keypad in the right side of the screen, that has, besides the 0-9 keys, "confirma" (ok), "erro" (cancel), and "branco" (white).

        The electoral process (from the point of view of the voter) begins ... when you get your first job. If you are a mandatory voter (literate person from 18 to 65) you have to go to Electoral Court and register to vote. In the process of registering, you receive the "Título de Eleitor" (voter id), in which you have the number of you voting section. To change jobs, and specially to get a government job, you have to prove you are a registered and regularized voter (you voted in the last election, or regularized your voting situation after it).

        In the election day, you scan the newspapers (or the Superior Electoral Court website), search for the address of your section, and go there. No, there is no transit vote, you can only vote at that address. If you can't get there, you'll have to "justify" your absence.

        At the section, you will present your voter id to one the "mesários", and if you don't have it on you, you can still vote (you can show other valid id), but will be delayed. The mesário will search for your name in the vote-ticket sheet, and annex it to your id while you vote. You will sign a receipt in a sheet, and proceed to the voting "booth". Another "mesário" will type your voter id # in a remotely connected keypad, setting the machine in the "ready to vote" mode.

        The voting "booth" is really only a desk with the voting machine over it, facing nobody else in the room, and sometimes with a cardboard "cover" around it. You will "dial" the numbers of the candidates, in order. when you dial all the digits of one candidate, a star-trek-like chime rings, his/her face will show up in the screen, and if you digited it right, you hit "ok". otherwise, you hit "cancel" and start over. After typing all the candidates, you hit "ok" one last time, the machine chimes again, and goes to "stand by" mode. You have voted. If you don't want to vote for nobody, you can hit "white" instead of the candidate ## (accounted as a "white vote", or "none of the above" -- this is the equivalent of putting your paper ballot in the box without marking anything), or if you really want to protest you can type 9999 or other non-existent-candidate-#, and your vote will be accounted as a "null vote", or "I'm really pissed of" (the equivalent of drawing pictures or writing "improper expletives" in a paper ballot)

        Then, you get your id back, your ticket (keep it together with your voter id!!), and you go home. Ah, bars do not open (theoretically) in the election day, so hope you have bought your beer in the day before).

        From the point of view of election officials, things are more complicated. The machines
      • What I've been saying for a while now is we need ... [slashdot.org]

        Good summary. I like it so much, I've posted it to my blog [karljones.com].

        -kgj
    • This seems more usable than that Dibold thing. The added security of paper is very appealing. After all it was all this chad crud that started the mess. Should not the improved version be way to make an easy to scan and tabulate ballots in a way that cant be mis-cast so easily. This method is exactly what is needed, paper ballots and realtime electronic tabulation followed by a comparison check with an automatic counter. Now the real question is is this the system to do it.....

      The new features......
  • Whew... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:35PM (#8944006)
    Open Voting at OSCON

    For a second there I thought it said Open Voting at SCO.

  • Paper trail (Score:5, Informative)

    by 7Ghent ( 115876 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:38PM (#8944037) Homepage
    Of course, the most important aspect of this system is that it creates a voter-verifiable paper trail and thus more accountability.

    This is all implemented on a state level. Call your local representatives NOW. This is something you personally can get involved in. Chances are, particularly if you live in a backwater state like I do, that your state senators have never heard of open source. It's your responsibility to educate them.

    If you wanna make sure your vote doesn't get hacked, get involved!
    • Re:Paper trail (Score:3, Interesting)

      by persaud ( 304710 )
      The most imporant aspect of the voting computer is that it generates paper?

      Maybe we should have computers count paper instead of first counting votes and then generating paper.

      A real improvement in accountability would be a computer system that audited the *humans* who audit the *process*.
      • I think the point is that a computer both does electronic counting and paper counting. There is a barcode on the printout that can be/is scanned back in later to check for agreement of the two sets.
        • That's equivalent to the difference between single sign-on and a mirrored database. You have (a) increased system complexity, (b) doubled the risk of failure (two fraud targets instead of one), and (c) paid the opportunity cost of not improving voter registration and authentication.
          • Nay. You would have to mess with the results of both the paper and electronic tallys. If you hit only one, the difference from other would raise a flag, and a repoll would be required. If there was only one vote path, there could be no such check.
            • Recounts have to be requested, they are not triggered by a difference between the two records. Recounts are typically only requested when the margin of victory is very small, otherwise the loser bears the political cost of appearing to be a sore loser. This produces an incentive for fraud to create a large margin of victory in many places and a tiny margin in 1 or 2 places for a media-distracting recount.

              If a recount is triggered and a difference is found between the two records, which record do you take
    • by Mark_in_Brazil ( 537925 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @07:02PM (#8944762)
      I'm not sure if it's because of me (a /.er who's been doing a "Chicken Little" impression about electronic voting for a couple of years now) or because of Ben Cohen's (as in "Ben," the founder of Ben & Jerry's [benjerry.com], tho' he's no longer working there) organization, True Majority [truemajority.org], which has been sending her e-mails about e-voting, among other issues, but my mom has gotten into this issue. She lives in Maine and sent me an e-mail about an act recently passed in the Maine Legislature entitled An Act to Ensure the Accurate Counting of Votes [state.me.us]. Note: navigation is a bit weird on the linked site-- if you go to the text of the Act [mainelegislature.org], the whole text of the bill will not appear on a single page. You will have to use the arrows at the top and bottom of the pages to navigate around through the Act. You can also download a copy [mainelegislature.org] in M$ Word format.
      Oh yeh-- there's an amendment. To see it, click on the "Amendments" link on the "Bill Text and Other Docs" page, or click here [state.me.us].
      This is a sweet little piece of legislation. My favorite parts: it prohibits networking the voting machines, requires the voting machine software to be open source, and requires the voting machines to print paper ballots that are inspected by the voter and then placed into a ballot box. I am deeply impressed with this, and with the sponsor, Maine State Representative Hannah Pingree.
      Here's a question: does anybody other than the OVC have a product that meets the criteria specified in the Act?
      Responding to the parent post, I'll say that Maine can be considered a "backwater state," and its legislature has produced what appears to me to be a kick-ass piece of legislation on e-voting that explicitly requires open source software. Do big, rich, important states like California have such good legislation? I think not [slashdot.org]. Score one for the backwater states!

      --Mark

      PS: if you're near a Ben & Jerry's scoop shop, go there next Tuesday, April 27, and take advantage of Free Cone Day!!!
      • Wow, that's great. That's pretty much exactly what we're trying to get passed here in NM. Congratulations!
      • I just have to ask, what's the point? At what point are we deploying computers just for the sake of deploying more computers? How do these votes get counted? The same old-fashioned way?

        Computers are good at counting, and even storing massive records of votes. This is something they are good at, and in trying to avoid the system getting corrupted, we've now removed from the proposal anything and everything for which the computer is needed/wanted, and we're left with nothing but a glorified voting card.

        • The point is that there must be a "paper trail" to permit recounts, or you'll get situations like Florida 2000, where Al Gore's vote total went DOWN by just over 16,000 when the votes from Volusia County were added, and there's no way to do a recount because there's no paper trail in the Diebold machines used in Volusia County.
          Separate scanning machines could be used to read the paper ballots and count the votes, and I wouldn't have a problem with it, as long as the paper ballots are available for recoun
  • by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:39PM (#8944048)
    If it isn't a crony corporation of the government, can this even fly?
    • by muel ( 132794 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:48PM (#8944135)
      More importantly, who will adopt this 'improved' electronic voting system? Very few. Potential consumers:

      1) states/regions that have already spent millions on Diebold machines,

      2) states/regions that don't have the budget to overhaul the paper voting systems already in place.

      The groups seeking electronic 'improvement' have, for the most part, already tanked their money into Diebold systmes, so you'll be hard-pressed to find a city council / state legislature in those respective areas that will willingly devote more of their budgets to MORE electronic voting machines. Constituents in these communities won't stand for that kind of spending because the information about the faulty machines has been kept too well under wraps to raise popular concern.

      Ultimately, however, if these machines can get into even one voting district in this nation in the place of Diebold, then I'll count it a success. However, I doubt the machine producers will feel that giddily about such a small profit margin.
      • Diebold is one animator away from being a cartoon villian. Gerrymandering is at least equally destructive to democracy. From America as a One Party State [prospect.org]:

        "... We are at risk of becoming an autocracy in three key respects. First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing, rathe

      • More importantly, who will adopt this 'improved' electronic voting system? Very few.

        In Britain we have the Sale of Goods Act where, if the products weren't of merchantable quality when they're sold, you get to get your money back. Now as it's been proved that Diebold provided uncertified machines and a number of failures have occurred why can't Californian election officials just return the machines and ask for their cash back? Then they'd have plenty of money to implement the OSV systems. Even if they d
  • by thebra ( 707939 ) * on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:41PM (#8944066) Homepage Journal
    but there are so many ways this can go wrong. I think that we should just stand in a big crowd and raise our hands.
  • Until pressing a button is as secure as writing (or punching) your vote on paper and dropping it in to a box, e-voting won't be mainstream. You can't hook up a wire to a box to change all the votes inside can you?
    • You can't hook up a wire to a box to change all the votes inside can you?

      You can't hook up a wire to a box and change the paper trail either, that's the point.

    • Re:Whoop de do (Score:5, Insightful)

      by koreth ( 409849 ) * on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:59PM (#8944248)
      Until pressing a button is as secure as writing (or punching) your vote on paper and dropping it in to a box, e-voting won't be mainstream.

      So India's 100% electronic general election, underway as I type this, is just a figment of South Asia's collective imagination? How much more "mainstream" than the entire electorate of a democracy three times as populous as the US can e-voting get?

      • So India's 100% electronic general election, underway as I type this, is just a figment of South Asia's collective imagination? How much more "mainstream" than the entire electorate of a democracy three times as populous as the US can e-voting get?

        Ok, why aren't we using India's system?
    • by feepcreature ( 623518 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:21PM (#8944411) Homepage
      Until pressing a button is as secure as writing (or punching) your vote on paper and dropping it in to a box, e-voting won't be mainstream. You can't hook up a wire to a box to change all the votes inside can you?

      True, you can't change paper votes by wire, but there are lots of traditional methods for interfering with paper votes:

      • replace the ballot box with "one I prepared earlier"
      • steal the box altogether
      • manually stuff lots of extra votes into it
      • nobble voters
      • register extra voters
      • don't register some real voters
      • impersonate real voters (especially dead ones still on the register, or sick or apathetic ones)
      • etc...

      A fair and free vote requires confidence in the mechanism, but also in the count, and the officials, and the register, and lots of other parts of the process.

      In some countries, hacking electronic machines might be one of the harder ways to steal an election :-(

      • Yes, you can mess with the paper ballots, but that would leave you with one count in the computer, and an entirely different count in the ballot box, which would raise a huge red flag and initiate a big investigtion. People who like to stuff ballot boxes don't usually like to see things like that happen -- It makes exposure and identification that much more likely.
      • In some countries, hacking electronic machines might be one of the harder ways to steal an election

        Its interesting that you mention this. A year ago I was working with groups trying to ensure the integrity of [non-electronic] voting in Nigeria. My boss, who was also working on the project, mentioned that in his conversations with Nigerians many expressed greater confidence in a computerized election.

        The argument could be made that this is due to naivite and blind faith in computers... indeed it's telli
  • OKay, actually, just one.

    I'm all for open source... love it.

    And I don't trust Diebold anymore than the next guy.

    But is open source really appropriate for this situation? Especially for a voting system that works on "very inexpensive PC hardware".

    Wouldn't it be very easy for someone to patch the software in a bad way and recompile it before installation?

    I assume this has been thought of already, but I can't figure out how to prevent that kind of danger.

    • Re:Questions... (Score:3, Insightful)

      well at some point you probably have to have real life security. maybe that means a certified, then locked in a vault until voting day computer, or a computer that boots from a trusted source like a certified and locked in a vault until voting day bootable cdrom. i dunno... i just think there has to be human security checks as well as technological security checks. you can't rely only on one.

    • Yes that would be possible, but also consider this.. The voting booths have to be verified just before the poles open. No longer than 24 hours in my neck of the woods. The systems are then locked down. I would suppose that it is possible for somebody to "patch" or change the code, but the person would have to be experienced with the code and also would have to bypass the second machine which is counting the ballot that was printed. This makes it much harder to do.
      • would have to bypass the second machine which is counting the ballot that was printed

        Can the second machine cross-reference the bar code AND the text? Maybe only random intervals would be enough to insure nothing funny going on.

        I am thinking about righting my Secretary of State about this.

    • by ignorant_newbie ( 104175 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:56PM (#8944221) Homepage
      >Wouldn't it be very easy for someone to patch
      >the software in a bad way and recompile it
      >before installation?

      yeah, because of course no one's worked out a way to tell that a binary is the one you think it is <cough>checksum<cough>, since this whole open source thing is so new that no one's ever installed it in a security critical place before <cough>nsa<cough>.

      you're right, we should run out and install windows right away, since we can trust billg to tell us that our systems are safe.
      • you're right, we should run out and install windows right away, since we can trust billg to tell us that our systems are safe.

        I was asking a question not making a statement. Please forgive me for offending your sense of obviousness.

        SMARTYPANTS... Splplpplpl!

    • Re:Questions... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:56PM (#8944225)
      "Wouldn't it be very easy for someone to patch the software in a bad way and recompile it before installation?"

      Wouldn't someone be able to do this with a closed source app as well? Closed source is not the same as no source.

    • >I assume this has been thought of already,
      >but I can't figure out how to prevent
      >that kind of danger.

      1. design the system to run from a cd ( knoppix ?).
      2. have the bios checksum the cd during boot, display te result on the screen
      3. the poll-workers verify that the check-sum is correct
      4. profit!
    • by thelen ( 208445 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:19PM (#8944396) Homepage

      When it comes to something as critical to the welfare of the public and to our form of government as the assurance of fair elections, open source software should be encouraged vigorously.

      Software does not become more secure by hiding the sourcecode, and election results are not made more secure by entrusting the results to a corporation. These facts, compounded by the rampant infiltration of corporate interests in the US government, and, at the same time, the vast amount of public scrutiny sure to be given an open source voting system like this one, make the choice IMO a no brainer.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:51PM (#8944169) Journal
    Traditional software companies hate open-source software because no one owns it or collects royalties for it.

    sigh... They really don't get it. Unlike Windows XP, or Adobe Photoshop, voting software requires very limited runs, and typically needs to recover its cost on its first sale. There's no need to make revenue on a per copy basis. There is probably only going to be a single customer who will have precise demands. If it was closed source, the amount of work would be the same, and the amount and so that you could charge would be the same.

    Companies really need to get over the idea that because code costs money to produce, it must have value. Sometimes it is the case. Often it isn't.
    • Exactly, it's not like a voting system is going to contain any previously unknown revolutionary concepts in the code. Get input, store input. It should be pretty straightforward, and the only reason people want it open is so that they can make sure there aren't mistakes.
    • "voting software requires very limited runs, and typically needs to recover its cost on its first sale. There's no need to make revenue on a per copy basis. There is probably only going to be a single customer who will have precise demands. If it was closed source, the amount of work would be the same, and the amount and so that you could charge would be the same."

      I agree with this point. I'll also point out that the _real_ value that a voting system vendor provides isn't the software system, it's the comp
  • by David Hume ( 200499 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:55PM (#8944207) Homepage

    The Federal Election Commission [fec.gov] has a FAQ About The National Voluntary Voting System Standards [fec.gov]. The FAQ [fec.gov] indicates that to meet the standards, an election system must satisfy either "FEC's voting system standards" or pass tests "by independent testing authorities (ITAs) designated by the National Association of State Election Directors."

    The National Association of State Election Directors [nased.org] has, among other things:

    (1) a List of NASED Certified Systems [nased.org];

    (2) an Updated List of NASED Certified Systems [nased.org]; and, most importantly,

    (3) an Overview of the Certification Process [nased.org].

    Has the Open Voting Consortium [openvotingconsortium.org] made any attempt to get their software certified?

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:55PM (#8944212) Homepage Journal
    It's too late (200 days left) to manufacture new voting machines for the 2004 election. We're probably stuck with the touchscreens peddled by Diebold, SIAC, Sequoia and ES&S, all of which have had severe field problems (some of which seem deliberate). But we've got enough time to install OSS voteware on these machines. And to test them as deterministic, reliable and accountable by paper trail.

    Now you can help, in standard "Open Source Community" fashion. Email stories about this OSS voteware, and the serious problems with the proprietary voteware it replaces, to your local newspaper, TV station, and elected representatives. Keep your tone serious, professional, and no-nonsense about your intolerance of votefixing in the status quo. You have about 75 days left in which to be heard - after that, there's no time to do anything but whine. And soon after that, even whining will be out of the picture.
    • by KefabiMe ( 730997 ) <garth@jhon[ ]com ['or.' in gap]> on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:31PM (#8944485) Journal

      Article Here [washingtonpost.com]

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3 4424-2004Apr22.html

      Pretty much, California's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel decided by a UNANIMOUS vote of 8 - 0 to block counties from using Diebold machines for the November elections.

      I'm normally very cynical when it comes to politics, but it's nice to see my state get (somewhat) of a clue.

      • Sorry for replying to my own post, but I forgot to quote this nugget from the article:

        Panel members also recommended that a secretary of state's office report released Wednesday, detailing alleged failings of Diebold in California, be forwarded to the attorney general's office to consider civil and criminal charges against the company.

        "I'm disgusted with the actions of this company," said panel member Marc Carrel, an assistant secretary of state.

      • According to this article [verifiedvoting.org] at Verified Voting [verifiedvoting.org] this only applies to Diebold's TSx paperless electronic voting system. Apparently:

        "The Voting Systems Panel did not recommend against continued use of the Diebold TS electronic voting machines or use of optical-scan voting machines. The GEMs software is also not affected by this decision."
    • Or... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mdfst13 ( 664665 )
      Or we could just go back to older methods, e.g. paper ballots. These may be harder to count, but they are absolutely reliable.

      We do not have time to make the current machines have valid paper trails without sacrificing either security or anonymity, since their printers suck.
      • Yes, California has decided to use their paper/scanner "backups", as the tocuhscreens have "prefailed". Paper is not "absolutely reliable", but it's better than these Deibold eFiascos.
  • Um..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MoneyT ( 548795 )
    If we have a voter verifiable paper trail, that means a vote can be traced back to the person. Wouldn't that sort of defeat the purpose of voting in private?
    • "Voter verifiable" means you, the voter, look at the paper and verify its correctness before you put it in the box. Doesn't mean your name is on the paper.
    • Re:Um..... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mikkeles ( 698461 )
      No, because the paper ballot is deposited into the ballot box after the voter receives and verifies it.
    • Re:Um..... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:18PM (#8944394) Homepage
      If we have a voter verifiable paper trail, that means a vote can be traced back to the person.

      It helps to read the article. Go ahead and read it now; I'll wait here.

      The computer records the voter's choices, and then prints out a paper ballot, which includes a bar code. If you are not blind, you inspect the ballot with your eyes. If you are blind, you can take the ballot to a bar code reader, and put on headphones, scan the barcode, and listen as it reads back your votes to you.

      The vote can't be traced back to the person, because the person verfies the ballot at the polling place, and then deposits the ballot in the ballot box. Since the voter doesn't write his or her name on the ballot, or any other identifying information, it's exactly the same as current paper-based systems of voting.

      Note that if you try to steal the election by tricky programming in the poll computer, the inspection of the ballots reveals your plot. If you try tricky programming of the official ballot-counting computers, you can be found out in a recount with different computers.

      This system is way better than a black-box "just trust us" e-voting computer.

      steveha
      • So then it's not really a paper trail, it's just a level of complexity to the punch cards. This will solve problems how?
        • Re:Um..... (Score:3, Informative)

          by steveha ( 103154 )
          0) It's way easier to use than punch cards. Press buttons on a touch screen.

          1) It's way easier to verify than punch cards. Just read it.

          2) No hanging chads. Inspecting a ballot does not alter the ballot.

          3) No hanging chad jokes.

          steveha
          • 0) As opposed to poking a hole in a piece of paper?

            1) As oposed to looking to see that you indeed put a hole in the right spot

            2) Would be solved if people actualy did 0 and 1

            3) There will always be hanging chad jokes.
            • 0) As opposed to poking a hole in a piece of paper?

              Perhaps you have used a different punch card voting system than the one I used. The one I used you need to concentrate carefully to make sure you are punching in the right place.

              1) As oposed to looking to see that you indeed put a hole in the right spot

              Now you are just trolling. Which is easier, verifying that a small hole was punched on number 36 and not on number 37, or reading the names you voted for printed on a sheet? It's a lot easier to just
              • I prefer a system which is more secure. I'm sorry but computerized systems are not going to solve this problem. And it will add new problems. What happens when someone votes twice? Why did they vote twice, because they didn't vote right the first time. The problem is they did, but now they've put in two votes. That's the problem if you use the paper for the votes. If you use a computer, well, you know the deal
                • I prefer a system which is more secure.

                  Paper ballots are about as secure as voting gets. You need to be able to do a re-count. You need to make it harder to steal an election, so it's good that a bag full of ballots is a big thing that is hard to hide (as opposed to votes stored on a hard disk in a black-box voting machine). You need to be able to check the system, so it's good that you can feed the same ballots into different counting machines to make sure the count is the same, and it's also good tha
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:10PM (#8944322) Journal
    One of the arguments against adopting this in some states is that they've already dumped a bunch of cash on proprietary systems, notably Diebold's.

    But Diebods's system appears to be based on a hardware/OS platform that, at its core, is Wintel. No doubt the same is true for many, perhaps even all, of the others. (Even if they're not, Linux and the GNU toolset already has ports to many other processors/platforms, including essentially all commonly available current-generation processors.)

    Perhaps it might be possible to port the Open Source voting software to the Diebold and/or other voting machines that have already been purchased?

    The bulk of the machines you need are the ones in the booths. Plug an off-the-shelf printer into a Diebold and you're all set there. (No security issues on the printer itself, beyond making sure it's working.)

    For the remainder, you only need one (plus maybe a spare) with a working OCR reader, sound card, and modem - for the blind readback and the uplink scan. Put that scanner on the exiting voting machine with the modem (as Diebold does on one of the machines for doing the final uplink to the state's database). Or put it on a cheap desktop, since the touchscreen is not necessary.

    (Heck: Put the software for THAT machine on a bootable CD-ROM and you don't even need a special machine. Just borrow one from the school library for election day. Even if some BIOS-based malware managed to get activated and save the data, there's no confidentiality issues with what is on that machine. Any corruption of the data by malware would be detected in a manual recount, just like corruption in any other part of the total system.)

    For future instalations you could go with generic touchscreen systems - or stick with the major vendors if their prices come down into the sanity range or if you want to pay a premium for ironclad hardware (like byers of "True Blue" PCs from IBM). The voting machine vendors could even make money as vendors of ruggedized commodity hardware if they don't have to maintain all that proprietary voting software.
    • Perhaps it might be possible to port the Open Source voting software to the Diebold and/or other voting machines that have already been purchased? We could, but it wouldn't do any good because the Diebold machines don't have page printers. Running the code for paper ballots and then not printing the ballots would leave us up the creek, and a few cards short of a deck besides. *%-{]}}}
      • We could [run the software on Diebold machines], but it wouldn't do any good because the Diebold machines don't have page printers.

        But do they have a serial or parallel port, or any kind of expansion connector for a printer? Even internally?

        I had heard that they do have provision for adding one of their own printers. If the interface for that is standard one might come up with a cheap adapter to bring out a cable for an off-the-shelf printer, suitable for use with your software. (Unlike the machine it
        • "I had heard that they do have provision for adding one of their own printers."

          Supposedly they all have a printer inside them. This is because the HAVA law reuires that they print out a record of the votes. Strangely, they decided that it was sufficient to print a total when the polls close, and not a continuous record of votes cast, so there's no way to prove that the total printed is correct, and thus no value in printing it.
          • "I had heard that they do have provision for adding one of their own printers."

            Supposedly they all have a printer inside them. This is because the HAVA law reuires that they print out a record of the votes. Strangely, they decided that it was sufficient to print a total when the polls close, and not a continuous record of votes cast, so there's no way to prove that the total printed is correct, and thus no value in printing it.


            I just found Cringely's March 11 Column which also says that, and suggests rep
            • "There we have it: Yes, we COULD use the Diebold machines (or probably any other brands, since the printer is federally mandated) with the open source software and NO additional hardware (except eventually the cover-with-a-slot), obtaining the printed audit trail we want."

              This is a good "stop gap" measure so that counties that already bought DRE's could improve them a bit, though I think that when you get into the details it's not what you would really want to use to vote on.

              For example, since the record
              • For example, since the record would be printed after the vote is cast, there's no way to do anything about it if the printed vote isn't correct. They can't remove the vote from the machine, and they can't let the voter cast another vote.

                Sure they can. (Remember: The tape is not staying in the machine. The voter is taking it to the ballot box.)

                Here's one way:

                - The voter registers his choice and says "print it".
                - The printer spits out the choices on the tape - but doesn't spit the final part.
                - The
    • Not a bad idea, but don't underestimate the cost to make the changes. Just because its free software doesn't mean it's cheap to install. I work for a government department, and on large projects the cost of the hardware being installed is often less than the cost of the guys who go out and install it. You can't ignore what it would cost to have guys reconfigure every voting station, especially since you would want to make sure those guys are reliable to avoid uncertainty of tampering.

  • Geek Voters (Score:3, Funny)

    by LordHatrus ( 763508 ) <slashdot AT clockfort DOT com> on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:13PM (#8944353) Homepage
    This might be enough to make millions of geeks to leave their CRTs and LCDs, and go vote.... just to check out the new system :)
  • How about using smart cards with a gpg or some other key pair system? this key would just be used for voting. once the voter swipes the card a server or servers then authenticate and sends the appropriate ballot based on that users precinct. Two keys, the voters key and say a judges key could be used to generate a third key to encrypt or sign the ballot. this key could then be stored for ballot verification purposes while preserving anonymity. I would rather have the ballot printed out encrypted. This wo
    • Re:Smart cards! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zcat_NZ ( 267672 )
      Errr.. what?

      Any kind of voter-verifiable trail needs to be simple enough that the ordinary person can understand and trust it.

      Barcodes, encryption, etc all fail this test, no matter how untamperable they might be. If you want the paper trail to be machine readable, you want a list of names in plain text with a big black machine-readable DOT next to the name they voted for.

      A human-readable paper vote, placed into a locked box, and counted under the scrutiny of multiple volunteers is the only system of vot
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Has anyone ever considered that we can bipass the dangers of electronic voting entirely by using electronic voting machines only as a rough estimate? There is no reason why a complete and total hand count can not be required. Elections do not need instant results (only the Network News channels need "instant results" so that they have something to report). There is no reason why votes cannot be counted by hand with human supervision at each polling place, results combined and processed only after they hav
    • If you want to get an idea why some mechanical/electronic system of voting takes place here in America, consider the history of the United States Census Bureau, and then compare the complexity of a typical ballot in the USA on a general election.

      To sum up the history of the U.S. Census Bureau, they took almost 12 years to complete the 1880 Census, the last U.S. Census done entirely by hand. The census of the USA is required by the constitution to be completed every 10 years, so they (the Census Bureau) kn
  • Liberty Day (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is neat and all, but IMHO what this country really needs is a new holiday, the first tuesday in November, so nobody has any excuse not to show up and vote.

    Granted, I probably won't vote for the president, but I may vote in my local congressional and state/local races, if I can get home from work in time.

    Then again, what this country needs is a TON more holidays ;)
    • This is neat and all, but IMHO what this country really needs is a new holiday, the first tuesday in November, so nobody has any excuse not to show up and vote.

      And if election day is November 8th, by your system we're screwed.

      Just to be pedantic, election day is the First Tuesday after the First Monday in November. ;)

  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @08:13PM (#8945306) Homepage
    Any American who truly believes that democracy is highly important to this country should be worried about the trend in voting systems. The ballot box is where the rubber hits the road in a democracy. It should almost be sacred in a democracy. It should be easy to understand it's operation, and it should be implemented completely without involvement from special interests.

    I think it's almost ABSURD that a closed-source partisan company is building the ballot boxes. Even if there is no malicious intent, the system is totally open to malicious intent in the future.

    This is not a technical issue, it's an idealogical one.

    LS
  • I haven't seen the Open Voting Consortium listed on the OSCON site but I do know the Australian open source system from Software Improvements is on the Security agenda and they are presenting a paper on Confidence in Elections System Software. And a correction - OVC has not demonstrated a working system. They have demonstrated a concept demo of something they want to build if they can get funding. The Australian system has been in actual use since 2001.
  • But OVC's EVM 2003 system uses Python... I guess if you don't get your candidates names perfectly aligned, the whole ballot gets thrown out!

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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