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Iowa to test forms of Internet voting 205

dwh wrote to us about The Boston Globe reporting on Iowa's first steps towards Internet voting. It's tenative, with just putting computers by the boothes, but it's a first step. The article does a good job of addressing the pros and cons while talking about the first states, WA and VA which have tried it already. What do you folks think? Good or bad?
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Iowa to test forms of Internet voting

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  • Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf might be our opportunity to get the "people don't care enough about security" situation out in the open.

    Independent of whether the system is secure enough or not, I certainly agree that there are merits both to:

    • Making voting easier

      Since many elections are showing off lower and lower levels of participation, and

    • Keeping the effort required high enough

      ... so that people take their own vote seriously ...

    Highly automated voting apparatii are more strongly associated with Neilson ratings, and thus with determining whether Oprah or Jerry Springer are more popular...

    Of course, Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf could be a better candidate than some that have come along...

  • think that the security for internet voting is something that needs to be proven before it can hit mainstream. When I say security, I also mean the possible rigging of votes... they have to come up with a sure-fire way to prevent anyone from rigging votes...

    Pssst. Come here. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready?

    The current system ain't foolproof either. Now I have to kill you.

  • "To withdraw in disgust is not the same thing as apathy." -- Slacker
  • I don't care whether they're smart or dumb.

    I DO care whether they care enough about the issue to fight if they don't get their way.

    If they're willing to fight, I want them to have a say in which way it goes - and to see if there are so many OTHER people who care enough to fight and want it to go the other way that they'd lose.

    Then they won't fight - win or lose. The winners get their way without fighting. The losers aren't tempted to fight. And I don't have to fight OR dodge their bullets.

  • Most of the current votes are counted by computer. By a private organization. With closed-source software. And if you ask for a recount the same people shove the same data through the same computers.

    How do you know it hasn't been hacked already?

    Think about how many people YOU know voted for the winner of the last election - or any election since about 1968.

    Think about the political machines of distant history. Then think about the political machines of today.

    Remember how Kennedy beat Nixon by less than one vote per precinct in (Richard Daily the First's) Chicago?

    Remember how Willie Brown in San Francisco got his stadium ballot measure approved in a stunning upset turnaround when the last precincts were counted? (Remember him sticking out his tongue at the camera as he celebrated?)

    Doing it on the internet doesn't stop machine politics. It just lets everybody play with the machinery.

  • Definitely for Internet voting to be safe and private a lot of work has to be done, but I think it's definitely the way to go once they work out the details.

    For those complaining about the danger of fraud, there's definitely reason for concern, but do you realize how little checking there is now? I don't know if it's the same way everywhere, but in all the years I've been voting I've never been asked to in any way verify my identify, with ID or whatever. So although Internet voting would allow for a grander scale of fraud, there's not a lot of fraud protection in the current method.

  • Well, from the perspective of someone who's never voted...

    My vote doesn't count. I never like the major candidates. Anyone I wanted to win would have no chance whatsoever of winning. The only effect my vote would have is that they could say they got some tiny fraction of a percentage more of the vote. I consider that to be worthless. I also reject arguments that if everyone thought or didn't think how I feel that things would be somehow different. I can't sway how any substantial portion of people would decide to vote.

    Even if I did play the game of selecting the lesser of the two evils, or if someone I did like at least a little bit won, it wouldn't matter. The US government is hopelessly corrupt (yes, many others are far, far worse). I don't see any way to change it, and I'd rather just not think about it (courage to accept the things I cannot change, perhaps). I don't consider it to make any difference which particular politician votes yes on bad laws.

    And because of that, it's not worth my effort, or my time. My time is the most valuable thing I have.

    If voting became virtually effortless, I'd probably start. And I'm sure you're right, most people would not want someone like me to vote. If there were any chance of it happening, those in power would be terrified of everyone who thinks like I do voting in the same way. (But it's hopeless, we've already given up).

    I have no feeling of civic duty. At least I don't think I do. As far as I can recall, I've only heard it used as a reason one should vote. I don't know what the term is supposed to mean (I could guess, but that's worthless) - noone ever told me, I've never had to use it in a sentence, and when I look it on, I get this vague definition:

    civic duty n : the responsibilities of a citizen [syn: civic responsibility]

    So I look up civic responsibility:

    civic responsibility n : the responsibilities of a citizen [syn: civic duty]

    Sigh. How useful.
  • By the same token, if everyone votes, then you may find yourself with a bad candidate because a lot of people just voted for whose name they saw the most on signs around their town. I see it in Quebec regularly. The inteligencia in my area all vote Liberal, and the welfare class (50% unemployment in my hometown), all vote PQ. The result? Separatist victory, and endless complaints about how bad the government is with no thought to the fact they put them there.
  • This is very cool for lazy schlubs like me who have trouble trekking to the polling place, but on a more serious note, I think this would be good in "wide release" IF we also started implementing "None of The Above" options on ballots. I have trouble mustering motivation to vote with the dearth of good candidates and the prevalence of bipartisan crap, so I stay home and don't vote. I get the feeling I'm not alone in this. Imagine the collective weight of all the folks like myself having the power to vote NOTA suddenly doing so. Maybe then we'd get something done. Or maybe we'd get stuck in an endless cycle of NOTA voting and the country would collapse. Oh well.
  • Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather stand in a line, usher into a booth and make my selections. Personally, it feels better, makes me feel like I'm actually exercising my right to vote.

    I'd rather do it that way than sit and home and click my votes in. I'll leave that to Slashdot polls. :)

  • True, there are many possible problems with Online voting.

    One has to remember the current system isn't fullproof either. There has always been voter and election fraud. Question is, can an online system be made at least as safe from fraud as the current system is...

  • Interesting comment. But open source gives people full knowledge of the inner workings of a program, including security issues. While this is normally offset by the much faster response to fixing the holes than in the closed source community, it does give greater oppotunity to find, and even create holes. Imagine the resources a terrorist group would throw at finding every possible hole in our "holy" open source voting system. They could singlehandedly choose our president and congress. If it is closed, maybe even classified source, it will be much more difficult for them to find and exploit flaws. Besides, the server software would only be used by one organization. If its done right special client software wouldn't be needed. The only special software needed would be by the voting beracracy. This software would have to be kept secure. I'm sorry, but the risks of open source outweigh the benefits considering the resources that will be thrown into cracking it. Keep it simple, and closed. At least until it has a large installed base, at national, state, and local level and possibly even international customers. Then, maybe the number of users(thus potential developers) could be high enough for the open source speed of bug fixes to be high enough to counteract all the resources thrown into cracking it.
  • Internet Voting is supposed to add tons of convienience to the voting system, basically bringing the booth into your house. Increases in security have made this idea see more and more of reality lately.

    What it actaully does is allow uninformed, unmotivated people to shed their opinion on the future of the nation. The current system is set up so that only people who care enough to scoot their arses to the booth and cast their vote are allowed to vote. Internet voting allows people who don't really care and don't know much about the topics to not move but think to themselves, "Well, lets try some of this voting stuff."

    I'm not saying that all people who make it to the voting place are clued, but I am saying that all people who make it to the voting place had enough motivation to make it to the voting place.

    Summary: Internet voting allows people who don't care enough to make it to the booth to shape the future of the U.S.

    Feel free to disagree, but please don't call me a "ironic cynical fuck" again.
  • Don't we have the same problem with mail-in ballots? It would to me that e-voting is more secure (or could be made more secure) then mail-ins...


  • In addition to the points raised by the article and by posters here, I think that the biggest worry is still un-addressed. Even if the election board could set up a system that was uncrackable, and robust to DoS attacks, there is still the problem of voter fraud.

    What's to stop Steve Forbes from buying a lot of computers and setting up his own voting booths and busing people in? One reason there are election judges that sit and check your signature is to watch and make sure candidates and their aides don't just lead people in and punch the card for them. That's why there are rules about how close to voting places any campaign material can be. With internet voting, there's no way to protect the independence of the voting.

    All of this assumes that a technique can be developed that will verify a voter's identity while ensuring the anonymity of votes.

    Anything that increases the number of people who vote is good, but not if it makes it impossible to ensure that the voting is fair.
  • Do you trust the non-open-source, proprietary
    software that tabulates the ballots now?

  • That's where the REAL money in hacking/cracking is.
  • Once we can work past all of the security/paranoia issues associated with it, I tend to think that Internet voting is a great thing.

    For the most part, I only vote on the yearly elections, and even then, I am loathe to wander down to the local polling place.. Why? Because I don't like to stand in line for 1/2 an hour, and have to deal with crazy little punch card forms.

    Now.. If I could Internet vote.. and have notificiations of Elections emailed to me.. Then I could happily cast my cote during my lunch hour at work, or perhaps between my evening Quake3 Game.

    It's all about conveinience And if we can consider the drooling masses that hey, this is safe/secure and convienient, then we've got a winner on our hands.
  • You just keep saying that when your 80 and in an old folks home with no government benifits and no money. _I_ on the other hand will be up in my summer home somewhere in northern Canada (really nice place out there)because I was smart enough to vote in some really awsome retirement benefits and a really sweet 401k and a few nice mutuals.
  • I understand where you're coming from, but your view leads in an extremely dangerous direction. Taken to its logical end it means that not only can politicians vote on their own salaries, they can also vote on who can put them in office.

    The problem with living in a democratic republic is that you then have to live with the decisions made.

    Unfortunately, if the country voted to eliminate violently all blond people, it would have to be accomplished if we are to harbor any feelings of democracy. (Obviously not that simple, first laws and the Constitution would need to change - all doable through voting however).

    Freedom and democracy can not be matters of convenience! That attitude will train the government to think "we'll let you be absolutely free - do whatever you like, as long as it is what we want you to do"!!!
  • Or at least I think so. Once they make it secure enough that casting fraudulent votes is impossible. But isn't securing a system that much impossible? Isn't there always some way in? I'm sure they can come up with something *really* good, but will it ever be good enough?

    I don't know, but I hope they do - voting from my computer is a lot more convenient than getting in the car and driving 20 minutes, then waiting in line to vote.
  • I think secure network voting would increase voter participation in the U.S. Let's face it, people only vote if there are hyped up issues. But, if voting were secure and from the comfort of your own home, people would be inclined to do it. Just like the 'new messages' beckons you to read your email...


  • you forgot ventura's minigun (from Predator.)
  • I live in Iowa, and internet voting would be extremely handy for me, a busy college student. However, for it to really be effective, it would have to cover local elections too.

    I will admit that I have missed some local elections because I either didn't care, or was scared of the old ladies down at the fire station where the booths are.

    If I had the internet vote, I probably would have cast my ballot.

    Each candidate should also be allowed to put a 100 word message describing their positions and views on the pages. That way I know who I am voting for and why. Sure I am a Democrat, but it is not democratic to just vote all D's because I don't know the candidate.

    If there is internet voting, then they definitely have to help make voters make a more informed choice.

    There is also the issue of security. I would be concerned about possible breaches in the validity of the votes. Some cracker could get in there and do some good damage if the system was not very secure. It would be very terrible if a candidate got elected because they hired the right nerd.

  • Most of the framers of this seem to believe that the major issue here is security, but it seems like reliability is possibly even a bigger showstopper.

    No vote can be lost no matter what the circumstances. People are apathetic about voting once, so how would they feel about voting TWICE? For example, a power outage would be very problematic. So would a fire in the building which housed the computers. So would a hard drive crash. It seems like if you had a multi-site VMS or Tandem cluster, it would come close to working, but it is still not absolutely 100% (e.g. if there is a power outage in BOTH sites, which would be possible if an entire region was wiped out.), plus it would be VERY expensive.

    How reliable is the current system? If there is disaster on voting day (such as an earthquake or a power outage), is voting ever post-poned, due to likely low turnout, or loss of functionality of the voting machines? Has there ever been a disaster which affected the actual ballots cast (such as a building which held ballots catching fire?) Can computers compete with paper ballots insofar as reliability?

  • This is a great idea, they should force people
    to use computers to vote!

    The last time I voted, I was the only person there under the 3/4 century mark. I could hardly concentrate on scribbling in all the little boxes for the hissing of all the oxygen tanks. It appears old people have little else to do but sit around and vote all day.

    Hopefully the computers will help scare some of them off...
  • Iowa is a great state to live in for job opportunities and raising families. We also have one of the lowest unemployment rates in all of the United States.
  • I seem to remember something about Chicago... oh yeah, 'Vote Early, Vote Often'... heh... -Steve
  • One of the interesting comments was low voter turnout. Australia has had compulsory voting in Federal, State and Local elections, and Referenda since universal voting was introduced.

    I can hear the objections already:

    1. Forcing me to vote takes away my democratic right not to vote if I dont want to;
    2. If people don't want to vote, forcing them to vote will mean they wont take it seriously; and
    3. Yet another example of big brother and the universal conspiracy theory.

    Well, my views are:

    1. So, you think the right to vote is so unimportant, you don't bother to take advantage of what to many people, they have (or would be prepared to) fought for.
    2. Not from experience here. Most people take it seriously.
    3. Take three tablets, lie down, and see your doctor in the morning.

    Because we have always had to vote, the number of fringe lunatics in power is greatly reduced, and we have had for at least 25 years, minor parties and independants holding the "balance of power" in the Federal and most state upper houses, to, as one party founder said "Keep the bastards honest."

    I accept this wouldnot work in the US - no doubt enought fanatics will argue that doing this violates all articles of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and is just one step from fascism / communism / the end of civilisation as we know it.

    My 2 cents worth.

  • by Zico ( 14255 ) on Monday November 01, 1999 @01:55PM (#1571481)

    To me, if you (the general you, not you personally) can't take 30 minutes out of one day each year to vote, then you obviously aren't very committed to a particular candidate.

    When you consider that 49 percent of Americans are unable to name any one of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment*, I'm all for making voting something into which you actually have to put some effort.

    [*] Source: First Amendment Center; The Center for Survey Research and Analysis, University of Connecticut.


  • If I were in charge of things, I would have the government setup a series of pgp key servers. When people register to vote, they would then have to appear in a government office (only once) with valid photoid (eg: drivers license, state id card). They would then submit on floppy disk, or in print, their public key, which would then be manually entered into the governments key server system. Though this is somewhat unwieldy, it should pretty much eliminate people submitting false keys. The keys would then, of course, be used to submit signed ballots for each vote. The process is secure and the technology is proven, cheap, and easy to use.

    Now as for those people who think that internet voting will ruin the whole process (eg: people won't consider candidates properly), I ask this question: how much do people consider candidates with a traditional voting process. Has Bush Jr. made any real discussion about his policitical agenda yet? Last time I checked (which I confess, was a month of two ago), his campaign party was trying to simply push him based on his personality.

    When people pick presidents based on looks and pretty speeches rather than political track records and agendas, you know the system is seriously porked. And with a system like the one we have now, no more damage could be done to this monstrousity. On the other hand, there is a lot to be gained from a proper implementation of a digital/analog hybrid voting system. Indeed it would be easier for everybody to vote, but it is also the first step away from a representative-based government towards a government that truley represents the will of the people rather than the policital action committees.

    Finally, just to make things clear, I'm not saying that the old voting method should be eliminated. It should be kept as an alternative method for those who don't have net/computer access.

  • That is all well and true, but what I think most people don't realize is that our current voting system is wildly insecure. Hell, my wife changed her name five years ago, and she *still* gets voter pamplets in both names every year. As far as we can tell, she could vote twice without anyone being the wiser (using absentee ballots).

    When you register to vote this days, at least in California, there is almost no checking to ensure that you are a legal citizen and are not registered elsewhere. There was a big article on this in the San Francisco paper (I think) a year or so ago. Wish I could remember more, but the upshot of the whole thing was that it was pretty easy to register illegally.
  • If everyone came out to vote, we could ensure that the likelihood of a stupid candidate being elected would drop.

    I don't know about that... The whole definition of apathy is not caring. If you demand a choice from someone who doesn't care, you aren't going to get a lot of thought in the decision. I suspect that the likelihood of a stupid candidate would increase, as you get a bunch of people who are voting based on little more than name recognition. I mean, if someone isn't putting in the effort to go down to the polling station, or filling out an absentee ballot (which takes what, ten mintutes?) are we really going to expect them into doing any sort of research into what their voting on?

  • Look on the bright side: This would sure speed the transition to IPv6. If every little kid got his own IP address, we'd run out in no time! (Or would we? Anyone care to comment on exactly how many IPv4 addresses are out there still?)

    Hrm... Personal freedom or new IP protocols to play with? I'll have to think about this one...
  • I've said it before, and I'll say it again....


    Let those people who cant name a candidate vote informal, but make them at least show up to a voting booth and put in a ballot, no matter what it says.

    Wouldn't it solve all those problems with minorities not getting time off work to vote? Cirtainly make it easier to vote, provided it can be made secure, but don't make a mockery of universal sufferage.

    Q: How can a country be a democracy when less then half the population vote?
  • It's very good, and then some. And I say this from experience, not just as a guess.

    My school, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), was one of the first schools in the country to implement something like this, when we recently conducted our school government elections via online voting.

    UNO was lucky, in that we already had much of the infrastructure in place. For the past 3 semesters, we've been able to register for classes online, check grades online, and for the past 2 semesters, pay for tuition via a credit card, online.

    The authentication used for voting is the same as that required for the other online services. You have to login to a secure server using your student ID (Social Security Number) and your special 6 digit PIN number. This ensures that only registered students can vote, and that nobody can vote multiple times.

    Another major advantage to online voting is the ability to distribute additional information. For example, we had biographies for all of the candidates online, so they could be viewed when voting. This helped with one of the most common voter complaints, lack of knowledge about the candidates and what they stand for.

    We managed a 10% increase in voter turnout for the initial election, and an amazing 20% increase over that two weeks later in the Student President/Regent run-off election.

    I was hoping to be able to provide links to more information about how we implemented things, but I'm afraid I can't find them at the moment. However, if anyone is interested in getting in touch with the people who handled the online voting, drop me an e-mail at This really is a *good* thing, and well worth investigating further if you are considering it.
  • No, you are missing the point.

    The requirement should be (and currently is in california) getting your arse down to the voting booth.
  • I think that you have missed my point entirely. My point isn't that "smart" people should be allowed to vote, while "stupid" people shouldn't. Every adult citizen has an equal right to vote. I'm simply questioning the wisdom of doing something that encourages people to vote who don't consider elections important enough to take the time to actually go to a voting booth.
  • Well just buying votes you never know if the voter will really vote for the politian, with this new method, that could act as a more systematic way to win an election
  • Two points which are not taken into consideration by most people who favor Internet voting and other methods of expanding franchise and its convenience:

    1. Many people who vote have no idea who or what they are voting for. One name sounds more familiar to them, or, knowing nothing about either candidate, they decide purely based on the party affiliation. Some could argue the validity of party line voting, but can anyone defend a vote of ignorance? At least by requiring *some* effort, there is a self-selection of voters which tends to exclude those who know or care less about the issues.

    2. Many people who do not vote actively choose not to do so as a protest against what they feel is a fundamentally flawed system which effectively excludes real alternatives. What percentage of eligible citizens are registered to vote, and what percentage of registered voters turn out to do so. Perhaps low (and declining) numbers for these indicate an actual preference for "none of the above" and do not merely reflect an increase of apathy. Voting behavior closely conforms to public approval of the state itself, as opposed to individual candidates for office.
  • personally, i don't want everyone to vote. do you really want every uninformed idiot to cast a vote? there's already enough of them (you can tell by how much charisma is a part of what gets people elected). more brainless, emotion driven, non-thinkers is not what we need for voters.
  • No... duh assign everyone a digital signiture. Even cooler if this digital signature decoded in some way to reviel something unique but non private about you IE fingerprints or something. But I digress, assigned non mandatory (aka only used for serious/legal documents not like the SSN's have become) digital signature would be be perfect solutions to such problems.
  • A couple weeks after I cast my MSFT stockholders' votes via a secure website proxy, I read this article. I'm seeing a lot of nerds proclaim "but authenticating the votes as being genuine would be nigh impossible!"

    And you call yourself nerds? Nerds are supposed to say, "Hey! It's software! We can make it do anything, we can solve any problem!"

    What system do we have, today? Have you actually gone down to the local VFW or Baptist dance hall or Gymnasium? Watched a grandmother volunteer's wrinkled melanoma-covered hand as she followed the lines of barcodes and registered voters' names, until it fell on your own unprotected name and address? Wondered how a little checkmark near your name on this list was somehow more secure than what you could do in software?

    We stand on the edge of deciding if we can export many-bit security methods to other countries. The politicians' argument: but we can't let them use our robust security methods! Shouldn't we be using our robust security methods?

    For a voting method to succeed, it must match our system's ideals and exceed our current approach. It must exceed today's system's performance on security, voter's convenience, and counting accuracy.

    Security: You have to validate the fact that each cast vote represents one registered voter; that each voter can, at their will, avoid coercion of choice from third parties; that any found fraudulent votes can be redacted within a reasonable period of time; and that each voter can keep their vote private if they desire.

    (Partial solution: e-voter must specifically register for "license" to use e-vote methods; the use of said license implies the voter bears more responsibility over the e-vote security. Those who don't register for e-vote must use physical vote methods where government bears all responsibility over the p-vote security.)

    Convenience: You have to make sure that those voters who find the gymnasiums and vfw rooms to be more convenient CAN use them. If an e-voter finds a website more convenient, that the website is open and available. It can show your current and past vote history. You can *change* your vote up to the vote deadline.

    Accuracy: come on. Remember the old lady at the VFW using a checkbox? I'd trust a billion-transaction-per-minute server more than I'd trust Granny Mae.

  • Iowa isn't the first to think of this. Louisiana is also thinking about internet voting. Hopefully this means campaigns/issues will be more available on the net rather than having your favourite TV show blasted with election ads (eugh!). Heres the link to the Louisiana internet voting story:
  • No, I dont.

    You bring up a point... how do you filter out the tards? But hell, the vote represents the people, and if the people are mentally deficient... well.. . Yukon Ho!
  • The issue of course boils down to tha age old arguement of privacy vs convieneience. Sure it would be nice to vote online, pretty convieneient too, I bet it would even bring out more voters, but how do you make sure people woudnt vote more than once? Well I guess you would have to assign a unique identifier to everyone, so that you could tell whether someone has voted or not. Unfortunately it would be easy to modify it slightly to tell exactly WHO someone has voted for. Even if you could get around that, theres still the issue of what else this id would get used for, would everyone start requiring it like some larger version of social security?

    I think that the best way to handle this would be to give people the option to sign up to vote online at an actual polling station, that way they could set up a voting account with all the requred security, plus then they can check to make sure that you're you. All in all I think that if you can trust people to bank online or have online trading accounts, you can have good enough security for online voting. After all, a virtual vote is basically the same as a virtual dollar, i.e. not physically there.

    The physical possibility of voting is not really the issue, the technical kinks can and will be worked out, the real issue is wheter or not you trust the people running the polls and the people running for election not to rig it somehow. I mean, if Al Gore invented the internet, he probably could hack the voting servers so that he would win.

  • If there are write ins anything is possible. i Remember time held a man of the year poll a while back. with a few voting scripts we managed to get dust puppy to the top. I'de hope there would be mroe security with a governmentvote, but there still could be problems. For instance if there was a call for a revote how would that be done? Have everyone vote again?
  • Grr... why should we force uneducated hordes of tards to vote? Why not have the select individuals who actually are motivated enough to get off their arses and down to the polls vote? They are the only ones who care enough, they are the ones who should make the decisions.
  • by libertas ( 70432 ) on Monday November 01, 1999 @02:21PM (#1571509)
    People don't vote because they don't care about the outcome. They don't care about the outcome because they don't see any difference between the two parties that are built into the system or between the carefully coiffed career politicians.

    Occasionally someone breaks through and excites interest (like Jesse Ventura), showing what might happen if there were a connection between government and the people.

    The system is broken. The Internet won't fix it.
  • I don't get to vote; see my nationalistic web page [] as well as where I live. []

    In some respects, I'm just as glad that I don't have a vote, as the choice between the options of "I claim I didn't inhale!", "I will not answer whether or not I used coke," and "I'll bodyslam my honorable opponents!" doesn't admit a clearly reasonable choice.

    Based on that and on local "fun and games," I'm not particularly surprised that the voter turnout for Dallas' last election was, for a city of nearly a million people, what I used to consider poor turnouts for elections of school board trustees back in Ottawa...

    The problem isn't merely of ignorance; apathy can arise when it's not clear that the vote cast will be of any useful value...

  • by AndyL ( 89715 )
    My problem isn't that it's easier to vote. It's that I have no faith that they'll even try to educate voters on what choices there are. The less effort required to vote the lower percentage of people who strongly care about what's going on. Not that the middle-of-the-road type people don't have a right to a vote, but when we see an election or issue we don't care about we're more likely to choose one out of fancy, or who's name we recognise most.

    Also as far as I can see no one seems to have mentioned that Internet voting would effectivly limit voting to the middle and upper classes. People who don't have or don't want computers or Internet access would still have to fight traffic, wake up early, and stand in line while the old lady in front of them makes a fuss about something or anouther. So we'd effectivly be doubleing or tripleing the number of upper and middle class voters while keeping the lower class votes at the same level. That's going to scew results.

    If we took this one step further it could be an even greater tool for democracy but it would have even more risks. What if we were alowed to vote on the issues themselves and not just the politions? This would definetly reduce voter frustration. But it could be extremly easily skewed simply by rewording the first paragraph and even the first line of whatever we were voting on.

    I sugest that when Internet voting becomes available that a mechinism should be employed have short boiler-plate summaries of each polition's views and histories. Not just autobiographies either. Watchdog orgs should be in on this to. And this should be on the screen that comes up BEFORE the voting page.
    I also think that when Internet voting shows up Telephone voting should also become available. Otherwise you're cutting out people without Computers. (pay-phones are everywhere.)
  • I was referring to the first statement. Nothing against you. Sorry for the mis-communication.
  • First of all, I think that there should be some effort required to vote. As much as I sometimes worry about "the other side" winning a given vote, it scares me even more that some apathetic dork might just randomly pick a choice on a ballot he doesn't really care about and hasn't even made a pretense of informing himself about. If "the other side" actually has more supporters, fine, I'll grump off into the corner and hope to do better in the next election. But if someone wins based on convincing enough lazy people to vote for something they don't know a thing about, well, that's just downright frightening.

    But even more frightening is the notion of duress at the polls. At a physical poll, they do not permit multiple people to be in the same polling booth. Period. What this means is, that no matter how much someone pays you and no matter what sort of extortion they hold over your head, they can't buy your vote because they can't know for sure how you voted. There is this danger with absentee balloting, but as long as that is only granted in "special cases", it isn't as much of a worry. With internet voting? The mind reels at the sort of thing that could happen. Hey you, wanna make $500? Come into this shop and click these buttons. Easy! Hey you, peon, you're not getting a raise this year unless you come in here and vote for my candidate. Hey honey, come into the family room, you do agree with me on who to vote for, right?


  • Did anyone ever read the article over at Dr. Zaius about internet voting? It was a hypothetical situation in which Chewbacca was elected President of the US and Spiro Agnew, although dead, was elected Vice-President because the majority of internet users found the fact that his name is an anagram for "Grow a Penis" infintly amusing.

    Here's the URL

  • I have seen people saing that this is a bad thing because it will be the ``special intrest groups'' which get this power. This is a pretty stupid statment because it presupposes ``all special intrest groups are bad.'' Specail intrest groups are extreamly diverse group and everyone likes some of them and dislikes some others.. so please lets talk about specific examples when we make statments like that.

    Example: 1) Industry special intrest groups may loose a LOT of power since they hold power by making direct campain contrabutions, but this is by no means clear since advertising (internet or otherwize) will remain extreamly importent. 2) The Pro- and Anti- Gun Lobys which are primarily people based (as far as I know) will pobable both be effected in the same way.. which will not shift the balance of power.

    Special Intrest Groups are here to say.. and many of them, like the ACLU and EFF, are extreamly importent to the future of this country. These groups are especially importent when you consider the homogonous polytical landscape that the two party system creates.

    I think the answer is really to take advantage of the specail intrest groups by doing thing like making it easier for them to express their ideas to the voters. The internet voting system could provide links to special intrest group score card pages which assessed the candidates. This would be a wonderful research tool for voters who were tring to make a decission about candidates. These groups have a much longer memory then individuals and can tell you all sorts of things that you need to know. Ok, so some of them can be pretty moronic, but one would hope that people would notice eventually.

  • It might be insecure however the effort required to change the outcome of a large election is enormous. Stuffing several ballots is easy...half a million is going to be near impossible to do without being detected. That is the danger of computer raises the possibility of massive voter fraud without the machinery and expense of a nationwide ballot stuffing campaign and the associated risk
  • Ok heres some water before you burst into flames. Ok think about this, ignore everything you've heard about open source vs. closed source for a moment and consider this situation on its own merits. Open source is secure due to a large number of people reviewing the code and finding holes and fixing them. For the most part, OSS developers code for software they use. Noone but governments will be using the voting server software, which will drastically decrease the number of developers looking at the code to try to improve its security. Due to the great significance of a voting server, there will however be a huge amount of resources spent by terrorist groups, rogue states like Iraq and North Korea, potential superpowers like the PRC, militia groups, maybe even some fanatics in more mainstream special interest groups. Or if one of the political parties is expecting a losing election... Simply put if just the US, or even one of the states, implements an open source voting system the resources devoted to finding and fixing security wholes will be dwarfed by the resources devoted to finding and exploiting security holes. With a closed source program, the government will have control over who sees the code, so that any security holes will require binaries to run through trial and error which will take a much longer time to find and exploit bugs than in open source. With proper security on the servers and strong physical security at server sites, it will take a huge investment of resources to even get binaries to test in isolation, away from IP traces, connection drops, etc... By the time the bad guys get the binaries, the good guys will have a head start finding and fixing the obscure bugs that inevitably will slip though. Maybe when the software is widely deployed, throughout the fifty states, through hundereds of municipalities, and in a few (trusted) foreign countries, the resources that Open Source can bring to bear on finding and fixing security flaws will be greater than that expended on cracking the system. Until then, anything that might give enemies of US national security an edge, like the source code, must be kept extremely tightly controlled. Classified Top Secret/US Only, and binaries For Official Use Only-Releasable to Britain, Canada, maybe Austrailia. This is something that if deployed, and compromised, could cause the hammer and sickle to rise over Washington. While I would accept that if it was the will of the people, as I hope you would, I also hope you would be horrified if it was because the wrong people got ahold of the software and cracked it. Closed source is the only way to go, at least in the beginning.
  • Not to mention the fact that the routing for such a system would be near impossible.

    Given about 20 years of moves we would have 270 millin IPs scattered at random around the country.
  • What's the point of requiring people to vote? You're just going to get a bunch of votes from uniformed people. At best, you'll get a random distribution of uninformed votes, which doesn't affect anything; at worst, the uninformed will all vote for the guy who had the most eye-catching commercials, even if s/he's a total idiot.

    Q: How can a country be a democracy when less then half the population vote?

    Because the population has chosen, via ratification of the Constitution, to have the option of not voting.
  • While I would personally find internet voting easy and convenient, I'm completely and utterly against the idea, for the forseeable future.
    • I'm from Australia, where voting is compulsory. Whilst the policy isn't always that popular (particularly with the conservative parties who don't like it because it encourages the poor to vote . . . ), it means that participation rates are usually around 95%. People who don't want to cast a vote for a candidate can still do so by drawing obscene cartoons on their ballot papers instead of voting, but it requires people to make the effort. The participation-rate problem in the US context does not therefore apply.
    • Political parties tend to be full of, well, politicians, or aspiring politicians. There aren't many network security analysts amongst the ranks of our major political parties, but there are plenty of people who can look and can count. Therefore, it's much easier to demonstrate to the public and the parties that a paper-based system is transparent.
    • Whilst it might be possible, in a technical sense, to demonstrate a system that guaranteed both security and anonymity, it's very difficult to convince the public, who are alternately blithe about revealing their innermost details, and then paranoid that "hackers" are going to steal their life savings if they turn on their computer, that such a system would be anonymous and secure.
    • In a voting booth, the only person who sees your vote is you. With home Internet voting, your partner, children, or parents will probably see who you vote for.
    • Grandma's not likely to be using the Internet comfortably, for a while yet at least. Nor are many Aboriginals, the unemployed, and other disadvantaged groups.
    • Software is inherently unreliable - despite people's best efforts. What would happen if a glitch caused votes to be lost or wrongly attributed?
    • The benefits in vote processing are marginal anyway. In Australia, at least, most election results are known within 4 hours of the polls closing (except when the election is so close that postal votes come in). So we'd know the result within 5 minutes of polls closing? Big deal! Watching election coverage is kind of fun anyway (particularly watching the losing side start to squirm when they see that their ticket's been punched).

    I see few arguments in favour of Internet elections, and considerable ones against. There are other ways to tackle the issue of participation rates.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm tired of the "voter apathy" argument. I can think of two easy way to increase voter turnout:

    • Voter Lotto! Cast your ballot and get your special lottery ticket. One voter *will* receive $1 million!
    • Death Row Lotto! Cast your ballot and get your special lottery ticket. One voter *will* get to pull the switch on the next death row execution (or force the governor to commute the sentence to life-without-parole).

    As some tabloid editor once remarked, the three most beautiful words in the English language are "Win Free Sex!" The state can't give you sex (except Nevada), but they can give you the other top attactors: money and violence.

    Or we could all just grow up a bit and realize that 20 minutes to vote in a relatively fraud-free environment is a damn cheap price to pay for something that is literally priceless. Election fraud *is* a real problem; Costilla county, Colorado, is a classic example from this decade, and many people think the "motor voter" law has resulted in fairly serious election fraud in California. The fact that no fraud has been seen with this system proves exactly one thing: nobody gave a damn. Use the system for something more controversial than county dog catcher and you *will* see election fraud.

    (E.g., in the last state election the difference in votes for the two major candidates for governor were less than 1% of the total cast. Anyone who thinks that one of the candidates in the next election will know that a little bit of initiative, ahem, may be enough to ensure that God's candidate wins.)

    coyote-san on soon
  • There's a dirty little secret to republics: Their stability comes from the outcome of the election being a close model of the outcome of a civil war.

    If the election models the civil war closely enough, power blocks who lose an election by a large margin will not try to reverse it through force of arms, because they know they won't win. And they won't try to reverse a close one because they know that will bring out a lot of fence-sitters and add them to the other side - so they'll probably still lose, and even if they win the war will be close, and thus long, bloody, and probably more costly than losing on the original issue.

    This works only as long as the elections are perceived to be reasonably honest and the electorate to be a reasonably close approximation to the recruitable civil warriors. And that's how it was in this country for a long time.

    The registration process was about as hard as getting to a recruiter or an organizing cabal. The franchise started out being held only by landowners - i.e. the people who had fought the Revolution - and was progressively extended to various groups after they had shown themselves capable of organizing mass violence.

    Non-landowning white males got it early - after the Whiskey and Shay's rebellions. Women got it after they took axes to bars in the Temperance movement. The blacks had it handed to them as part of the Civil War and had it pulled back by corruption - then got it for real significantly after the freedom rides (which didn't work but provided a nice face-saving) but immediately after they burned the cities in '68. The 18-20 year olds got it right after the Vietnam Un-War protest marches graduated to riots, bombed buildings, and the National Guard firing into student crowds (with the implication that the shooting wouldn't be one-sided if this continued).

    Getting down to the polls was about as hard as getting to a militia's muster. So even though voters were members of groups capable of fighting a war, they often wouldn't vote if they didn't have strong feelings on at least one candidate or issue in the election.

    But lately we've got a few problems with the model:

    Thanks to motor-votor, anybody can fill out a postcard and become registered - without producing I.D. - as many times as he thinks he can get away with. In some states, anyone can get mail-in absentee ballots, with no excuse beyond "I want to", and never attend a physical poll. So it's a lot easier to vote than to fight.

    Checking I.D. at polls has been inhibited by various court rulings. So fraud abounds at the polls. And the motor-voter and absentee ballots make it easy for any power group to create as many bogus voters as they dare, and for whom they can come up with mailing addresses. (A single address in Berkeley CA was recently found to have several thousand absentee voters "living" there.)

    Since 1968 progressively larger sections of the population are being disarmed by "gun control" legislation. The amount of this disarmament is wildly different among different ideological, cultural, and ethnic groups - and thus among different power blocks. (Fortunately for stability, the cultural groups remaining armed - so far - are also some of the strongest supporters of paying attention to elections.)

    And the count itself is in doubt. For decades much of the tally have been counted by private contractors using proprietary software, with procedures and source code not open to public scrutiny, reading electronic ballots whose raw data is not available to those who would like to check the results.

    So we're already in trouble on the stability front, due to the failure of the elections-as-model in fact. The failure in-perception is not as far advanced, which may have been why conflicts have been averted up to this point.

    Internet voting could change that in two ways, both destabilizing. It could further weaken the correlation between voting and willingness to fight, by making voting so much easer. And it could break the perception of the elections as an accurate model, by raising the public perception of opportunity for electronic fraud. This is a hazard regardless of whether it actually increases or decreases the actual amount of fraud.

    The only way I see internet voting as a positive force is if it results in an improvement in the actual accuracy of the electronic count, by bringing scrutiny to and improvements in
    the process and reducing fraud that might be occurring in the current system. This could result in fewer groups of potentially powerful citizens having their oxen gored by government, and thus decrease both the motivation for instability and actual responsiveness of government to its citizens' wishes.

  • > I think the best part of internet-based voting is the reduction in
    > voter apathy.

    Why do you say that? How does making something easier make it more

    > Personally, I think [apathy] is one of the biggest problems we have
    > nowadays.

    No, apathy is the symptom of the problem: an electoral system that
    makes an individual vote almost worthless, especially if that vote is
    for a position outside of the Democratic-Republican Party.

    > If everyone came out to vote, we could ensure that the likelihood of
    > a stupid candidate being elected would drop.

    First, it would ensure nothing but that everyone came out to vote.
    Just because everyone votes doesn't mean that they will be primarily
    influenced by substantive arguments of an intelligent candidate. If
    anything, it would be more likely that a "stupid candidate" who
    panders to the lowest common denominator would get the votes. Just
    look at network television.

    Second, making it easier to vote in the past hasn't decreased apathy
    or voter turnout, at least not in the medium-to-long term. Making
    cosmetic changes to voting systems will do little to decrease apathy.

    What I think would help to reduce voter apathy would be to radically
    redefine Congressional districts (to start at the top). Combine each
    states Congressional districts as follows:

    1-5 Representatives - 1 district
    6 Representatives - 2 3 Representative districts
    7 Representatives - 1 3 Representative district, 1 4 Representative district.
    8 Representatives - 2 4 Representative districts
    9 Representatives - 1 4 Representative district, 1 5 Representative district.
    10 Representatives - 2 5 Representative districts
    11 Representatives - 1 3 Representative district, 2 4 Representative districts.
    12+ Representatives - 1-4 4 Representative districts, remainder 5 Representative districts.

    In each district, proportional voting would be used - each voter would
    get as many votes as the district had Representatives. The voter
    could use all of the votes on one candidate, or spread them among as
    many candidates as the district had Representatives. This gives a
    segment of voters as small as 20% of the voting population a voice, a
    voice they do not currently have.

    I think that a system like this is used in most European countries. I
    think that it's worth a shot here.

    > As well, we could vote on many more small issues. The government
    > could always "put an issue to the people" and not inconvenience us.

    Is this a good thing? Would votes like this mean that the best
    positions would win, or the best marketed positions? One goal of a
    representative form of government is to have representatives who can
    devote the time necessary to an issue to make an informed decision in
    the long-term best interests of their constituents. While our current
    electoral system causes most representatives to look no more long-term
    than the next election, and be heavily swayed by the best interests of
    their campaign contributors rather than that of their constituents,
    putting issues "to the people", especially in a manner designed to
    "not inconvenience us", is a formula for disaster.

  • Before any type of computerized system is rolled out, the system would have to develop some type of anti-fraud/identification system that goes beyond "enter your voter ID number". Webcams, fingerprint analysis, or even reverse dialups could be used to authenticate users and voting locations, and one of these must be in place before the politicos authorize anything like this.

    Why?? None of these wild ID schemes are present now, so why suggest them only when the subject of Internet voting comes up?

    Also, all of your ID suggestions would violate my right to have my vote remain secret.
  • This is an excellent point. The real problem is an apathy deeper than getting people to the polls (virtual or real) to vote. Many people just don't care about politics for one reason or another. Why should they vote?
  • Possible but unlikely.

    Suppose we had any sort of identification number which is availible to the government. As some government employees (who probably aren't paid enough so that a bribe won't tempt them) have access to these numbers. As once you are inpossesion of the unique identification numbers/passwds the automated nature of internet voting would make it relativly eassy to commit the fraud.

    There is a solution. Issue every citizen a smart card containing a non-recoverable private key (the smartcard only signs documents). Then each citizen must physically register their public key at a government station. As the private key is never revealed only theft of the msartcard itself with suffice to allow fraud making the system seemingly more secure then todays voting.

  • Before any type of computerized system is rolled out, the system would have to develop some type of anti-fraud/identification system that goes beyond "enter your voter ID number". Webcams, fingerprint analysis, or even reverse dialups could be used to authenticate users and voting locations, and one of these must be in place before the politicos authorize anything like this.

    Why?? None of these wild ID schemes are present now, so why suggest them only when the subject of Internet voting comes up?

    Also, all of your ID suggestions would violate my right to have my vote remain secret.
  • Personally, I like the idea of internet voting...

    However, before that happens, I'd like to see some web sites get comprehensive about getting out information on candidates and issues. Where can I go to read an in depth written interview of a local candidate? Where can I go to read, in detail, all of George Bush's views on various topics, and his answers to my questions? Where can I go to see voting records?

    I'm sure there are places on the net for this, but I don't know them (well, I have been to congress's site, but reading about all the stupid things they voted on was absolutely mind-numbing!). How about slashdot interviewing some candidates? Hell, that's not even slashdot's job, but someone should do it, and I think the slashdot style interview woud be great for that.

  • Seeing "voting" and Quake3 in the same sentence made me think... Remember the DOOM system administration idea?
    Imagine a DOOM frontend to voting...
  • You made some very good points, however:
    • Grandma's not likely to be using the Internet comfortably, for a while yet at least. Nor are many Aboriginals, the unemployed, and other disadvantaged groups.

    This is a non-argument; Many grandmas aren't likely to go down to the booth either, because they're too old to go there. Many people can't read so can't vote. The "disadvantaged groups" can go down to the booth anyways (if they already could).
    • Software is inherently unreliable - despite people's best efforts. What would happen if a
      glitch caused votes to be lost or wrongly attributed?

    Nonsense, can check, doublecheck and triplecheck. Votes can't get lost if you store 'em on multiple servers. Can't be wrongly attributed if you write the right routine. That's not a very hard thing to do, would take a good programmer less than an hour ;). Could even come up with a system where the voter gets confirmation from a different server then he/she voted on.

    You did, however, miss one argument against online voting, you can't touch it, can't prove it, it's not on paper anywhere. Like emails can hardly be evidence in a lawsuit (can easily produce them), it'd be quite hard to see an electronic vote and say, "Yeah, this one is really mine, look, it's my signature".

    We (In the Netherlands) have by computer for years now (not online, but at the booth) so you can't touch it either. The biggest advantage is that the votes are processed way faster, we know the result an hour after the last booth closes.
  • I'm not sure that internet-based voting could decrease apathy per se (see ucblockhead's comment). But it certainly could increase turnout by making voting much easier.

    I used to be an economist. We have a pretty cynical and simplisitc view that humans take action when Marginal Benefit > Marginal Cost.

    Now the Marginal Benefit of voting is feeling like a good citizen, helping your favorite candidate get elected, etc. I.e. non-apathy.

    The cost of voting is mostly the opportunity cost of time, and here the internet could make an obvious difference: vote from home, without a wait!

    Personally, I'm so jaded that, if I was asked to (A) commute and wait an hour to pull the lever for, say, Bush or Gore, or could (B) watch two episodes of Seinfeld, I'd vote to veg. It's a protest vote, honest. But if voting just took some mouse clicks, I would at least take the trouble to write-in Pigasus.

    I'm not sure that internet voting by itself would make us care more (on the left-hand side) but it could increase turnout by making voting very non-costly to individuals (on the right-hand side). So I agree with Rayban that turnout should increase, especially for small issue where
    marginal benefit is low.

    But the broader, long-term effects of the internet on the left-hand side are less clear. Will the net foster digital democrary make us better informed and active citizens? Or will it deter democracy by making government less relevant or citizens less involved with the physical world? What do you folks think?
  • Do you want them voting on issues they hardly care to comprehend...because they will.

    Yes, I do. If you accept our political system as the one under which you wish to live, you should too. If you had written a few more sentences, you'd have arrived at the thought that we should create an aristocracy which would have the exclusive right to vote. A bit over to the wacky side lies Nazism.
  • I get kind of a democracy rush over standing in line with my neighbors, going behind that little plastic curtain, marking the ballot, handing it to the judge, and seeing it go into the ballot box.

    BTW, I've voted by machine, punch card and pencil marked ballot and by far the most satifying to me is the last one.

    OTOH, Internet voting is worthy of exploration and thought. If it can me made at least as secure as a Chicago voting machine, (and I'm a former Chicagoan) I'd consider it.

    Out here in sunny CA, we can vote absentee without any reason other than we want to so you don't have to go out if you don't want to or can't, right now even without the Internet.

    I'd still miss the neighbors in line. It's the only time I get away from the computer.
  • I could easily write a script that would keep sending the same web form info over and over again. Maybe only until the next voter got into the booth, but I can take my time too.

    If there ever is a voting client for ip, I hope it's made by uber-trustworthy NSA geniuses.

  • Hi!

    Internet voting is just as dumb an idea as Oregon's experiment with vote-by-mail.

    Lovely concept. Stupid idea. Permit me to explain.

    I'm a geek. But I'm also involved in politics. The first election I volunteered for was an election for mayor of Boston in 1967. My (widowed) mother used to date Mike Dukakis. I worked for the McGovern National Campaign Committee in 1972, and have worked on political campaigns every year since 1977. I have spent 6 years as an elected official.

    Elections, by their very nature, must be a public process. Each and every voter must personally appear in the polling place--or place his or her signed ballot on a public bulletin board in that polling place (absentee ballots) or the system is open to fraud. When you go to vote tomorrow (today!) you will step up to a poll worker. That worker will announce your name out loud--ideally so everyone in the room can hear it. One or more other people will check your name off lists of registered voters. And somebody might--possibly ask if you're the Joe Schlibozel who lives downstairs from that nice Hispanic couple, the Rodriguezes?

    The first pollworker is a member of one party. The second pollworker at the table is a member of the opposite party. The person who asks a question may have noticed that you haven't voted before, and it is unusual for new voters to turn up in a general election when no federal offices are at stake. What all of them are doing is keeping the system honest.

    Internet voting (and vote-by-mail) make cheating so easy it will take all the fun out of stealing elections. One of the interesting facts of politics is that you can go down the voter rolls (sometimes called "street lists") and you'll discover that there are 200 registered Republicans at one address; and there are 325 registered Democrats at another address. What gives? Both addresses are nursing homes--and there's either a resident or an employee who has signed every single resident up. They come around with the form all filled out, possibly after medications are dispensed, and ask for a signature. "We need this to help you vote, Mr. Schlibozel...." So the addled Mr. Schlibozel signs the form.

    It's a registration form, plus a request for an absentee ballot. When the ballots come in the mail the helpful person visits Mr. Schlibozel and asks him who he wants for president. And most probably *will* punch the block for Mr. Schlibozel's choice. But Mr. Schlibozel almost certainly will not have an opinion on the ballot questions, or the judicial candidates, or the local municipality candidates--"so we'll just leave those blank, okay, Mr. Schlibozel?"

    Later, after all 325 absentee ballots have been filled out and signed, the helpful volunteer goes back through the stack. And punches the blocks for all the "right" judicial candidates and municipal candidates, and ballot questions, etc.

    Take it from me--if you see an election with thousands of absentee ballots in a single congressional district, there is vote fraud.

    You can catch that kind of fraud. But vote-by-mail and Internet voting make it too easy to cheat. Suppose you run a flophouse (nowadays we call them SRO--single room occupancy hotels). You have the flotsam and jetsam of life--and chances are several are behind on their rent. You offer a choice--sign this blank ballot, or pay up on your rent. Or sign this blank ballot, and I'll turn your water back on.

    And suddenly we're back in the Victorian era, when wealthy landlords in England "owned" seats of Parliament because they effectively controlled enough of the voters to guarantee the results of any election.

    The problem of "voter apathy" is bogus--there is no such problem. We do have a similar problem: "motor voter" registration laws. It is now practically impossible to renew your driver's license without also registering to vote. That doesn't mean that you actually show up to be involved--you just got your license renewed, and the DMV handed you the form. The same people as always still show up to vote--but the motor voters stay home. The "turnout rate" is lower--but in fact the same number of voters as always has come to the polls. Bag motor voter, stop wasting money at the county registrar's, and keep the public voting system intact.

    John Murdoch
    (In point of fact, I am aware of a number of methods to steal elections--but I have never actually used any of them.)
  • Also, all of your ID suggestions would violate my right to have my vote remain secret.

    Really? When I go vote, the guy running our local polling place always asks for my ID, and checks it against a list to make sure I'm who I say I am, and that I'm where I need to be. How is that any different? I am forced to authenticate myself at the polling place, but my ballot remains anonymous, what's the difference?
  • ... anything that increases participation in democracy must be a good thing, so making it easy by allowing it online seems like a smart move. Also, anything which lowers the cost of voting so that we don't have such big tax bills is also good.

    Some caveats though: I hope that they don't get too carried away with this. Not everyone has net access, and I'd hate to see a person's right to vote depend on their having a computer. Also, I think it'll be a while before it catches on globally: here in the UK Internet access, although growing, still costs a fair bit (local phone rates and monthly ISP charge), so one could argue that such a mechanism would favour the better off...

  • My history teacher was talking about that Friday. Young people never vote, and so that's why you would never see a politician in the high school auditorium, trying to get the seniors to vote for him/her. But they will campaign really heavily in the retirement communties (and there are a lot in Florida) because old people vote. So that's why social security and medicare are always such big topics, politicians think that that is what is most important to the people who voted them to office.
  • Posted by cookieman.k:

    I think you are right. IP assigned at birth is privacy invading stuff at best.
    Greets from:
  • I think I mentioned both of these in a previous Slashdot voting article, but they're important points people need to think about every time this subject comes up.

    First: It's important to guarantee that each person is alone when (s)he votes. I know several people who come from families where an overbearing family leader would decide (s)he knows how the family members ought to vote, and either vote in the name of each family member, or demand to see what votes were submitted. I'm sure most of you know someone in that situation too. Do you want that person to have to spend even a moment thinking about whether casting a free vote is more important than "not causing problems" at home? How many people like that do you think there are just in the USA, let alone in all the countries that have free elections? Do you want all those votes to lean in favor of pushy scumbags who assume their opinions are vastly more important than free elections? And that's just what would happen immediately from everyday jerks. People with actual reasons to shove you around would come up with much worse things soon afterwards.

    Second: I see some people here claiming they'd vote more often if it wasn't inconvenient. Because of the controlled environment a polling place offers, I think it's still the best place for 99% of citizens to vote. You don't misplace your ballot under your bed. You don't use last year's ballot from under your bed by mistake. You don't have to remember some password to be able to exercise your rights. You don't have to somehow prove that you didn't already vote by some other method. You just appear, prove you're you the same way you would to anyone else, and you get to control your government. It's not that much work, really. Today's the first Tuesday in November. I don't know if there's an election in my town today, but you can be sure I'll drive by my polling place and see if there's a sign. Not to be too rude to the pro-convenience folks, but: Unless you've been seriously injured fighting for freedom, you've probably received more of democracy than it's received of you. If you think that standing around for a few minutes once a year is too much work to collect on your rights, that's fine with me; I usually don't mind getting my way instead of yours.

  • I recognize that my comments are peripheral, but I'd like to raise a danger that is neglected in much of the internet voting/cyberdemocracy postings. The issue which James Madison (aka Publius in the federalist papers) called "the Factious Minority".

    For any given issue, there is a small minority of people who care passionately about the issue, and a great majority who are apathetic. This is a 'design feature' of our government. In order for an issue to become a bill, then a law, then a regulation, that factious minority must persuade (through free speech) a majority.

    Apathy is part of the process. Apathy is the check that the populace exerts on the government. Fanatics can defeat apathy through short term appeal to emotions - whether that is demagogery or advertising. However the government is intentionally slow to act, which counteracts the demoagogery.

    OK - with that as background, (sorry - too longs - got into my old college professor mode), my point is this. The Internet, and modern communications media provide us the time to shorten the cycle time of the government process. To submit more "small issues" to the people through the internet. But the cycle time was never intended to be short. Short cycle time is a good thing in consumer products, but not in laws.

    Imagine if you will that someone had submitted new laws to the voters after Columbine? Remember the bill in Pennsylvania which gave the principal of a school the right to commit any student to an insane asylum without review or accountability? - and no obligation to inform parents (indeed, immunity from lawsuit if the power was exercised frivolously!) [N.B. I don't have a citation for this - this may be an internet myth, but I believe I read it on Slashdot, so I reguard it as potentially credible)]. Point being that submitting small issues directly to the voters can be a bad thing - people want to "do something" quickly - to respond to horror and tragedy. But Laws should be made by deliberation, not through emotionqal reaction.

    Final note - I'm not saying tha tdemocracy or cyberdemocracy is bad. I have reservations about the implementation, based on the fact that it will affect one of the design features of our government.

    The Federalist Papers are a very good and important read for anyone who wants to change the way we do government - as is the Articles of Confederation.
  • When you're at the polls, nobody can tell how you voted. If you're at home or at work, others can make sure you vote the "right" way. Or just throw a big "internet votng party" with lots of booze and good times for one candidate.

    The Iowa experiment simply looks like a way of tallying the votes over the Internet. Not particularly interesting.

    In any case, the reason that folks don't vote is that they feel, rightly or wrongly, that their vote won't make a difference to anything they care about. The "inconvienence" of going to the polls is simply a convienent excuse.

  • * First: Many folks don't know what a public key is. Most of them won't want to learn, and won't bother.

    * Second: Many folks have computers nowadays which, perversely enough, don't have floppy disks.
    Also, what filesystems? MINIX? FAT? ext2?

    * Third: Candidates have been using personality *forever*. It's gotten far worse since the invention of television (think JFK), but it's always been there. However, most people who are polled, wouldn't vote; that could change significantly.

    * Fourth: The people have, in general, neglible will; it's not like it's difficult to write a letter to a politician or editor, or cast a vote. Voting is correlated with motivation. The system largely does represent the wishy-washy will of the people, in its own way...
  • So how do we insure a secret ballot with Internet voting? What stops a union from pressuring its members to vote the party line at work while others look on? That may be a bit far fetched, but I am certain there would be numerous cases of husbands making sure their wives voted the same way they did. Sure it would be illegal, but I suspect that domestic vote watching would be quite common.

    I would not be surprised if Internet voting were ruled unconstitutional based on the above problem.

    I also agree with others that have commented that it is important to make voting slightly awkward so that people take it seriously and only vote if they believe that the outcome matters.
  • Do you mean "revote", which only happens in significant cases of voter fraud, or "recount" ?
  • Computers by the booth? Man, we've had that for years!

    On a more serious note, I think that (if it'd be secure) internet voting would be a great thing, more and more people tend not to vote because they're busy, don't have time, weren't in the neighbourhood, whatever excuses.

    With internet voting, you can vote whenever you want, and wherever you want, as long as there's an internet connection.
  • I'm starting to wonder if those wild stories about hackers starting world wars aren't going to be all that wild soon. IMHO, there are some things which computers should NOT be relied upon for. Banks have been hacked before, and there HAS been blackmail and money transfered. I don't think it's all that much of a stretch to imagine a voting system being hacked. Can you imagine what it would be like if the government had to say two months after an election "Oops, Clinton didn't really win, a hacker stuffed the ballot"?

    I would honestly be more comfortable with people being able to telephone in their votes, where a living breathing person was responsable for cataloging the votes. Yes, people are prone to mistakes, but people are alot less likely to have a security hole in them exploited (Yes, this is a debatable fact).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Using a call-back system does not make sense. Aside from the problem you mention (not everyone has a modem), see also below.

    Biometrics are also not a reasonable solution unless you have strong crypto to back them up; and since you need strong crypto anyway, why bother with the biometrics? It just adds expense.

    But I do rather like the idea of having at least some kind of hardware-secure token...

    The appropriate balance of cost vs. security might best be met using smartcards or iButtons or the like, one for each voter, with a passphrase required to unlock the key stored therein. Those who don't have a card reader on their PC would be required to go to a polling station.

    There should be a password required as well: not a secure passphrase, just a simple but very confidential password... and, most importantly, a "duress" password as well.

    I think the whole idea just falls down unless there is some equivalent of a duress password.

    If the duress password is given, the voter should probably be allowed to correct the vote by doing it again (when not under duress) using the correct password. Or not, depending on just how paranoid you are.

    Of course, whether internet voting, implemented in a secure way, would actually be more convenient than the current system... I'm not sure. It'd be easier to count, anyway.

    A slight digression re callbacks:

    I take it you don't remember how easy it was to defeat BBS call-back systems.

    90% of them could be defeated by just staying on the line, playing back your own recording of a dial tone, waiting for the call-back modem to dial, and then having your modem answer. Those that used a different line to call-back, one could dial in to that line at just the right time and achieve a similar effect.

    Even if the call-back system is smart enough to foil that method... there is always call-forwarding. To make call-back secure, you'd have to get the cooperation of the phone company.

  • It seems that the main problem that online voting is trying to solve is the low turnout rates. For the cost and time involved in making a secure system that won't be hacked and/or rigged with multiple votes, it seems that other solutions could be found. Some ideas for increasing turnout rates based on my couple of years worth of voting experience and nothing else:
    • More voting hours (like 48)
    • More voting locations (like grocery stores)
    • online registration (does exist, but most people don't know about it)

    That's all I can come up at this moment but I'd be interested in other ideas. Post your ideas as a reply to this post, I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd like to hear them.
  • What it actaully does is allow uninformed, unmotivated people to shed their opinion on the future of the nation. The current system is set up so that only people who care enough to scoot their arses to the booth and cast their vote are allowed to vote. Internet voting allows people who don't really care and don't know much about the topics to not move but think to themselves, "Well, lets try some of this voting stuff."

    Great, then we can institute an IQ test before people qualify to vote. After that, let's make sure every voter can do 100 push-ups before they can vote! We've got to make sure they REALLY want to vote!!!
  • ... the server software would
    only be used by one organization.

    How do you propose to defend against corruption in that organization?

    Vote counting must not just be honest. It must be seen to be honest.

  • Some of the protection schemes for internet voting must be fairly hefty... I think the cons outway the pros. I can understand where lower security voting is adequate, for petitions and opinion voicing, but I don't think that with the common multi-computer and multi-IP situations, as well as most people getting their IPs from a dynamic pool, can we ever be completely secure... even if everyone had a secret password, etc, it must be retrieved via mail, and, if it is distributed like they distribute them up here, many will be discarded into the junk mail bin by the recipients, and will illegally be abused.

    I don't think we're ready to vote people into office using this one yet, folks... I'd hesitate to use it in less serious cases like re-zoning for an Exxon station on the corner, either.

  • by Rayban ( 13436 ) on Monday November 01, 1999 @01:10PM (#1571574) Homepage
    I think the best part of internet-based voting is the reduction in voter apathy. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest problems we have nowadays. If everyone came out to vote, we could ensure that the likelihood of a stupid candidate being elected would drop.

    As well, we could vote on many more small issues. The government could always "put an issue to the people" and not inconvenience us.
  • Yes. Right now, extremists and special interests rule the vote. Politicians have to court them to get votes. There are not enough "average" voters to even them out. If we can get more "average joes" voting, I think we would see a lot better politics, and a higher awareness. In fact, the internet itself might theoretically be the instrument for direct democracy. Republics were created because it was simply logistically impossible to have a direct democracy past a certain population...with the internet everybody from anywhere can vote /directly/. Perhaps when voters sign up they should be issued a key (public + private), so they can be verified when they go to vote. It would then be their responsibility to hold on to this key and reuse it as it identifies them to the voting mechanism.
  • Nice article. If I had the moderator points, I'd give you one for sure.

    Now, I read what you said about the bad part of easier voting, and I disagree with you. It seems that your main beef is that easier voting has made it easier to cheat. Well, that's true. But so far nobody's implemented the process correctly.

    Using ID cards? What a joke. Easily forged by teenagers.
    Signatures? Also a joke. Easily forged by teenagers.

    An easy voting process implemented with a secure cryptographically based protocol would not be trivial to break. Voting would be easier, and more difficult to defraud.

    Easy secure voting would preserve the election as an accurate model of a civil war, which you presented to us.

  • Imagine THAT debating format.

    *** Candidate Deathmatch ***

    - VP Al Gore, who's stiffness inhibits dodging (when he's not doing the Macarena), but comes equipped with the Chaingun of Connections...
    - Ex-Sen. Bill Bradley, who may be able to blind Gore with his Spotlight; who can toss a grenade for 3 points over his shoulder...
    - Gov. Bush, who's both encumbered and armed with huge bags of money, and used to get occasional boosts from a mysterious powder...
    - Sen. McCain, who's got experience, a shotgun and a meeeeeean temper,
    - Steve Forbes, who's got a penchant for flattening his opponents and folding them into postcards,
    - Gov. Ventura, who's ALWAYS got the 'Beserk' power-up,
    - Pat Buchanan, who's got intrinsic fireproofing and can isolate himself from the world at will, and, finally,
    - Donald Trump, who's fortunes seem to vary as much as those of his patrons...

    *** ding!

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Monday November 01, 1999 @01:18PM (#1571612)

    I supposed this would be workable once the security aspects (spoofing, etc.) have been addressed. It'd be a problem for our household since our net access only allows a single IP address assigned via DHCP. If we all got IP addresses assigned at birth then we'd all have a unique ID that could be used for things like voting, email, IP telephony, etc.

    But, on the other hand, that pretty much does away with Anonymous Cowards, doesn't it? The personal privacy freaks would excrete masonry if this happened.

  • Securing the system completely is probably impossible; if nothing else, without a physical polling place you can't tell who is actually casting the vote. Fraud and duress become issues. And then there is the graveyard vote; it's a lot harder to challenge someone voting from six feet beneath a headstone when even the polling officials can't tell if they're a human or a dog. With a list of eligible voters and the actual polling lists, plus an insider to send the registration numbers my way, I could probably make a poor district in New York City or Chicago poll for John McCain.

    On the other hand, if we had adequate security measures in place (e.g. digital signatures generated with personally-registered smart cards, the kind of thing that would suffice for official ID), these issues should not be problematic. We just don't have the infrastructure to do this yet.

  • by Tau Zero ( 75868 ) on Monday November 01, 1999 @01:26PM (#1571617) Journal
    If you don't think that it costs you anything to keep track of the issues, you're dreaming! If the public voted on every issue, everything would be decided by the activist fringes who actually cared enough about the issue to get out and vote for it. You think things are determined by extremists now... just watch.
  • You could only crack 1 signature at a time... and I don't know if 1 vote is worth that amount of time. And I would hope there should be a way of changing it periodically.. in real life (so they can conferm that you really are... you)

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI