Thursday, November 11, 2004

touched by electricity - City of Barrie e-voting

The City of Barrie first used touch-screen technology in its 1997 municipal election, and in its last election, on Nov. 13, all voting stations were converted to touch-screen kiosks.


The system is successful because it’s convenient for voters, says John Sisson, Barrie’s deputy city clerk. Centralized voter lists on mainframe computers allowed Barrie residents to vote at any station in any ward during the city’s Nov. 13 election. Polling stations also opened six days in advance, allowing residents to choose the most convenient day to vote.
The AccuVote-TS computer makes paper ballots obsolete. It sends encrypted voter decisions to a central computer.

"We thought it was a way to enhance participation," Sisson says. "The city provided an opportunity that few municipalities can offer."

But Barrie’s city council went to great lengths to convince voters these machines would not reveal their identities and that the system was hacker proof.

The possibility of intrusion always exists, but the suppliers of touch-screen systems to Barrie say they are taking all possible precautions.

"The data is all double encrypted," says Rickards.

"If the information being transferred has been tampered with, we find out about it through our audit trail at the other end."

The Vancouver-based Global Elections Systems Inc. has teamed up with Soza and Co., a Washington-based computer software firm that does encryption for such organizations as the U.S. defence department.

In case of power outages, each of Barrie’s machines has a backup battery. There are several memory systems built in to each machine, and they can be recovered in the event of a complete system failure.
"The legislation is still written towards a system that we’ve had for over 100 years of hand voting."

Though each touch-screen system costs around $5,000, they will save money down the road, Rickards argues.

"You save on the number of man-hours and the cost of paper," Rickards explains. "The machines can pay for themselves over the course of two and a half federal elections, if they were held about once every three or four years."

It's "double encrypted". Well, I feel safe now.
Also, even ignoring all the costs they ignore, the things still only pay for themselves if we have elections all the time.

The Canada Elections Act has been the ultimate barrier to automating the federal election. It currently does not allow the use of automated equipment, and the process to change it has been stalled for three years.

"The legislation is still written towards a system that we’ve had for over 100 years of hand voting."

Rickards has been talking to [Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre] Kingsley for the last eight years about automating Canada’s federal elections. Kingsley is sympathetic, says Rickards, but it’s taking a "horrendous amount of time" for new provisions to be legislated.

Until the federal government makes the appropriate changes, Elections Canada will continue to be stuck in the '70s using an "ancient system that is slow and inaccurate."

Make that "appropriate system that is rapid and accurate".
Rickards must be stopped.

Carleton.ca Capital News Online - December 1, 2000
Touch-screen voting electrifies electorates
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