Saturday, September 18, 2004
Representation and Electoral Systems
Meanwhile, at the federal level, Members of Parliament have yet to decide on electronic voting.
One of them, Reg Alcock, believes certain criteria will have to be met before MPs can accept the introduction of electronic voting at the federal level. In an editorial published earlier this year, Mr. Alcock stated:
There must be a means of authenticating identity and there must be a secure channel for the transmission of the information. Once these conditions are met two important trends are enabled. First the ability to vote online will dramatically reduce the cost of voting. This in turn will allow more frequent use of referenda and will shift the balance of control from Parliament to citizens. Rather than voting once every four years, citizens will be able to express opinions more frequently. The impact will be greater accountability. Second…MPs will no longer have to be present to vote. This in turn will enhance the importance of their individual vote while reducing the importance of the place. The impact will be greater participation. (Canadian Parliamentary Review, Spring 2002, p. 2)
Following the most recent election, Reg Alcock maintains his position as President of the Treasury Board.
The guest editorial cited above was Parliament and Democracy in the 21st Century: The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies from Volume 25 no. 1, 2002.
Mr. Alcock is a big fan of technology. Here he is in the Canadian Parliamentary Review in 1994:
At the federal level one a number of projects and studies are underway but as one MP, Reg Alcock, stated, "At the present time, the "hill" does not have a node [on the Internet]. There is a proposal to establish one and I expect that we will be hooked up soon. I don't think it will change much in the near future. At the present time, as far as I can discern, I am the only member who makes use of the Internet; I have a lot of constituents on the Internet as I represent a university in my riding."
(Volume 17, No. 3 Autumn 1994, "E-Mail and Two Way Communication")
Friday, September 17, 2004
electronic voting in the UK - technical report
A Comparison with Other Secure Transactions
It is useful to compare voting with other online transactions for which security is needed.
The most obvious comparison is with banking. Attacking an electronic voting system is unlikely to bring the immediate financial rewards that a successful attack on the banking system would, and thus some types of well-resourced attack are less likely. However, the likelihood of well-resourced attacks is still sufficiently high to be problematic.
The consequences of a successful attack are very different with electronic voting, than with banking, though. Banks can, and do, take a financial analysis of how much loss they can stand and insure against such losses. It may be that a political decision could be taken that the loss of a certain percentage of votes is acceptable, but in the absence of such a decision, security appropriate for banking cannot be considered sufficient for electronic voting. Banks have also maintained confidence in the face of repeated losses through computer crime by covering up the cause of those losses. It is inconceivable that, in the event of a successful attack on electronic voting, such a cover-up would be acceptable to the electorate if subsequently disclosed. In a similar vein, individuals can be, and are, compensated for financial losses due to disruption/failures/hacking of online banking. It is not easy to see how there could be equivalent compensation for disruption/failures/hacking of an individuals vote, even if somehow it was discovered which individuals were affected (which might not be possible with some sorts of disruption).
Another issue is anonymity: electronic voting differs from the aforementioned applications due to the fact that, in addition to the requirements for accuracy and privacy, there is the mandated necessity to provide ... anonymity. In other words, banking applications can (in fact must) allow tracking back to the user of the system, but the [electronic voting system] must ensure that such tracking is impossible. (Mercuri, 2001, pp8-9).
Electronic voting also differs from financial transactions in that the risk that an election delayed by a few days will have a different result is unacceptably high. By contrast substantial financial transactions between two willing partners usually can be conducted a few days later if there are problems with ecommerce applications, since such transactions are rarely conducted on a whim.
CCSR: Electronic Voting
Now personally, I am inclined to avoid conspiracy theories.
I think there are some fundamental problems with e-voting that simply can't be fixed no matter how good the technology is,
plus which, the actual implementations of the existing technology are farcically bad, showing a complete lack of interest or complete incompetence when it comes to security, testing, design and so forth.
O'Reilly has an article Behind the Scenes at The Mezonic Agenda: An Electronic Voting Primer
and the book website is
I just want to let people know, I am inviting collaboration both for this blog and for organizing Canadians to oppose electronic and Internet voting.
If you're interested in either or both of these possibilities, please send me an email.
For the blog, it's mainly locating and posting stories about e-voting issues, particularly any that have a Canadian element.
For organizing, it's basically getting a anti-evote group together that can present compelling arguments drawing both on common sense, technical expertise, and examples of problems encountered with systems in Canada and worldwide. We need to target all levels of Canadian government and make sure that our representatives are aware of the problems with these systems, as well as making the Canadian public aware of what is going on.
We also need to forge alliances with Canadian groups that might be concerned about this area, e.g. Electronic Frontier Canada and IEEE Canada, as well as with the current well-organized US groups that are fighting e-voting there. There is also the possibility of working with groups that have similar, although not completely aligned interests. For example, there is a thing called FairVote Canada which is about proportional representation. I presonally don't think proportional representation is a good idea, but some of their members may also be concerned about e-voting. As well, the independent or alternative media and organizations may be interested in this issue, e.g. ontario.indymedia.org
Now if someone knows of an organization in Canada that is ALREADY working on the e-vote issue, I would be more than happy to join up with them.
I am planning on publishing a story to indymedia today, unless someone else wants to do it first.
UPDATE: I posted the story electronic voting in Ontario Sept-2004 to ontario.indymedia.ca
UPDATE 2016-09-05: As of September 2016 the current most active issues related to online voting in Canada are
You can read comp.risks in various ways
directly in your USENET newsreader
on the risks.org website (which includes an RSS feed and an AvantGo channel)
One story that caught my eye was
SiliconValley.com - MercuryNews.com - Sep. 14, 2004
Maryland court rejects e-voting safeguards
Maryland's highest court Tuesday rejected demands for additional safeguards for touchscreen voting machines, saying elections officials have done everything necessary to ensure the paperless devices are accurate and secure.
The Court of Appeals also rejected a call to allow citizens who do not trust touchscreen voting to use paper ballots in the Nov. 2 general election.
Incidentally, for better RSS feed usability, I am changing my posting format.
It will now be
source - date
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Voting time warp
ONTARIO'S Election Act is stuck in an era of typewriters and stenographers when it should be open to new ideas such as Web and telephone voting, Ontario's chief election officer says. In a written review of last October's general election, John Hollins said Ontario's legislation hasn't been overhauled since 1969 and is a long way from addressing 21st-century society.
"The Election Act reflects a view of Ontario and its electorate that is locked in time, representing the world of the late 1960s, when the legislation was last overhauled," the report states.
He's recommending that the province examine a variety of initiatives taking place globally, including voting through a cable box.
Election Officer Calls for Ontario to Explore Web Voting
Ontario's chief election officer says the province should be open to new ideas such as web and telephone voting.
In a written review of last October's election John Hollins says the Ontario Election Act is stuck in an era of typewriters and stenographers and is a long way from addressing 21st-century society.
Hollins recommended that the province examine a variety of initiatives taking place globally, including voting through a cable box.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Electronic ballots fail to gain vote of confidence
In Nye County, Nev., last week, one of the new, highly touted electronic-voting devices bought to replace discredited old-technology machines malfunctioned. When the polls closed in the state primary election, it refused to display the results, threatening to disenfranchise everyone who'd used it.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Alternative Voting Methods - Pilot Application
I am quoting the entire thing here since it will probably expire off of MERX soon.
Reference Number 103027
Source ID PV.MN.ON.427751.C55080
Solicitation Number EO-040823-1
Closing 10/09/2004 04:00 PM Eastern Daylight Saving Time EDT
Associated Components Yes
Category EDP Hardware and Software
Tender Type Request for Qualification
Region of Delivery WORLD
Region of Opportunity WORLD
Organization Name Elections Ontario
GSINS N7010 AUTOMATIC DATA PROCESSING EQUIPMENT, SYSTEM CONFIGURATION
The purpose of this project is for Elections Ontario to identify proponents who have the expertise, resources and appropriate technology to provide alternative voting systems that could be tested in by-elections over the next three years, or that could be tested in other environments that would offer clear measurement of the value, effectiveness and integrity of the alternative approaches.
At present, voters must attend in person at a polling place on election day or on one of the six specific days when advance polls are being held in the Returning Office or at an area location. The only alternative to voting at a polling location under the current legislation is for an elector to designate a proxy to vote on his or her behalf at a polling place. Electors with disabilities, language issues or who are absent during the voting period could benefit from and utilize alternative voting methods when voting.
Conceptually, alternative voting systems could be used to supplement the existing process or could provide a substitute for it, provided that elector access is not in any way limited.
The system(s) proposed will supplement an optical scan vote tabulator system being tested for use on Election Day and advance voting. The system(s) we are requesting information on will be used to offer an opportunity to electors to vote between Nomination Day and Election Day. We want to make the voting process as convenient, accessible and easy for voters to exercise their franchise while maintaining the integrity of the election process. The system(s) would be administered anywhere in the province of Ontario where a by-election is called. Currently the province is divided into 103 electoral districts. In each electoral district there are approximately 80,000 electors serviced at approximately 90 voting locations on Election Day.
The other one is Automated Voter Recording System
This project will deliver a method(s) or system(s) to strike off voters (simultaneously) from all electronic Advance Poll Lists of Electors and electronic Election Day List of Electors to reduce the possibility of voter fraud through electors voting more than once during the voting period. The method will utilize bar codes on all NRCs, registration forms and paper versions of the List of Electors.
Dave Barry cracks wise again about electronic voting
The truth is, you don't know WHAT will happen to your ballot, because you might be using one of the new electronic voting machines. ...
So this year many states are switching to electronic voting machines, which use computer technology -- the same reliable, foolproof technology we use in the newspaper industry to wwr _)(%$@!@hkjhou((*7**%$ ERROR ERROR DELETING EVERYTHING FROM DAWN OF TIME
Whoops! It turns out that things CAN go wrong with computer technology. One big concern is that electronic voting machines could be tampered with by ''hackers,'' ...
But aside from that, electronic voting machines are a great idea, according to people who make millions of dollars selling them.
Story spotted on Slashdot /.
March 2003 Electronic Voting Methods: Experiments and Lessons
June 2000 The Feasibility of Electronic Voting in Canada
"a summary of a 1998 KPMG/Sussex Circle report"
The full report from 1998 is called Technology and the Voting Process (PDF).
Or in Français: La technologie et le processus de vote (PDF).
A detailed answer from the CBC to the question
I have been reading about the problems that some areas in the U.S. are having with electronic voting machines. Does anyplace in Canada use these new machines, or are there any plans to do so?