Saturday, February 14, 2004

Douglas W. Jones on Voting and Elections
Equal Justice Foundation - Election Issue Web Sites
Open Directory - Society: Politics: Campaigns and Elections: Products and Services: Election Equipment and Technology
Coming up:

DIMACS Workshop on Electronic Voting -- Theory and Practice
May 26 - 27, 2004
Aurora goes high-tech.


In February, Council authorized staff to proceed with the release of a Request for Proposal for the acquisition of an automated system for the tabulation of election results in the Municipal Elections in November. The RFP was issued on March 21, 2003 with a closing date of April 24, 2003. Proposals were received from the following companies:

Diebold Election Systems Inc.
Dominion Voting Systems
Election Systems and Software

As outlined in the February report (Attachment #1), staff recommended the implementation of two types of automated systems for the forthcoming elections namely electronic tabulation units for the counting of hand marked ballots that would be utilized on the regular election day, and touch screen units that would be available at the advance voting days for all voters including those with visual disabilities. The RFP also included a provision for the acquisition of reporting software for the presentation of election results in the Council Chambers on election night. In addition to the purchase option, companies were encouraged to provide alternative options as part of their proposals including equipment rental for one election, and a lease to purchase proposal.

Maybe they know all about the pitfalls of e-voting tech. Maybe not.
The fact there don't seem to be any Canadian standards isn't helping any.

From Town of Aurora General Committee Meeting - Tuesday, June 3, 2003.
Apparently there is something called Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (Canada).
They don't seem to have a website with any useful content.
SecurityFocus - Nov 12 2003
Electronic Voting Debacle
We seem to be doing ok at the Federal level, but at the municipal level lots of people are very keen on the electronic voting. Plus which, CANARIE and Industry Canada appear to be helping them.

Electronic Voting - A View in to the Future (PDF)

Ooh, the Future. Will I be able to vote from my flying car?

Note: they appear to actually be talking about manually entering the results into a database, which is not a problem. The ending is a bit worrisome though.

by Michel Labelle
City of Coquitlam

The use of electronic vote tabulating machines has come a long ways in the last decade. While as little as 5 years ago, most municipalities could still be expected to hand count ballots into the early hours of the morning, the advent of these time saving devices has completely eliminated the most time consuming task allowing results to be quickly complied and submitted to the election officer for publication.
The system was designed around an IIS web server with ties to a backend
Oracle database.
The City is now actively looking at what improvements can be made for next
time. Highest on that list are electronic voter registration and the possibility of
electronic voting. While there are many legal and security hurdles to be
overcome, work with the Industry Canada's Smart Communities project leaves
with little doubt that this is little more than a matter of time.
The US NIST site about voting has good information, including a Symposium held last year.
Voters Coalition has some good information.
Background Notes about Electronic Voting in Nova Scotia
covering the 1992 vote-by-telephone debacle
A big Electronic Voting Bibliography and Links
I am not a lawyer, but this came up in a Google search

Canada Elections Act

Electronic voting process

18.1 The Chief Electoral Officer may carry out studies on voting, including studies respecting alternative voting means, and may devise and test an electronic voting process for future use in a general election or a by-election. Such a process may not be used for an official vote without the prior approval of the committees of the Senate and of the House of Commons that normally consider electoral matters.

2000, c. 9, s. 18.1; 2001, c. 21, s. 2.

Canadian Legal Information Institute
The Stanford Daily - Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Speakers dissect e-voting concerns
I was actually at Computers, Freedom, Privacy 2000 in Toronto.
They had a panel on Internet Voting, I wasn't there that day.

This is a chunk of text from their site

9:30-10:45 AM – Internet Voting: Spurring or Corrupting Democracy? – A Debate

Proponents say that Internet voting for government elections will make the process easier and eliminate barriers to voting. Opponents respond that this promising technology is insecure and unsettled, and stress the need for full public debate and testing before deployment. What are tradeoffs among convenience, security, integrity, and other important factors? This debate between strong advocates is followed by observations from experts in computer security and election administration.

Here is the Proceedings citation which includes more references.
The Bell - a zillion links related to Internet voting and other issues.
University of Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics Work Report on Internet Voting Technologies
prepared by Douglas A. Sibley
March 2001


Without clean-room conditions, it is impossible to know whether a computer's hardware and software are correctly transferring the intent of the voter into the correct form and registering it with the voting authority. Without a system that has been thoroughly reviewed by the cryptographic community, it is impossible to know whether the system is secure. In conclusion, since Internet voting has many theoretical flaws and the parts that are not theoretically flawed are not adequately proven, Internet voting should be abandoned and proscribed for all elections mandated by law, including, the public sector, elections mandated by corporate law, and union elections. The risks of fraud are too great.


This report recommends that the traditional paper-based system be used to ensure fairness and security. This report also recommends that Internet-based voting be outlawed for any elections held or mandated by government.
National Post - December 29 2000
Internet Voting: E-Foolishness
CBC News - Sat, 25 Jan 2003
Computer vandal delays leadership vote

TORONTO - Voting at the NDP leadership convention in Toronto was disrupted Saturday by what organizers called a malicious attempt to shut down the computer system.

I note that paper is generally resistant to a distant denial of service.
Some people may say "I can do my banking online, why not vote?" or "I can pay my taxes online, why not vote?". One major difference: both the bank and the taxman have a pretty good idea what your numbers should be. Also, despite our obsession with "convenience" and "efficiency", not everything should be made into a button click in a web browser.

Voting is a serious act of participatory democracy. A brief trip to the polling station is not too much to ask.

In The Folly of Internet Voting, or Democracy and Disenfranchisement, Kendall Clark writes

Voting is an act of citizenship, a participation in the common life

Seen at Dominion Weblog.
Globe letters: On-line voting
Salon.com - Feb. 9, 2004
Will the election be hacked?

Ok, here's my list.

Canadian Internet / electronic voting companies

It appears the Markham vote was done by
Election Systems and Software - Better Elections Every Day

Here's a happy quote

"If your system goes down in the middle of voting, we have the ability to go into the system to see if you have cast your vote or not," Edwards said. "Not who you voted for — but if you voted or not."

I don't think Delvinia e-Government Services did the actual Markham vote, it appears they just provided support for it.

Canadian Internet votes


UPDATE 2004-10-05: I think this is both hilarious and sad. The Markham site is gone (presumably their domain name registration expired) and has been replaced by a junk placeholder / domainsquatter site.

This oakley*centre : Electronic Voting Machines leans a bit on conspiracy. I don't think you have to bother with that.

The Internet and electronic voting companies are incompetent.
There's a mix of start-ups, giant consultancies, and players in-between.
None of these people have the slightest clue about doing secure voting.
They just want you to buy their crummy machines and technology.

I must say Cringely does make a good point about Diebold.
They're all "paper receipt, how will we ever do that, that will be so complicated".
Meanwhile, practically every single electronic transaction we make generates a paper receipt.
Use your ATM? Paper receipt.
Lottery kiosk? Paper receipt.
Debit card? Paper receipt.

In fact, you would have to deliberately redesign your system specifically not to provide a paper receipt.

The oakley page says

Canadian provinces and municipalities are slowly succumbing to lobbying from Diebold and other electronic-voting players .... Melissa Leong of the Toronto Star reports

The Leong Star article is 11,708 sign up for Markham Web vote

7.5% of voters want 'e-ballot'

City clerk predicts shift to Internet

These people have absolutely no understanding of how using the Internet undermines the election process.

Here's one example: I want you to vote for that Meditation Party, the one that is always hopping around.

With a paper ballot filled in privately in a public place, you can assure me you are going to vote for me and then inside the booth, you happily fill in the Anti-Trancendentalists.

With Internet voting, I drive over to your house and point a gun at your head until I see you click on the desired party.

Big improvement, yes?

Or if I'm more into non-violence, I put a keylogger trojan on your Windows computer (assuming it can fight it's way onto your system amidst all the other spyware, adware, backdoors, open proxies and trojans you already have). When I see you go to the election site, I silently change your vote to be the one I want.

I can go through hundreds of scenarios like this.
Is there a list of these Internet / electronic voting companies somewhere?
comp.risks - Wed, 17 Jul 2002
Expert says Palm Beach's new voting machines have problems

Unsafe at any bitspeed.
Pentagon cans Internet voting system. Via SE.

Accenture's live SERVE prototype was designed to allow US citizens overseas the chance to vote electronically in primary and general elections, with 100,000 members of the military serving oversees the first to trial the system.

But a scathing report by four experts concluded that it wasn't safe in any circumstances.

We have got to stop this:
Markham's online elections get vote of approval

Electronic technology is not appropriate for elections.

Here are some Google News related stories

No clear decision in Internet voting debate

Those of us who are tech people have to make it clear: There is no need for Internet voting. There is no way to do it safely and securely. Likewise for electronic polling booth technologies. We don't need touch-screen voting kiosks. They add nothing to the process except complexity, expense, and multiple opportunities for fraud.

Does Canada have national, provincial and municipal standards for electronic voting?
Can we stop this stupid thing before it makes it to a national level?
Are there any organizations working on this?

In E-democracy and E-government: how will these affect libraries? The Case of Canada, the Parliamentary Librarian reports

The new technology of electronic voting is also becoming more widespread in Canada. The automated voting system made its debut in most Ottawa region municipalities in 1997. The municipalities of Saanich and Colwood in British Columbia, and Pointe Claire in Quebec, have likewise introduced automated voting in their municipal elections. The results are very positive. The voting process is faster; results are known as soon as the polls close; voter turnout has increased, due to the new systems’ efficiency; fewer polling stations are required; and the cost of voting has diminished substantially.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Members of Parliament have yet to decide on electronic voting.

We have to stop this thing in its tracks. Seriously.
At the very worst, if we are going to have this stupid, cr@ppy idea, we have to make sure this is done with the absolute highest possible standards.
cut-and-paste from other blog

Ok, here's the thing with electronic voting.
Even if it is done very well it still sucks.
The people who think about e-voting examine very complex scenarios where problems could occur. Maybe they should worry less about complex crypto and more about trivial exploits.

The current implementations aren't even close to being done very well.
The current implementations are some sort of amateur hour cr@p job.
Anyone with slight computer knowledge could hack these machines. Seriously.

The most basic security precautions have not been taken.

RABA report on Diebold voting machines (PDF). Via SE.

The central reporting station (GEMS) is basically a consumer Windows machine.
An unpatched consumer Windows machine.

I'm not even talking about code vulnerabilities. I'm talking trivial OS vulnerabilities that anyone who has any concept of HOME computer security, let alone election-class security, should have patched immediately.

Here's the list they came up with just for the central server:
1. The GEMS server lacks several critical security updates from Microsoft.
2. Given physical access to the server, one can insert a CD that will automatically upload malicious software, modify or delete elections, or reorder ballot definitions.
3. The back panel of the GEMS server is not protected. Given physical access to a running device it is possible to insert a USB flash drive and upload malicious software onto the server.
4. Boot off a CD. By removing the front panel of the server (this is held in place by a
small keyed lock), one can insert a CD, power up the server, and have it boot its
operating system off the CD. This gives the attacker complete control over the
5. Modify election database. Given either physical or remote access (see below) it is
possible to modify the GEMS database.
6. Social Engineering/Phone line hijacking: The procedure by which precincts upload
votes to their LBE is vulnerable to a "man-in-the-middle" attack. This is a result of an
incomplete implementation of the SSL protocol. Specifically, the team
demonstrated how a laptop could act as a GEMS server.
7. Patches and Updates. The team identified fifteen additional Microsoft patches that
have not been installed on the servers. In addition, the servers lack additional
measures (all considered best practice) for defense such as the use of firewall antivirus
programs as well as the application of least privilege, i.e. turning off the
services that are unused or not needed. Each of these represents a potential attack
vector for the determined adversary.
Direct cut-and-paste from a post in my other blog.

I like it when the fancy columnists agree exactly with me.

My model for smart voting is Canada. The Canadians are watching our election problems and laughing their butts off. They think we are crazy, and they are right.

Forget touch screens and electronic voting. In Canadian Federal elections, two barely-paid representatives of each party, known as "scrutineers," are present all day at the voting place. If there are more political parties, there are more scrutineers. To vote, you write an "X" with a pencil in a one centimeter circle beside the candidate's name, fold the ballot up and stuff it into a box.

Follow the Money: Why the Best Voting Technology May Be No Technology at All via Slashdot E-Voting: a Flawed Solution in Search of a Problem.

On the other hand, I am wondering: why am I not a highly-paid columnist?
(In case you're wondering, I have blogged this solution lots of times including October 13, 2001 and July 22, 2002.)
The Register - 25/11/2003
Nachi worm infected Diebold ATMs

Diebold also makes voting machines.
Backbone Magazine has quite a good article about the online voting in Markham.
November 10, 2003
What If They Hold A Vote And No One Shows Up?

It covers the security and coercion issues.
It also talks about the compulsory voting in Australia, which I think is the solution to low turn-out.

Markham had a Flash-y website:


UPDATE 2004-10-05: I think this is both hilarious and sad. The Markham site is gone (presumably their domain name registration expired) and has been replaced by a junk placeholder / domainsquatter site.

The Slashdot story was headlined 1st Real Internet-Option Election in North America
Salon.com - Feb. 20, 2003
Hacking democracy?
Dave Barry - Fri, Sep. 13, 2002
How to vote in 1 easy step

My suggestion -- call me crazy -- is that we print the ballot on paper, with a box next to each candidate's name. We instruct the voters to put an ''X'' in their candidate's box. Then we have human beings count the "X''s, and the candidate with the most votes wins.
Canada's simple, transparent voting system has been justly hailed as excellent.
Sometimes we forget the key to a good system is appropriate technology, not the latest technology.

Marking an X on a paper ballot is a simple, verifiable, understandable voting system.

Systems based on using technology in the voting booth, or the Internet, are fraught with risks and offer no benefits.
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