Saturday, September 25, 2004

category error

One of the problems with the idea of e-voting is a simple category error.
Our technocratic masters take the idea of e-Government, a lot of which makes great sense, and then add in voting as one of the "services" provided by government.

Voting is not a government service. Voting is the creation of the government by the citizens. It is fundamentally different from the other kinds of services that government provides.

The problem is, when e-voting is merged into e-everything e-else, that you then start applying the same thinking, pilot projects, client satisfaction, etc.

This simply does not make any sense. If I launch a pilot project for citizens to pay their property tax through my municipal e-portal, and it doesn't work the first day, I relaunch it a day or a week later. If it overcharges some people by 10x and undercharges others by 100x, I catch it in my auditing. I electronically shuffle money around.

You cannot have a voting system that doesn't work on the one day it is used.
You cannot have a voting system that dramatically miscounts votes.
You cannot shuffle votes around electronically. Err, well you must not shuffle votes around electronically, anyway.

Voting is in a fundamentally different category from financial services, or any other kind of service that the government provides. It is a different sort of thing. Completely different rules apply. Mashing it in with e-government makes no sense.

Lots of e-government stuff makes sense. Why do I have to fill in bloody paper forms for things? To do my annual charity payroll deduction, I have to, by hand, fill in a form with information that my employer already knows, followed by manually looking up on the web the 14 digit number of the charity I want to support, followed by writing it in and hoping I haven't transposed any digits, and that no errors will be made in the manual transcription process into the payroll system. For all I know, I will end up giving money to the Knights of Satan or something. It's ridiculous.

Making things like that all-electronic makes perfect sense.
Making voting electronic makes absolutely no sense.

CACM: The problems and potentials of voting systems

Jason Kitcat points out a Communications of the ACM special October 2004 issue on e-voting.

Unfortunately absolutely none of the content appears to be available free online, you will need to purchase it (or access through university library etc.)

Also see IEEE Security and Privacy Jan/Feb 2004 Special issue on E-voting Security.


What I want to know, what is in fact absolutely fundamental to any e-voting discussion, is what standards apply. Are there any Canadian ones at all? Do municipalities and provinces just cook them up on a case-by-case basis, falling out a couple line items in a gigantic RFP that talks mostly about irrelevant performance measures?

(Side note: US standards efforts include ACM Policy Brief and IEEE P1583.)

Anyway, I'm trying to find some sites that might have starting points. There are some links suggested by the document in the previous posting.

Government of Ontario: Information and Technology Standards

Ontario Office of the Corporate Chief Information Officer

So far I have yet to see any standards that apply to e-voting.

On the CIO site I did find more vague language though, that's always good.
In Citizen Engagement

What might this mean?

Electronic citizen engagement may take many forms. ...

* online remote voting for elected officials
* digital voting

I don't even know what they mean by digital voting. Do they mean electronic voting machines?

Friday, September 24, 2004

technophilic municipalities

Canadian municipalities seem to love the siren call of techno-fixes. Efficiency will result! Services enhanced! Customer (that is, citizen) satisfaction metrics improved!

There's something called MISA, the Municipal Information Systems Association of Ontario.

They published a report in 2002, Progress Report on e-Government Among Ontario Municipalities (PDF)

In Chapter 2: Municipal Progress In e-Government they describe a future that obviously sounds wonderful to them

What will municipalities be like in Ontario within the next decade?


Municipalities will be more responsive to citizens.


Voting in elections or other special occasions will consist of quick, effortless clicks on computer screens. Voter turnout will no longer plummet when it rains or snows.

Voting is a civic duty. You want to make voting no different than clicking in some online poll? One minute I'm buying a book on Amazon, next I'm answering a Globe poll Does shopping on-line still make you nervous? and with the next click I'm electing the leaders of my country? You really don't think there should be any distinction between those activities?

The new Municipal Elections Act, 1996 opened the door to the use of new technology in the municipal election process. For the first time, Ontario municipalities could explore new voting technologies, including voting by telephone, touch screen voting and the use of optical scanners to speed the counting process.

Ok well at least I know where this foolishness started. Now to see about closing that door.

I don't get this obsession with the speed of the counting. We can't wait a day or two for the results to be counted? Ontario will spiral into chaos if we don't get the election decision seconds after the polls close? Wouldn't you rather have a cheap, accurate and relatively quick system rather than an instantaneous incorrect one?

(Progress report link found in Municipalities move to second-gen portals to provide citizen e-services, Technology in Government, May/June 2004.)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

getting into the swing of e-voting

E-Vote Fears Soar in Swing States
Wired News - September 23, 2004

Roughly a third of the votes cast in the November presidential election will be made on controversial paperless electronic voting machines, but as any political analyst can tell you, the only votes that will matter a great deal will be cast in a handful of swing states.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

diebold and de broken

More Diebold E-Voting Vulnerabilities
Slashdot - September 22, 2004

Sunday, September 19, 2004

LawMeme - This Week in [US] E-Voting

This Week in [US] E-Voting
research.yale.edu/lawmeme/ - Rebecca Bolin - September 16, 2004

uk e-voting

Jason Kitcat reports No e-voting in [the UK] in 2005?
j-dom.org - September 17, 2004

He has a very nicely organized site, tons of e-voting blog entries, articles etc. linked from the bottom of the above posting.
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