Saturday, October 30, 2004

faster, stronger, worser

Voters in Greater Victoria may get their election results very quickly after the polls close on Saturday night.

Most municipalities in the region are using electronic voting machines, in an effort to avoid recounts and spoiled ballots.

CBC News - Nov 16 2002
B.C. goes to the polls

Quebec City's director of elections, Pierre F. Côté, says organizers were overwhelmed by record turnouts at advance polls. He says there will be an adequate number of polling stations for voters on Sunday's election day.

Côté says delays will be avoided by having elections personnel explain the workings of the electronic voting machines to people as they wait. And emergency equipment will be available in case of technical breakdowns anywhere in the system.

CBC News - Oct 30 2001
Election officials promise better voting day

They're less reliable. They fail in many more ways, more easily.
They fail in ways like, say

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

Party members were frustrated during voting on the first ballot, as thousands across the country tried to log on and cast ballots using the Internet.

Earl Hurd of election.com said he believes someone used a "denial of service" program to disrupt the voting – paralysing the central computer by bombarding it with a stream of data.

CBC News - 25 Jan 2003
Previously reported in Paper Vote Canada 14-02-2004.

e-english e-voting

In next month's [2002] local elections, several councils will be testing how electronic voting works in practice. James Rogers looks at some of the complexities of opting out of the traditional polling booth.


Security is the major stumbling block in the way of widescale e-voting. Ian Keys director of think-tank, the New Local Government Network, explained, "Voters have to have confidence in the system that is used to measure their vote."


E-voting may be a good idea in principle but there are a number of technical hurdles to be overcome before it can be used in general elections. In this way, the Government faces a difficult task. On the one hand it is encountering growing public demand for e-voting but there is still reticence about the use of technology.

Here's the thing. E-voting is a BAD idea in principle.

ComputerWeekly.com - 4 April 2002
Will e-voting replace crosses with clicks?

computer professionals: just say no to e-voting

As a computer professional, I have one word for anyone who'd like to use any sort of electronic balloting system--at least one that can't be easily audited by hand: Don't do it. Why? Because computers can never be totally trusted, especially for something as seemingly simple (yet critical) as holding an election.

While I'd like to think that someday we'll make computers secure enough for this sacred task, I wouldn't bet our freedom on it.

ZDNet AnchorDesk - Mar. 5, 2003
Electronic voting: I'm against it. Here's why

Diebold says e-voting is e-z, Bev Harris says not so fast

the U.S. is no stranger to disputes over voting. In a country, where the outcome of a Presidential election hung for weeks on the fate of a partially detached chad … here's a lot of pressure in to make voting a whole lot easier. Two years after the Florida debacle of 2000, the Bush administration passed the Help America Vote Act. It sets out new guidelines for how elections should be conducted. And it gives money to any district that wants to update things such as .. ..say, punch card machines that don't fully pop out the chad.

Many electoral officials have opted for hi-tech solutions. Electronic voting is spreading across the country. 55 thousand machines were used during the democratic primary on the so called Super-Tuesday. E-voting involves either digital card readers or touch screens that guide the voter through the process.

CBC Radio - The Current - March 11, 2004
Part 2 (RealAudio, story starts 09:58 into this audio stream)

David Bear of Diebold pushes the advantages for the disabled,
Bev Harris then speaks about her concerns.

e-voting need e-auditing

e-voting creates the largest and most unique set of challenges to information security today—greater than the security challenges of e-commerce or electronic tax filing systems. When the ITAA points a finger at the open-source movement, it is only in a futile attempt to deflect criticism of the inherent security flaws of e-voting systems.

Paper voting is not without its problems, as the presidential election in 2000 made clear. What traditional voting systems offer, however, are audit trails. Although far from perfect, paper audit trails are the best we have. While fraudulent repeat voting has long been a problem, the most fraudulent votes a single person could place in a single day might be 20. Move that election online, and there's theoretically no limit to the number of hacked votes that could be placed.

eWeek.com - August 23, 2004
E-Voting: It's Security, Stupid

electronic voting: electronic errors

A year ago, in their debut in Fairfax County, Va., electronic voting systems succeeded in uniting local Republicans and Democrats—in dismay. Problems with the systems in the local Fairfax elections threw the results in at least one race into doubt.

What concerns many election experts and voters alike is that history will repeat itself in the 2004 election. But on a national scale.

For Fairfax, 10 out of the 1,000 touch-screen DRE (direct recording electronic) voting machines failed on election day in 2003, and were then repaired and returned to the polls—all without security checks.

During the election, votes disappeared before the eyes of the citizens casting them because of a random software bug. Interviewed by the Washington Post newspaper, Republican Virginia state senator Keb Cuccinelli said, "We've just done an electronic Florida."

Now, with advance electronic voting already taking place in Florida, there are fears that Florida will also repeat its 2000 election fiasco, only this time electronically. And there's plenty of reason for voters in other states to be concerned as well.

While hundreds of elections over the last year that depended on DRE voting machines have gone off without a hitch, there has been no test of the magnitude of next week's presidential election for e-voting. With voter turnout expected to be high, and partisans on both sides looking for any advantage possible in "battleground" states, the possibility of widespread trouble is real.

I think "digital chads" is a stupid term, but anyway...

eWeek.com - October 29, 2004
Digital Chads: E-Voting Errors Almost Inevitable

pol IT ics

eWEEK.com Special Report: Politics Meets IT

Lots of stories.

it is not the hour for e-voting

More than 50 million Americans had been expected to vote this year on Direct Recording Electronic voting machines, or DRE's, as they're called.

With this system, the voter touches a box on a computer screen next to the name of the candidate selected. The vote is recorded on the computer's memory. After the Florida debacle, Congress authorized $3.9 billion for new electronic machines and ordered the states using old technology to upgrade. But once they were in service, 10 states, including California , reported problems.

PBS NewsHour - May 5, 2004
Electronic Voting

Includes both video and audio of the report (RealPlayer, Windows Media also supported).

Also see previous NewsHour report on Internet voting.

it's not the week for electronic voting either

this year about 30 percent of voters will face newer, electronic systems. Yet the sleek touchscreens are far from glitch-free. Last January, Ellyn Bogdanoff pulled out a narrow victory in a runoff race for a Florida state Senate seat: 12 votes. State law required an automatic recount. There was just one problem. The touchscreen machines used in the election left no paper trail—all the votes were tallied digitally—making an examination of the actual votes impossible. Doing a recount was a meaningless exercise, akin to adding identical numbers into a calculator twice; you'd get the same answer each time. Election officials did notice something strange. Out of nearly 11,000 votes cast, there were 137 left blank, far more than the margin of victory. The losing candidate, Oliver Parker, wanted to know why. He and Bogdanoff were the only ones on the ballot. Why would anyone who cared enough to go all the way to a polling place for a little-known runoff walk away without casting a vote? Had the machines malfunctioned and failed to record the vote? Without any way to answer the question, Bogdanoff was certified the winner.

That was a state Senate seat. Picture the chaos next month if Bush vs. Kerry comes down to a few hundred votes in Florida, or parts of Ohio—both states that use touchscreen machines without paper backups—and there's no way to put the results under the microscope. No surprise that lawsuits are stacking up in Florida. Ohio has already decided to outfit all machines with paper—by 2006. "We jumped out of the soup and into the fire," says David Jefferson, a tech adviser to California, which has had its own share of problems with e-machines. "We were, in a way, too quick to rush to computerize." Jefferson, who jokes he's such a tech geek he'd "buy an Internet toaster" if there were such a thing, says he'd take punch cards, with all their problems, over the uncheckable electronic machines. Nevada is the only state that currently has paper backups on all its machines. Voters can read the paper ballot through a glass window. When they hit the screen to approve it, the paper drops into a sealed box.

Newsweek - Oct. 18 2004 issue
A Clean Count? Page 2: The Tech Factor: Voters Face New Electronic Systems
Note: may load slowly - very junk loaded pages.

it's not time for e-voting

Electronic voting machines were supposed to have provided a seamless voting process this time, but they have only fed concerns about snafus on Election Day. The touch-screen machines, which will be used by about 30% of voters, have been shown to be vulnerable to tampering, to break down and to lose votes or record none at all. Worse, in every state where they are used except Nevada, the machines produce no paper trail of votes. And e-voting machines can't do recounts. On a second go-round, they simply repeat the outcome they offered the first time.

Diebold, the leading manufacturer of e-voting machines, suffered the indignity of having its home state of Ohio disqualify its machines because of suspect technology. A December 2003 report by Compuware Corp., a widely respected software and computer-services firm, found at least four security weaknesses in Diebold's AccuVote-TS. Most distressing: anyone who lays his hands on a voting supervisor's card could access the system and tamper with results. A 2003 Johns Hopkins University study found that hackers could devise their own smart cards and vote multiple times or alter voting results. A Diebold spokesman insists that the company has addressed the problems of AccuVote-TS, but neither Ohio nor California is buying it. California decertified 14,000 Diebold machines earlier this year.


"The reason people trust elections is that they can see what's going on," says David Dill, a computer-science professor at Stanford University and founder of the Verified Voting Foundation. "With electronic voting, the handling of the ballots, putting ballots in the ballot box and counting of votes—all of that is hidden inside computers where nobody can see what's happening. [That] leaves you really at the mercy of the machine."

Time - October 24, 2004
What Could Go Wrong This Time?

the first test is the only test

The wonderful thing about voting machines is that they have to work perfectly in their first and only true test case: the entire election.

at stake: the reputation of Diebold, the largest maker of electronic voting machines. After the infamous punch-card-ballot problems of the 2000 election, the company dove into the voting-machine business, hoping to cash in on a nationwide push to adopt more reliable voting systems.

But Diebold, a leading maker of ATMs, has been plagued by a flurry of problems: claims of security flaws and technical glitches in its machines and an embarrassing political gaffe.


Diebold got into the voting business almost by accident. In 1999, it bought a Brazilian company for its ATM business; that company also made voting machines that were used in Brazilian elections. After hanging chads and recounts confounded the 2000 election, Diebold answered a nationwide call to replace punch-card and lever machines.

"We investigated the market and saw a number of smaller companies that would not be able to accommodate the large influx of orders," Radke says.

The company's hopes were buoyed when Congress set aside $3.8 billion for states to upgrade voting machines. In 2002, Diebold bought Canada-based Global Election Systems. Big orders from Maryland and Georgia followed.

But in 2003, computer experts were able to find the secret software for Diebold's voting systems on the Internet and started picking apart its potential weaknesses.

USA Today - October 29, 2004
Voting machine has trial by fire

Friday, October 29, 2004

opinion on e-brest voting

Le contrôle des élections par les citoyens est un droit fondamental qui ne doit pas être remis en cause par une automatisation électronique du processus de vote. Les machines à voter électroniques (à ne pas confondre avec le vote par internet interdit en France) seront imposées aux brestois et aux brestoises pour les prochaines échéances électorales de mars prochain, ceci sans débat préalable. Un tel système ne permettra plus aux citoyens de surveiller le scrutin. Quant à un contrôle a posteriori, il deviendra totalement impossible.

TEAG - 25 février 2004
Vote électronique : recul démocratique à Brest !

liens pour les machines á voter en france

TEAG - démocratie - vote électronique - machine à voter

electronic voting is mindreading

Work with me on this one.

Paper voting happens in the external observable world.
Paper voting is like asking a friend to hold up a number of fingers he selects.
You look, and count them, 1-2-3.

Electronic voting is like asking a friend to imagine holding up some fingers and then having him tell you how many he held up, in his mind.

There is no way you will ever know if he was telling the truth.

(Unless you're the Amazing Kreskin.)

the incorrect economics of voting machines, in French

Le ministère de l'intérieur, de la sécurité intérieure et des libertés locales devrait donner prochainement son agrément à la ville de Brest pour l'utilisation d'une machine à voter lors des élections cantonales et régionales des 21 et 28 mars prochains. Ces machines à voter vont remplacer les urnes traditionnelles des 84 bureaux de vote de la ville. La nouvelle procédure se déroule concrètement de la façon suivante : l'électeur se présente au président du bureau muni d'une pièce d'identité et de sa carte d'électeur, l'assesseur vérifie son inscription sur la liste d'émargement, le président procède à l'ouverture de la machine à voter, dotée d'un isoloir intégré. L'électeur valide son vote à partir d'un boîtier de commande. Lorsque le président du bureau déclare le traditionnel "a voté", l'électeur peut alors aller signer la liste d'émargement et récupérer ses documents justificatifs.

Nécessitant moins de personnel, la machine à voter a pour avantage, explique le ministère de l'intérieur, d'être plus économique pour les collectivités. Le dépouillement des bulletins de vote est par ailleurs automatique ; les résultats du scrutin sont obtenus sans délai, dès la fin du vote.

www.vie-publique.fr - 20 février 2004
Elections : Brest, pionnière de la machine à voter

use of electronic voting machines in France

Les communes peuvent désormais utiliser des machines à voter à l'occasion des scrutins.

Le Gouvernement, au vu de l'intérêt de tels outils, a en effet décidé de permettre l'utilisation de machines à voter par les communes en en agréant les modèles adaptés aux exigences électorales, conformément à l'article L. 57-1 du code électoral selon lequel "Des machines à voter peuvent être utilisées dans les bureaux de vote des communes de plus de 3 500 habitants figurant sur une liste fixée par décret en Conseil d'Etat. Les machines à voter doivent être d'un modèle agréé par arrêté du ministre de l'intérieur."

Un décret du 18 mars 2004, modifié le 27 mai 2004, (rubrique "pour plus d'informations") a ainsi fixé une liste de communes autorisées à utiliser des machines à voter.

Les modèles de machines sont agréés sur la base de la vérification de leur conformité au "Règlement technique fixant les conditions d'agrément des machines à voter" approuvé par l'arrêté du 17 novembre 2003 (à télécharger). Les modèles agréés sont la version "2.07" de la machine à voter de la société NEDAP, le modèle "iVotronic" de la société RDI-Consortium Univote et le modèle "Point & Vote" de la société Indra Sistemas SA (rubrique "pour plus d'informations"). L'achat ou la location des machines sera remboursé par une subvention forfaitaire de 800 euros par machine.

L'instruction permanente du 26 mai 2004 précise les dispositions spécifiques à mettre en oeuvre en cas d'utilisation de machines à voter (rubrique "téléchargement").

Ministère de l'intérieur - Les élections - Elections 2004 - Machines à voter

Règlement technique des machines à voter (PDF)

Les machines à voter doivent :
– dématérialiser le bulletin de vote (plus de support papier) ;

The wonder of language makes it all clear. Electronic voting machines dematerialize your vote.

voting machine is failure machine

notamment de machines électroniques à écran tactile, comme le raconte USpolitics.

Le 2 novembre prochain, un tiers de l'électorat américain (50 millions de personnes environ) se dirigera effectivement vers ces urnes électroniques, tandis que dans plus de la moitié des Etats, 32 millions d'électeurs devront se contenter de la vieille carte perforée, voire de systèmes plus archaïques encore, comme en Louisiane et en Pennsylvanie, où sévit toujours une machine à levier (l'électeur actionne un bras mécanique correspondant à son choix, et son vote est instantanément comptabilisé). Au total, 15 circonscriptions de Floride organisent le vote avec des écrans tactiles, tandis que les 52 autres installeront des scanners qui liront électroniquement les bulletins de vote.

Mais, vote à l'ancienne ou vote dernier cri, le bug se répète. Lundi, plusieurs bureaux de vote en Floride ont commencé à expérimenter les nouvelles machines, l'Etat ayant décidé, comme d'autres, de les ouvrir en avance afin d'éviter des engorgements le 2 novembre. Dès la première journée, des incidents –bulletins non conformes, panne d'ordinateur– ont été enregistrés.

Et ce n'est pas nouveau. Plus d'une fois, ces machines de vote à écran tactile ont montré des signes de défaillance lors d'élections régionales dans d'autres Etats. Soit elles tombaient subitement en panne, soit elles livraient des résultats douteux

Libération.fr - 20 octobre 2004
Machine à voter, machine à ratés

Le vote électronique

Radio-Canada Zone Libre has a good report (in French) on the issues with electronic voting machines.

Une émission sur le vote électronique (les machines à voter) aux États Unis.

It gives a very good overview of the many different ways in which the system could be compromised.

Lors des élections présidentielles du 2 novembre prochain, plus de 50 millions d’électeurs américains vont voter en appuyant sur un écran électronique. Ce système de vote, qui avait failli compromettre l’élection de 2000, pourrait causer de nouveaux problèmes cette année, dans plusieurs États

The good news is that the report is available for viewing online.
The bad news is that they have made it ridiculously elaborate and browser-hostile.

Anyway, I eventually found the URL for the video stream.

Watch / Regardez Le vote électronique (Windows Media)

closed process for public machines

"The design of the [electronic voting] machines is not up to the standards of say, gambling machines," says Stanford University computer scientist David Dill. "The certification processes are not up to the certification processes that exist for software in airplanes, or something like that. The companies that inspect the voting machines at the federal level are private entities, supervised by private organizations. It's very much NOT an open process."

CNN.com - October 29, 2004
Nevada improves odds with e-vote

experts say: e-voting security sucks

Computer experts are questioning the security of the all-electronic voting machines being used in this year's presidential election, but the problems posed by this new approach to recording the vote run much deeper than vote tampering or lost data.

The secret ballot and the partisan nature of elections place a huge burden on electronic security--a burden the field is probably not ready to shoulder, says Barbara Simmons, a computer-security expert at Stanford University.

"In my view, voting is a national-security issue, and I have to say that I fear that what we are going to see with this upcoming election is a huge amount of chaos and a lot of questioning of results," she said. Simmons was addressing computer-security and privacy issues at an American Institute of Physics forum on the future of information technology this week.

The popular criticism of electronic touch-screen voting has centered on inadequate protection against hacking. Many experts believe it would be relatively easy for someone to electronically break into the machines and tamper with vote counts. But even without malicious intent, electronic voting machines pose serious problems for electronic data security.

Simmons participated in a government study of voting-machine security issues before the current system was mandated. The project was eventually canceled because the conclusions by the panel of computer scientists were so negative. "What the government eventually adopted was even worse," Simmons added.

Information Week - Oct. 28, 2004
Voting Machines Remain Unsecured--Experts

Submitted by George Wiman.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

verified voting

I think voting using actually counted paper makes a lot more sense than this daft idea of voting electronically and printing a paper copy, but anyway.

Verified Voting .org has just gone live with a number of tools for all you data-hungry election nerds out there. Amongst the goods: an election guide for geeks, a voter's guide to electronic voting, the Verifier database of county-by-county election information and the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) which will be used on E-day by attorneys and observers in the field to collect data about election incidents called into the Election Protection Coalition's hotline

Slashdot article /.

The Verified Voting site has a good page on E-Voting Misconceptions.
I particularly liked this one

Myth: It just costs too much money to print paper ballots. E-voting will save money.

Fact: The purchase price of e-voting machines is three times as much as precinct-based optical scan. It will take at least 15 years of ballot printing costs to make up the difference. Also, the operational costs of e-voting machines are often underestimated. Some jurisdictions have found that they needed more poll workers to conduct an election with e-voting machines (e.g., San Diego needed twice as many!). There are increased costs for equipment maintenance and storage. Testing is more expensive, and so on.

e-voting standard problems

When the Maryland State Board of Elections ordered more than 5,000 voting machines from Diebold Election Systems in 2002, the touch-screen computers came with assurances that they met federal voting standards.

Election officials quickly discovered that those assurances meant little. The machines had indeed been certified by a third-party testing lab, but the federal voting system standards to which the touch-screen computers were held hailed from 1990 and did not address many of the problems in the latest voting technology.

The issues in the certification system were further highlighted when Diebold's source code for a similar system leaked out, allowing security researchers to analyze the software. The verdict: The code had serious flaws.

For Maryland, the revelations resulted in an arduous six-month process that involved implementing 23 recommendations by security researchers. The issues also confirmed serious problems with federal standards that are intended to ensure the reliability of voting machines.

CNET News.com - October 28, 2004
E-voting: Can it be trusted?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

more e-voting e-postings

Kim Alexander's Weblog has a good stream of US e-voting reports. Via Jason Kitcat.

bizarre recount procedures in New Westminster

On Monday, the city's chief election officer re-verified the unofficial election results and found that there were no discrepancies between the results as generated by the vote tabulating units and the results entered into the city's system for any of the races. Robyn Anderson, chief election officer, also determined that the city will not undertake a recount unless so ordered through a judicial recount process.

"We took the tape from the voting machines - each voting machine has a results tape - and we compared that with the information inputted at city hall. That is something we would do regardless," she said. "The results were exactly the same. I have decided not to undertake a recount."

Sparkes, however, has the ability to apply to the court for a judicial recount. She must do so between the time that the official results are declared (Nov. 20) and nine days after the close of general voting (Nov. 25).

As of The Record's deadline on Tuesday, Sparkes had not decided whether she would seek a judicial recount.

"I am waiting to hear from my lawyer. They have gone over the numbers ... they have remained the same," she said. "I do have some time. I am going to have to think long and hard."

According to Sparkes, a judicial recount would entail putting all of the ballots through the computerized vote counting machines once again. It would not involve reviewing the voters' list to determine if people cast more than one ballot or all voters were qualified to vote.

Shouldn't a recount require HAND recounting of the ballots?

Royal City Record
It's Wright by a whisker

Vancouver: ancient e-voting 1996

Date: February 7, 1996
File: 330/130-3

TO: Standing Committee on Planning and Environment

FROM: City Clerk

SUBJECT: Automated Voting Equipment Upgrade


A. THAT Council approve the upgrade of the Optech III-P
automated voting system for use in the 1996 General Local

B. THAT the City Clerk and General Manager of Corporate
Services report back to Council to seek final approval of
the proposed vendor, acquisition costs and financing of the
recommended upgrade.

www.city.vancouver.bc.ca - Automated Voting Equipment Upgrade

e-voting book

There is an academic book Electronic voting and democracy : a comparative analysis by Norbert Kersting and Harald Baldersheim, from Palgrave Macmillan.

Amazon.co.uk provides this synopsis

Electronic and internet voting has become increasingly widespread in recent years, but which countries are the leaders of the movement and who lags behind? Is the digital divide likely to present a permanent challenge to electronic democracy? What are the experiences with regard to online voting, and what are the arguments for and against? Electronic Voting and Democracy examines these issues and the contexts in which they are played out, such as problems of legitimacy and the practical considerations that have driven some countries toward electronic voting faster than others.

It's a collection of articles.

It includes

Electronic Voting in the United States: At the Leading Edge or Lagging Behind?; F.I.Solop
Electronic Voting in Switzerland; H.Geser
Electronic Voting in Estonia; W.Drechsler & Ü.Madise
Electronic Voting in Austria: Current State of Public Internet Elections; A.Prosser, R.Krimmer & R.Kofler
Electronic Voting in Finland: The Internet and its Political Applications; M.Setälä & K.Grönlund
Electronic Voting in Germany: Political Elections Online - Utopia or the Future?; P.Karger
Electronic Democracy in Sweden: Hare or Tortoise?; J.Olsson & J.Åström
Electronic Voting in the United Kingdom: Lessons and Limitations from the UK Experience; L.Pratchett & M.Wingfield

I found one article online

New technology and turnout (PDF) by Pippa Norris

e-voting in India: simplicity?

It is agonizing to me that even after four years of the Florida fiasco, we are still arguing over how to best count every vote and to count it in a manner that is transparent- only, the argument over the notorious hanging chads seems to have transcended itself into an argument about touch screens and paper trails.

While the world’s most powerful democracy is still remains indecisive about the merits of using electronic voting machines, this summer, India, the world’s largest democracy, took a giant leap forward towards making itself the world’s largest e- democracy. It undertook an unprecedented electronic voting endeavor that enabled 370 million of its citizens (out of 675 million eligible) to vote by electronic voting machines in its federal and state elections.


The Indian Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is a two-piece unit, designed and developed indigenously by two government owned defense equipment-manufacturing companies. Each machine has a keyboard called the balloting unit, on which voters simply push the button adjacent to the name and symbol of the candidate of their choice and the votes are recorded on a chip in the control unit operated by the Electoral Officer. A five-meter cable connects both units. This machine is no more than a modified adding machine, with a microprocessor chip.

It has a simple circuit and a few lines of assembly code. It is far less complicated than the electronic voting machines used here in the US, which resemble an ATM, running on Microsoft software, having thousands of lines of code, encryptions, voice-guidance system etc. In testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on May 6 2004, Avi Rubin, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute said, “The trusted computing base is approximately 50,000 lines of computer code sitting on top of tens of millions of lines of [operating system] code. It is impossible to secure such a large trusted computing base," However, the issue of paramount importance to experts here in the U.S, is the issue of network security.

Simple is good. Paper is the simplest solution.
I don't know enough about the EVM to make any further comment.

Seattle Times - October 26, 2004
E-Voting: Lessons To Be Learned

paper dismissed II: New Jersey

A New Jersey superior court on Tuesday denied a last-minute effort to block the use of electronic voting machines in next week's presidential election.

The case could have affected how five million residents cast ballots.

However, while the Mercer County court turned down a request for a temporary restraining order banning the use of the machines, it refused to completely dismiss the suit.

CNN.com - October 27, 2004
New Jersey court denies e-voting ban

paper dismissed

A federal judge dismissed today a lawsuit that a Florida congressman had filed in a last-ditch effort to require paper trails on electronic voting machines in 15 Florida counties.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) cast the ruling as a partial victory because Judge James Cohn endorsed the idea of a paper trail to allow manual recounts. However, Cohn ruled that the federal court cannot mandate that the state implement such a system.

Federal Computer Week - October 25, 2004
Judge dismisses Fla. e-voting suit

and now, on to the United Kingdom

A Londonderry-based company hopes plans developed at a recent seminar will help it cement its place as a leader in the UK's electronic voting arena.

Opt2vote also hopes to see successes achieved in England being repeated in Northern Ireland.


"GB led the way in terms of the pilots," said Mr Brown. "In 2003 there were 17 pilots in England and we delivered three of them."

This year, the company was involved in the largest scale postal elections ever undertaken in Britain.

"We delivered to 54 of the 127 local authorities for postal pilots in four European regions. In terms of electors we delivered to more than five and a half million electors, and that's exciting," continued Mr Brown.

A framework agreement drawn up by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister lists Opt2vote as an approved supplier of electronic voting systems across multiple channels including the internet, digital television and mobile text messaging (SMS).

Opt2vote delivered three electoral modernisation pilots in local authority elections in 2003.

Two of these elections were the first in the world to allow voters to use an interactive digital television platform (Sky) to cast their official votes.

In the same year Opt2vote also completed an electronic counting project in Scotland, where its software was used to count traditional ballot papers.

Belfast Telegraph - 25 October 2004
E-voting pioneers aim for UK market niche

UK Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (OPDM) E-voting suppliers invited to join the Framework Agreement

60 Minutes on e-voting

60 Minutes Wednesday correspondent Scott Pelley reports there is a concern that the new paperless voting systems could be vulnerable to software bugs. One expert also tells Pelley that if the software is not properly protected from tampering, it could make e-voting an "electoral weapon of mass destruction." Pelley's report will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Wednesday , Oct. 27, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

CBS News - October 27, 2004
Is E-Voting Secure?

UPDATE: It was the lead report, at the start of the show. It focused on the issue of software bugs, as well as the issue of malicious software modification. I thought it gave a good overview of the issues involved.

UPDATE 2004-11-01: The video (QuickTime) is available at
or if that doesn't work, try it via the Coral proxy network.

Related stories:
What Could Go Wrong: Part I

a confusion of voting systems

Two years after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to phase out older voting systems, there is little consistency in the adoption of the law and its provisions. While some states moved quickly to enact HAVA, officials elsewhere are waiting for more guidance to verify which new voting systems meet federal standards.

Computer World - October 25, 2004
Fed Law Doesn't Yield E-voting Consistency

making a hash of voting software

In an effort to increase the integrity of next week's presidential election, five voting machine makers agreed for the first time to submit their software programs to the National Software Reference Library [NSRL] for safekeeping, federal officials said on Tuesday.

The stored software will serve as a comparison tool for election officials should they need to determine whether anyone tampered with programs installed on voting equipment.

I maintain my contention that it is almost impossible to know what software is actually running on a voting machine during the election.

Wired News - Oct. 26, 2004
E-Vote Vendors Hand Over Software

NSRL and Voting System Software

Slashdot reported this as U.S. Voting Software Hashes Made Public /.

e-voting is e-broken

And then the computer scientists showed up: Peter Neumann, principal computer scientist at R&D firm SRI; Barbara Simons, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery; and Stanford computer science professor David Dill. They had been fidgeting in the front of the room through three hours of what Dill would later call "garbage." Finally, they stood up and, one by one, made their case.

Voting, they explained, is too important to leave up to computers - at least, these types of computers. They're vulnerable to malfunction and mischief that could go undetected. Where they'd already been adopted, the devices - known in the industry as DREs, short for direct recording electronic - had experienced glitches that could have called into question entire elections. And they keep no paper record, no backup. "We said, 'Slow down. You've got a problem,'" recalls Neumann.

Wired - January 2004
Broken Machine Politics

wired paper vote

Wired - August 2004
Why You're Still Voting on Paper
Electronic ballots are costly, hackable, and error-prone.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

watching the voting... methods

If you think the country is divided and rancorous about the presidential contest, try polling a few experts about the accuracy and security of electronic voting.

"Clark County has used electronic voting since 1996, and it's been very successful," says Larry Lomax, registrar of voters in the Nevada county that includes Las Vegas. "We've never lost results, ever in Clark County."

But there are plenty of concerns to go around.

"With the paper-based system you can see the ballots being marked, you can see them going into a ballot box, if you have good laws you can go watch them count the ballots, and with electronic voting all of that stuff is hidden inside the machines," says David Dill, a computer scientist at Stanford University.

CNN. com - October 26, 2004
Voting methods under close watch

Monday, October 25, 2004

Red Deer, Alberta e-voting

"This year we increased our number of advance voting days from three to five, with the earliest being October 2 and the last one today, October 15. The feedback we received both from the additional days and the use of the electronic voting machines (iVotronics) has been very positive," said Kelly Kloss, Returning Officer, The City of Red Deer.

www.city.red-deer.ab.ca - October 18, 2004
2004 Municipal Election Advance Voter Turnout

Lethbridge, Alberta e-voting

When residents come to vote in the October 18th Municipal Election they will be casting their vote using new electronic voting equipment.


“Using electronic voting equipment improves the efficiency of the voting process and allows for earlier release of unofficial results,” says Nemeth. The City has used electronic voting equipment very successfully for the past four civic elections. For the 2004 election City Council approved leasing of new electronic voting equipment.

www.lethbridge.ca - Oct. 01, 2004
Public Demonstration Of Electronic Voting Equipment

who shall inspect the counters

The problem with using machines is that there is a huge cascade of problems that you then have to solve.

First, everyone needs to be able to see the software.
Enough people with enough knowledge need to inspect it so that you can be reasonably sure there are no major bugs.

Keep in mind, NASA launches multi-million dollar probes that can't communicate, or have parts installed backwards. Getting complex systems right is EXTREMELY HARD.

Second, you need to be sure that the software you inspected is actually running on the machine during the election. I would argue that this is almost impossible to do.

Slashdot reports NY Times Endorses Open-Source Election Software

In Florida, voter registrations are being thrown out on pointless technicalities. Missouri is telling soldiers to send nonsecret ballots by e-mail through a Pentagon contractor with a troubling past. Nationwide, eligible voters are being removed from the rolls by flawed felon purges. And nearly a third of this year's votes will be cast on highly questionable electronic voting machines. No wonder a large percentage of Americans doubt that their votes will count. The election system is crying out for reform.


One of the greatest sources of voter cynicism this year is electronic voting. There has been a steady stream of reports of manufacturers taking sides in the elections in which they are also counting votes, of machines malfunctioning during elections and of computer scientists showing how easy it would be for these machines to produce false vote totals, accidentally or intentionally. There is a desperate need for strong federal standards, including a requirement for a voter-verifiable paper record, so voters can be sure that the vote recorded by the machine is the one they cast. States like California, Ohio, Illinois and Nevada have been in the lead in mandating voter-verified paper trails. Congress should make it a national requirement.

The online New York Times has a section with quite a few articles on electronic voting and US election topics: nytimes.com/makingvotescount

Sunday, October 24, 2004

the paper trail to democratic elections

WheresThePaper.org makes a number of important points

3. Computer accuracy is not "free" -- it is achieved by continuous audits, reconciliations, and correction of errors. If this work is not done, the computer's results should be assumed to be inaccurate. Computers only give us speed of processing, audits give us accuracy.

4. It is far simpler, more accurate, and less costly to conduct an election using hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots than to use a computer system and then have to audit the computer. Everyone understands the use of paper, but only a few people understand the use of computers and how to audit them.

e-voting means machine trusting

With the US presidential election less than two weeks away, the battle over electronic voting is raging stronger than ever. Opponents of the technology have resorted to a series of lawsuits in a last-ditch attempt to stop the use of the machines.

The debate centres on the use of electronic voting equipment, ATM-like machines that register votes digitally after people make their selections on a touch-screen. Nearly 30% of voters will place their ballot using these 'e-voting' machines when choosing the next US president.

Many watchdog groups are warning that tests conducted on e-voting hardware and software are insufficient, and that faulty machines could cause votes to be missed or registered incorrectly. It's not yet clear how serious these problems will be; early voting in a dozen or so states so far has thrown up only minor glitches.


"Voters using electronic machines without a paper trail will simply have to trust the good word of the vendors and local election officials that the electronic numbers recorded in the machine memories accurately reflect the intent of the electorate," says Matt Zimmerman, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Freedom Foundation, which studies civil liberties issues related to technology.

Emphasis mine.

This is the fundamental question: would you rather trust machines (and by extension, everyone who has ever had access to those machines) or would you rather trust a few people counting ballots. Personally, I'd rather trust humans.

news @ nature.com - 22 October 2004
Battle to stop e-voting steps up

Avi on e-voting

The November 2004 DDJ has A Conversation with Avi Rubin

DDJ contributing editor Jack Woehr talks to Avi Rubin, the world's leading authority on electronic voting and software engineering.

You need (free) registration to read the article.
Here are some key extracts

DDJ: As someone who has been an election judge for various cities and counties since the 1980s, it seems to me that you don't have to have much insecurity to have a potential for cheating, not only in electronic voting, but in any kind of voting system.

AR: The fundamental problem with electronic voting systems is that the machine does whatever it was programmed to do. If the machine was programmed to count the votes that people put in, and there are no bugs in the program (which is very unlikely for a very large system) then it just might do that. But if I were building the machine, I could make it so that anyone I wanted to win would win. I could do it in such a way that there is no way anyone would know that I did it. You could do it in a way that it would just make it somewhat more likely that the candidate you wanted to win would win.


DDJ: We've had several elections here in Colorado with electronic voting machines and the results seem quite plausible.

AR: That's one comment I hear that irks me: "They seem to working well." If you are concerned about functionality, sure, but if you're concerned about security... If the threat model is that some attacker is taking some small percentage of the vote and shifting the result, you cannot observe them and say that they are working well. You just don't know.

Apparently the interview is reprinted from the 2004 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy.

counting countdown

The simpler an election system is, the more resistant it is to legal challenges.
In the US, the system is very complex.
We shall see how smoothly the next election goes.

Remember, elections are processes by which the electorate convinces itself that their votes were fairly translated into the resulting selected candidates, thus conferring legitimacy from a very large group of voters to a very small group of elected officials.

If people lose faith in the process, it undermines the entire legitimacy of the political system.

Think about this system: millions of people give billions of dollars to be spent by a few hundred people. How long do you think that is sustainable if the millions don't trust that the few hundred were legitimately chosen?

I predict the aftermath of the US election will be a storm of legal challenges.
Keep in mind, this should also be used in calculating the cost of non-transparent election systems like electronic voting machines.

The number of angles from which a paper-based system can be challenged is few and fairly easily resolved. The number of angles from which an electronic system can be challenged is almost limitless.

Many elections officials, party activists and media executives believe the final outcome of the Nov. 2 presidential election may not be known that night, or even the next morning. In fact, the public may not have a clear and declared winner for days because of possible glitches in voting and counting, and subsequent legal challenges.

Palm Beach Post - October 23, 2004
Outcome likely to require patience

So electronic voting systems, whose sole benefit appears to be "fast counts" for very complex ballots, end up leading to... slower results.
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