Saturday, August 06, 2016

Australia concludes electronic voting would catastrophically compromise election integrity

In my understanding, Australia does a review of election processes and possible improvements after every election.

Canada should be so lucky as to have a process as comprehensive as Australia's last review in 2013, where "The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters held 20 hearings and reviewed more than 200 submissions, before deciding Australia should stick to its largely paper based system."[1]

The foreward of this Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) report is worth quoting extensively, as it is clear and compelling.  Any emphasis (bolding) below is mine.
advocates argue that [electronic voting computers and Internet voting] offer faster and potentially more accurate results. With the close of polls the results are known within minutes rather than hours, days and weeks and arguably without the human error that occurs in the long paper ballot count.
Many think it sounds like a good idea for the next federal election.
No matter your view, this is not feasible.
Even the most ardent electronic voting advocates must recognise that in logistical terms it would be impossible for our electoral authorities to roll it out next polling day which is less than two years away – at the latest.
But what about future elections?
I once simply assumed so, but that was before I had really given it a lot of thought.
After hearing from a range of experts, and surveying the international electoral landscapes it is clear to me that Australia is not in a position to introduce any large-scale system of electronic voting in the near future without catastrophically compromising our electoral integrity.
Machine electronic voting at a polling place is vulnerable to hacking to some degree. This can be mitigated by a system that not only records your vote electronically, but also produces a printed ballot for physical counting and later verification. In other words, a lot of expense to still visit the polling booth, queue up and complete your vote on a machine rather than a paper ballot.
For this reason, internet voting seems to be naturally the most attractive to many voters. As an election expert from the USA recently said to me: ‘when it comes to voting, folks would rather be online than in line.’
But the weight of evidence tells us that at present [Internet voting] is highly vulnerable to hacking. While internet voting occurs in Estonia, it does not mean that system cannot be hacked.
With all the internet security architecture available, the academic experts swear they can, and have proved they can, hack such systems.
Given we complete so many transactions online, I am often asked why voting should be any different. My answer to that is that voting once every three years to determine our democratic destiny is not an everyday transaction.
Not only do we have the right to a ballot; we have rightly enshrined within our system the right to a secret vote. Voting at a booth in a polling place guarantees this; voting over the internet threatens this.
Internet voting would expose some voters to family and peer pressure by removing the individual isolation of voting at a secluded booth and replacing it with voting in a home, a workplace or a public place. It also potentially opens up a market for votes where disengaged or financially desperate voters could be offered money to vote a certain way, which could be verified in a way not possible at a polling place.
Over the course of the twenty hearings to date and in reviewing the 207 submissions received, the Committee has worked collaboratively and in an impartial manner to ensure that the best outcomes have been met.
Technology is moving at a rapid pace. The Committee believes that we should be utilising it to ensure that the systems underpinning how we vote are sound and that persons with disabilities have easy access to the vote. In doing so, we will harness [technology] which enhances our electoral integrity, not that which endangers it.
Hon Tony Smith
MP Chair
I extend my thanks once again to the Honourable Tony Smith for such a clear and compelling summary of the evidence.

[1] ABC - Curious Campaign: Why have voters not had access to electronic voting? - 26 May 2016

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Sunday, July 31, 2016


Your post advocates a

( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) vigilante

approach to improving voting. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't
work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea.)

( ) It will not increase turnout.  Only public interest increases turnout.  Yes, even for the kids today.
( ) It will not save money
( ) It will not be secure
( ) The ballot will not be secret
( ) Any increase in vote counting speed is irrelevant when weighed against the greatly increased risks of hacking
( ) By enabling the voter to verify their vote after it has been cast, you have opened the door to coercion
( ) By issuing user, password, personal info credentials you have made the voter's identity something that can be sold or stolen
( ) Every eligible voter cannot meaningfully understand and inspect it
( ) The requirement to have a printed ballot for verification means you have invented a very expensive pencil

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

( ) The fact that computers can lie; computers will do whatever they're programmed to do
( ) Nation-state attackers
( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
( ) Coding errors
( ) Malware
( ) Banking has completely different security requirements from voting; when hacked the transaction is reversed at the bank's expense
( ) The online system you think is analogous is not
( ) The need to cast an anonymous vote on a smartphone, the least anonymous device ever invented
( ) The need to cast a secure vote on a system that has components built or coded by other nation-states
( ) The corporation you have outsourced your voting system to is malicious and/or incompetent
( ) The fact the voting machines (computers) will not be patched as new vulnerabilities are discovered
( ) Tendency of users to click on anything received by email
( ) Lack of technical expertise in individuals overseeing and running the election
( ) Power failure
( ) Denial of service
( ) USB keys
( ) Wifi / Bluetooth
( ) Inevitable technology obsolescence
( ) Encrypting the communication over the network doesn't matter when the client and server aren't secure
( ) Blockchain doesn't work the way you think it does, and even if it did, it wouldn't solve the problem you think it does

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
( ) Voting for your democratic representatives should require more thought and effort than ordering a pizza
Copyright © 2016 Richard Akerman
Licensed in the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
Free to reuse and modify without attribution.
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