Diebold election insecurity systems
Posted May 18, 2006 11:38 UTC (Thu) by copsewood
Parent article: Diebold election insecurity systems
I stood in recent local council elections in Coventry, UK, a city with about 200,000 population. Here we use a paper ballot, which involves a couple of hundred local government officers counting for a couple of hours after the polling stations close. It's pretty tiring for all concerned to be up until 2AM before you get a result and having to work the next day. But the integrity and observability benefits far outweigh this cost for this kind of application; everybody knows someone who knows someone who is directly involved in this count. The point isn't just about whether the system can be audited by a team of PHd level experts. Our low-tech counts can be and are observed by many people with a basic education and more. This doesn't require that those with a more basic education have to trust "the experts", whom we all know are just as likely to be corrupt as anyone else.
In parts of the UK, we have had recent and publicised corruption problems arising from a pilot expansion of postal voting in a few areas. The problem here is that when you have a vulnerable person visited by an activist, or with an activist relative, there is very little confidence that the voting was either done by the voter or done in secret. In my view postal voting for general political representatives should only be available for those who really can't vote in person.
I'm entirely in favour of extending Internet voting for consultation purposes and for elections within specialist organisations, e.g. trade unions or credit unions. Here the integrity and observability issues can be sorted out where the stakes are not so high, and the cost considerations are more dominant.
One interesting proposal for machine voting is that the machine counts the vote, and prints a paper ballot that the voter checks as being correct, who puts it into a traditional ballot box. The machine count is announced to the candidates at the start of the count, and a sample of the paper ballots is counted manually from each box. If the result is very clear and the samples show a similar proportion of voting for each candidate, then the result can be announced based on the mechanical count and everyone can go home sooner. If the vote is very close, then all the paper ballots still have to be counted. You still need to employ enough people to be able to count the close paper ballots within this system, but for a whole city where it would be very exceptional for results in more than 3 out of 15 wards to be close, this would be just as verifiable and observable, but would reduce the overall cost.
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