Monday, November 08, 2004

Just say no to electronic voting

Ok, I have seen enough problem reports for this election to make it reasonably suspect in my mind. You can learn more here, here and here for starters.

Right now, I am working on a paper that will explain the fundemantal problems Electronic Voting Machines present to the chain of trust necessary for our democracy to remain stable and fair. For now, here is a little thought analogy that should get you thinking about the level of trust these machines deserve.

In this example we have Bob the vote counter, who represents the voting machine, Jane the voter, who obviously represents your typical voter, and Ted the election supervisor. The rest of the analogy closely represents what happens to your vote when it is electronically processed. Mind you, I am not talking about optical scan machines because these have paper records that can be verified later. This is about fully digital machines that carry your vote cast, from voting booth to final tally.

Read through the thought example below and ask yourself if you could honestly trust the results of the election. If you could, or disagree with the analogy, by all means comment below. Sell me, I would love to be wrong at this point.

"A story of trust"

Jane arrives at her designated voting place, ready to vote. Because the number of issues to be decided this year, she brings her hand written notes with her to be sure she gets it all right.

Upon arrival, she meets Ted, the election supervisor. Ted checks Janes voter registration status and informs her that she is at the right place at the right time, eligible to vote. While delivering the good news, Ted hands Jane a small eraseable tablet with all the issues ready for her selection and lets her know she may proceed to the voting place.

At the voting place, Jane proceeds to mark her choices, using her notes for reference, on the tablet in front of her. After double checking her choices, she puts her tablet through the receptacle to Bob, the voting machine.

Bob works alone in a secure room. Bob has been trained and certifed to count the vote. Bob passed the numerous certification tests with flying colors.

During her brief discussion with Ted, Jane was told she can trust Bob because he is in a secure room and certified to handle the vote.

Bob examines the tablet from Jane. As he interpets each of her choices, he calls them out to her for verification. When he hears confirmation from Jane, he records all of Janes choices on his own larger tablet and returns the smaller tablet to Jane so that she may return it to Ted on her way out.

Jane leaves the voting place, returns the tablet to Ted, who erases it so the next voter can start with a clean slate, making the voting cycle complete for Jane.

Bob, meanwhile continues to record voter choices on his large tablet. When his tablet becomes full, he tabulates all the voter choices he recorded, calls his sub-total into the central tabulators, erases his tablet, and continues on. Bob does keep a list of sub-totals obtained during the election just in case new totals are needed for some reason.

At the end of the election, the final tally is obtained and published by the central tabulators.

Honestly, would you trust that election? I would be very interested to hear from you if you would.


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