I just got an interesting comment from Daniel Castro, the author of an Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) report on electronic voting. Castro’s comment:
I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the report we just released on electronic voting. We discuss the limitation of paper audit trails, alternative technologies (to paper) that can be used for audit trails, and suggest that we should focus the national discussion not on whether or not we should have paper trails, but rather on how to implement universally verifiable (or end-to-end verifiable) voting systems.
From the report’s teaser:
Americans trust computers to run critical applications in fields such as banking, medicine, and aviation, but a growing technophobic movement believes that no computer can be trusted for electronic voting. Members of this movement claim that in order to have secure elections, Americans must revert to paper ballots. Such claims are not only incorrect but attack the very foundation of our digital society, which is based on the knowledge that information can be reasonably secured. Clearly, no system with a human element—including electronic and non-electronic voting machines—is error-proof, and specific versions of certain voting machines have security weaknesses. Neither of these facts, however, should be taken as a universal indictment of e-voting.
Congress is now considering legislation that would mandate that all DRE voting machines have voter-verified paper audit trails, and many states will vote on similar legislation this year. We believe it is time for the debate on e-voting technology to move beyond a discussion of paper audit trails. To restore voter confidence and promote secure election technology in the United States by ensuring that states can continue to improve their voting systems, we recommend the following:
* Congress and the states should allow the use of fully electronic ballots, not restrict electronic voting systems to those that create paper ballots.
* Congress and the states should require that future voting machines have verifiable audit trails, not require machines that create verifiable paper audit trails.
* Congress should provide funding for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to issue grants for developing secure cryptographic voting protocols and for pilot testing of new voting technology.
I have not read the report yet but I plan to. The teaser has both appealing and off-putting aspects. I believe that the debate about electronic voting ought to be broader and have a place for other cryptographically secure voting systems. On the other hand the evidence that I have seen suggests that electronic voting machines do not have a clear advantage over paper systems and are often more expensive, more error prone, and more fraud prone then paper systems (hand counted, optical scan, or punch-card).
ITIF’s report was pre-announced in a few forums I pay attention to and has had a relatively poor reception to it’s announcement. I hope to see better coverage of the actual report coming soon:
- A poor reception from John Gideon of VotersUnite.org (posted at the Brad Blog)
- A poor reception at Slashdot
- Rick Carback of PunchScan‘s take
Many critics focus their analysis on whose pocket ITIF is in. This is less of a concern to me then what they have to say.