From Discover magazine’s blog:
What’s Easier to Rig—the U.S. Presidential Elections or a Slot Machine?
Steve Freeman, a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, compared the vulnerabilities of the two in his book, with some pretty alarming results. Among the problems he found:
–Unpredictable voting machine software is kept secret, while gambling software must be kept on file with the state.
–State inspectors randomly inspect gambling machines to ensure their software and computer chips haven’t been tinkered with. Voting machines don’t need to be checked, and no one knows what’s in them anyways.
When will we have a transparent verifiable election system?
‘Foreign Policy’ has an interesting article on how to steal an election. It’s focused on third world autocratic regimes.
Their list of techniques is:
- Control the process
- Manipulate the media
- Keep out the observers
- Misreport results
- Foster incompetence and chaos
- Resort to the crude stuff
In my perception some of this applies to the US. As an example, the US media is typically very shallow in it’s investigation or coverage of election irregularities. I don’t think that the US media is controlled by those in current political power but is driven by the rules of access, expediency, and a frame of reference that assumes a two party system without any critical thought of why such a system is so persistent.
Please share your thoughts on whether any of these techniques apply in any degree to the US.
From the SacBee, Sacramento County machine flaws to delay results:
Problems with Sacramento County voting machines will stall Feb. 5’s election results for hours. Results may not come until well after your morning coffee – the next day, county elections officials said Wednesday.
“It might be slow, but it will be accurate,” offered Brad Buyse, a spokesman for the local election office.
He said the county discovered problems with the equipment used to count ballots in neighborhood polling places a couple weeks ago.
After days working with the ballot printer and election machine vendor to try to solve the problem – and Feb. 5’s presidential primary only days away – elections officials decided to take the faulty machines out of the mix.
So rather than scan ballots at each of the county’s 548 polling places, ballots will be taken back to the central office and tabulated using larger, faster machines that have passed required tests.
Tuesday election results usually come in by midnight. This time around, it could be 9 a.m. Wednesday before all the ballots are counted, Buyse said.
- An 8 hour delay in knowing election results is not an issue in my view
- It would be nice to understand what specific issues were found with the machines.
- In addition to not providing feedback about over/under votes (brought up in the article) there is an election integrity concern with moving from precinct tallying to central tallying. The chain-of-custody of the ballots becomes more suspect and the possibility of tampering while ballots are in transit or storage arises. Most election integrity advocates (who are not pushing for end-to-end verifiable systems) advocate for counting the ballots at the precinct level so that chain-of-custody issues are less pressing. For an example of recent chain of custody issues with central counting, consider the case of New Hampshire’s democratic primary (scroll down to the “Butch” and “Hoppy” part).
I stayed up late on Tuesday to watch the late screening of Uncounted at the Crest Theater in Sacramento.
The whole experience was great. The movie was lucid and clearly demonstrated that our voting system has serious election integrity issues and that these issues are exacerbated by the use of electronic voting machines. I liked it so much that I bought a copy of the movie so that I can re-watch it later, look through the extended interviews, and show it to friends.
After the screening there was a panel discussion and Q&A session with David Earnhardt (the director), Peter B. Collins (local progressive radio host), and Brad Friedman (investigative journalist focused on election integrity).
I chatted with Brad a bit during the first screening. Continue reading
I’ll be at the Crest theater Tuesday night to see the film Uncounted by David Earnhardt.
I’ll post on my thoughts after I watch it.
I also hope to check the pulse of other attendees interest in starting a local election reform meet-up that is more focused on discussion, debate, and networking then on pushing for a particular agenda.
UNCOUNTED is an explosive new documentary that shows how the election fraud that changed the outcome of the 2004 election led to even greater fraud in 2006 – and now looms as an unbridled threat to the outcome of the 2008 election. This controversial feature length film by Emmy award-winning director David Earnhardt examines in factual, logical, and yet startling terms how easy it is to change election outcomes and undermine election integrity across the U.S. Noted computer programmers, statisticians, journalists, and experienced election officials provide the irrefutable proof.
UNCOUNTED is a wakeup call to all Americans. Beyond increasing the public’s awareness, the film inspires greater citizen involvement in fixing a broken electoral system. As we approach the decisive election of 2008, UNCOUNTED will change how you feel about the way votes are counted in America.
Daniel Castro has responded to review of the ITIF eVoting report that he wrote.
In that review I agree with his thesis that “end-to-end verifiable” voting systems should be encouraged and be part of the debate on electronic voting and I basically agree with his recommendations. But I strongly disagreed with his assessment of the relative risks of paper systems, electronic voting systems, and electronic voting systems that print a voter verified paper trail. I also found much of the tone of his report offensive.
My assessment is:
e2e verifiable system > paper system > eVoting with voter verified paper trail > eVoting
His appears to be:
e2e verifiable system > eVoting > eVoting with voter verified paper trail > paper system
And I believe that we both agree the e2e voting systems need more support and some trial runs but are not yet ready for widespread deployment.
To put it pithily, “I agree with the thesis of this disagreeable report“.
Here is his response. This is posted with his permission:
Regarding the remarkable clip of rule breaking Texas legislators voting for their colleagues, here is the transcript, including a statement from Alexis DeLee, Spokesperson for House Speaker, Tom Craddick:
There’s been a lot of debate at the State Capitol on bills relating to voter integrity. Some lawmakers are pushing for measures such as requiring voters to show a photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.
Another bill would criminalize anyone who delivers a ballot for someone unable to drive to the polls.
With so much emphasis on one vote for one person, you’d think lawmakers would make sure they follow the rules, too.
In this CBS 42 Investigates, Nanci Wilson found many don’t.
This is an astounding video showing Texas legislators voting for absent members.
Such votes are against the rules of the Texas legislature but are apparently common practice.
- Does willfully violating the rules mean that the legislators are violating their oaths of office?
- Are these votes courtesy votes done with the consent of the absentee member or are a mad mercenary attempt to get as many votes as possible in the rule-breaking voter’s favor?
[Update: here is the transcript]
I’ve been part of a lively debate about some of the issues raised by this video in this forum. I have a number of comments there, so be sure to check it out.
A bit more brainstorming about ways to aid the end-to-end verifiability meme. Other suggestions are welcome.
- Have a forum for discussing E2E verifiable systems. For example a yahoo group or a google group. Initially I would suggest an open all-purpose forum covering both technical discussion and general advocacy and discussion.
- Have a website promoting the general idea of E2E verifiable systems – not just specific systems
- Each E2E project should have a website dedicated to it with clear descriptions of how it works intended for non-academic readers. (It should of course also include sections targeting academic readers) The Punchscan web site does very well here. But many others do not – even projects involving the same people.
Here is my point-by-point review of Daniel Castro’s ITIF eVoting report.
This is a long post. I recommend that you first read a summary of my views.
I am basic agreement with the thesis of the report which is that the debate about eVoting should move beyond voter-verified paper audit trails to include systems that can prove to a voter that their vote was counted as cast. However, I found the tone and focus of the report disagreeable and I disagreed with much of the material in the report advocating for eVoting and against voter-verified paper audit trails.