From the Chicago Methods Reporter comes this story about poorly trained election administrators and misapplied overrides. One of the affected voters writes:
“Jim and I went to vote at 7 a.m. We were given Democratic ballots and pens. But when I got to the booth, my pen didn’t work — it was like a felt-tip marker with no ink. So I went back to the desk and was told — along with several other confused voters trying to swap out their nonfunctional pens — that these were “invisible ink” pens that would not leave marks on the ballot but would absolutely be read by the scanners.
Except that they weren’t. The optical scanners were spitting out ballots until one of the election judges used a key to override the system and get the ballots into the box. After my ballot was rejected once, I got a confirmation that my vote “counted” (when the number on the ballot box blipped from 19 to 20), but Jim was given a regular ballpoint to fill in his, and it counted right away.”
The voter made enough of a fuss that they managed to get the precinct to try to “make good”. They did this by contacting the first 20 voters at that location and inviting them to re-vote.
The Chicago Tribune covers this too.
(Aside: There are voting systems that really do use special pens. For example the soon-to-be publicly described Scantegrity II system uses invisible ink on part of the ballot that is only visible when highlighted.)
Rick Carback of punchscan has asked me to help publicize a project of his.
He describes it here as a discussion board-like setting for discussing the latest VVSG Draft.:
This week I started disseminating news of my latest project, the VVSG-OF. The idea is to provide a discussion board-like setting for discussing the latest VVSG Draft. The hope is that, through open discussion, a few new ideas might come up that would not otherwise happen in the short times available in conferences on the document.
This is not to be confused with EAC’s own comment tool, which is a convenient, albeit mostly one-way, avenue to express your opinions on the document. When the comment period is over in early March, I will print out all the comments and mail them to the EAC (by me on behalf of each commenter).
If you are at all interesting in the voting process and where that will be heading in the coming years, I urge you to take a look!
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:
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.
Aleks Essex of Punchscan, prodded by one of my comments, posted his thoughts about raising the profile of end-to-end verifiable systems in the public eye:
The allaboutvoting suggestion was to establish an outreach to the broader public about E2E. Of course this is a good idea, and something that’s overdue. But that’s going to be tough. As for Punchscan, our approach to raising its profile has always been by “doing.” First we designed and built it. Then we debuted it in a binding election. Then we won an international competition. I think that these milestones were all necessary; people need things they can “touch.” Pictures and movie of real voters using Punchscan I think helped “make it real” to people, because it was real. Winning the ten thousand dollars sure got people interested. So I’d say it’s these “press” moments that will see E2E find its way into “normal” conversation, if only for a moment.
My prodding comment was:
Unfortunately much of the talk about E2E is pretty off.
* “there is no problem”
* “your solution is something only geeks can understand”
* “your solution is to just ‘trust us’”
* hijacking of E2E potential as a call to inaction with respect to the use voting machines without any verification
* lots of heavily technical bureaucratic jargon that I don’t quite follow yet
Does the E2EV movement have any umbrella outreach and discussion place? My perception of it right now is that it is gaining momentum academically but that there is little advocacy intended for a general audience. What little there is seems to be partitioned into individual E2E projects (like punchscan) rather than movement wide.
An active yahoo group might be a helpful start.
I’m thinking of just starting an E2EV yahoo group myself but I’m not yet sufficiently committed to research and invite all the people needed to jump start a community.
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.
I’m writing up a full point-by-point review of the ITIF eVoting report. [Update 9/20/07: It’s written. Here is the point-by-point review]
For now, here is a quick summary of my impressions.
I agree with the basic premise of the report that the debate about electronic voting needs to be broader and include other verification technologies than voter-verified paper audit trails. I am in basic agreement with the policy recommendations of the paper but I feel that these recommendations need some caveats. I discuss the recommendations below.
I disagree with much of the setup of the report. The susceptibility to fraud of electronic voting machines is downplayed too much as is the ability of voter-verified paper audit trails to mitigate that. The tone of the report when talking about organizations promoting voter verified audit trails or promoting distrust of eVoting is absolutely poisonous and Mr. Castro should be ashamed. I suspect that much of the poor reception this paper is getting is due to that.
[Update 9/20/07: I have read the report and review it here: summary and points-by-point]
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:
In response to the Timothy Ryan op-ed “A Damaging Paper Chase In Voting”, Rick Carback (one of the punchscan developers) wrote about HR811:
…the article makes an excellent point — mandating a specific technology (which has been known to be problematic since the inception of voting) is a bad idea. By contrast, the authors of the bill could have taken the approach of Software Independence, where the outcome of an election can be determined independently of a piece of software. Any software independence approach would rule out paperless DREs, a hidden audit trail printout, and other ill-conceived technology. DREs with unreliable printers for a VVPAT approach could also be excluded, but you would need to add a reliability requirement (not hard to do). Our system, and similar systems like PAV, would more easily fit into such a definition.
From A Damaging Paper Chase In Voting by Timothy J. Ryan for the Washington Post comes this piece opposing HR811. Among other things it points out that HR811 would conflict with voting systems that cannot provide a paper trail (like Prime III, an Auburn University project that I am not familiar with and hence do not endorse in any way) or cannot preserve all paper records (like punchscan) I would be interested in hearing the reaction of people involved with punchscan to this piece.