[E-voting] Re: Submission

John Lambe icte-jlambe at johnlambe.com
Wed Mar 17 20:38:34 GMT 2004

I suggest including something like the following, to demonstrate that
the threat is realistic:

"In Fairfax County, Virginia in November 2003 [1], direct recording
electronic (DRE) voting machines were seen to change the voter's choice
on the screen from one candidate to another, in favour of the same
candidate in each case. Some voters reported this and a machine was
tested and found to do this with about one per cent of votes. This
error could be corrected by the voter selecting the intended candidate
again. Since the voters could see the vote being changed on the screen,
it is likely that most of them corrected it, but that some did not
notice the change. Since there was no voter-verified record of the
votes, it is impossible to tell what the result would have been if all
voters' intentions had been recorded accurately.

Although this fault was visible to the voter, it is equally possible
that a software bug or hardware fault could cause votes to be recorded
wrongly while being displayed correctly. In that case, unless the
result was implausible, it is very unlikely that this error would be
discovered, since there would be no reason to suspect it.

This case also demonstrates that a fault can cause a machine to throw a
small proportion of votes to a particular candidate, thereby
potentially altering the result in a close election, without raising
suspicion of an error.

While this case relates to a different model of voting machine to that
used in Ireland, the nature of the risk is the same, since both are
direct recording electronic machines with no VVAT."

[1] The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2003, "Fairfax Judge Orders Logs Of
Voting Machines Inspected".

We could add something about the apparent lack of quality control in
development of the PowerVote software:
I've heard that bugs were (afterwards) found in the version used in the
general election:
- Failing if a candidate got zero votes.
- Failing if there were more seats than candidates.
While these would rarely occur, the fact that they weren't found before
the system was used tell us something about the quality of their
testing (any competent tester would be expected to include test cases
for the above).

I also heard (on a Boards.ie discussion) that on one ocasion, the
PowerVote software failed certification ten times consecutively (4
times on another ocasion).

Can anyone confirm these and give references?

I think that we should also mention the government communications
system which was effectively tampered by MI6, since this voting system
could potentially be tampered in exactly the same way. (It shows that
interference in electronic systems has happened in the past and
therefore is a realistic scenario).
Does anyone have a reference for information on it?

In the introduction, I think that "illspecified" should be hyphenated

John Lambe
Phone (mobile): +353 86 2895286
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