[E-voting] terrorism and electronic elections

Brian O'Byrne bobyrne at statesoft.ie
Mon Jul 11 15:09:58 IST 2005


With respect, terrorism (or TERRORISM) is a red herring when 
considering the security of a voting system.

An attack from a TERRORIST is no more or less damaging to the system 
than an attack from a corrupt politician or voting official. In 
either case the intent will be to subvert the will of the people for 
personal or political gain. In either case the attack vectors (at 
least in so far as the attack is on the voting system) will be the 
same. In either case the 'victory against democracies' would be the 

Yes, paper ballot elections are more robust. There are still single 
points of failure and the possibility for a single event to make it 
impossible to declare a winner. (Consider setting fire to the count 
center after ballot boxes have been opened, for example).

The point is that all of your concerns about electronic voting are 
true whether or not a TERRORIST threat exists, so bringing TERRORISM 
into the debate is unnecessarily inflamatory.


PS: Consider: if the goal of the TERRORIST is to change a nation's 
policy they can do that without attacking the voting system. Witness 
the elections in Spain, with a vote just two days after a terrorist 
attack. It is very likely that the attack changed the result of the 
vote, even though the voting system was not attacked.
Tongue-in-cheek you could even suggest that if the Spanish electoral 
system was open to attack then the terrorists could have achieved 
that goal without killing people.

On Sunday 10 July 2005 16:41, vote at electronic-vote.org wrote:
> Nowadays we face TERRORISM as one of the most dangerous attack to
> our Democracies. Since in Democracy the political power is given to
> politicians by means of elections, a good goal for terrorists could
> be the alteration of electoral processes. If they could
> delegitimate the ruling power, they would have a great victory
> against democracies!
> Ballot paper elections are very robust and have no single point of
> failure: there is NOT a single place which abnormal functioning
> could lead to the impossibility to declare a winner. Paper
> elections can be held despite of black outs and interruptions of
> computer networks. Infact paper elections have properly worked also
> when electricity and computer did not even exist! On the contrary,
> electronic elections are based on computer networks and computer
> centers which are very good terroristic targets. A terroristic
> attack to the network infrastucture, to power distribution lines,
> or to a computer center could lead to the impossibility to declare
> a winner of the election. It would deny governments any democratic
> legitimation, seriously harming any Democracy
> Thus the existance of terrorism is a very good reason to elect our
> governments using ballot papers and NOT to use electronic vote!
> This is an excertp from the site
>                http://www.electronic-vote.org
>                http://www.electronic-voting.org
> Emanuele Lombardi
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> http://evoting.cs.may.ie/

Brian O'Byrne, Statesoft Ltd.
Tel: +353 1 4100 993, +353 86 240 4719

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