[E-voting] UK govt circular mentions open-source e-voting

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Thu Jul 21 16:47:59 IST 2005

On Thursday, July 21, 2005 8:10 AM [EDT],
Craig Burton <caburt at alphalink.com.au> wrote:

>> Trust of the system, any system, will always be our confidence that
>> mutually distrusting parties observe all parts of the system and each
>> other and don't complain.  Is this arrangement beyond technology?

Mutually distrusting parties can't adequately vouch for the contents of any
black box. And the bottom line is that it is physically impossible for them
to "observe" all parts of the system, when the most important part of the
system, the actual ballots themselves, have no physical existence.

Short of a system where each candidate builds and provides his own
electronic "ballot box", and collects a copy of each vote as cast, so that
each of the mutually distrusting parties can verify the outcome themselves,
e-voting will remain troublesome. (Schemes that do this type of thing have
been proposed, though they pose difficulties for the sort of secrecy that we
expect in elections).

In Ireland, we ended up spending a lot of money on a system that didn't meet
our needs, because nobody bothered to define what problem it was supposed to
solve - our Taoiseach said it was needed purely for show ("we should buy a
foreign voting system to show how technologically advanced we are as a
nation"), our current minister says we need it because it'll stop the
lawyers dragging disputed counts out for up to a week. Various politicians
says it will save them having to wait a whole day to find out if they can
keep their jobs (a concern that almost nobody else shares).

Different countries have different problems that need to be addressed, and
technology may have a role to play in some instances. But blindly throwing
technology at the problem, as happened in Ireland, is a recipe for
disaster - you end up with the technology that's available, not the
technology that fixes the problem.


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