[E-voting] UK shelves plans for e-voting trials

Craig Burton caburt at alphalink.com.au
Sat Sep 10 23:23:52 IST 2005

On 9/9/05, *Craig Burton* <caburt at alphalink.com.au 
<mailto:caburt at alphalink.com.au>> wrote:

>     Brian,
>     REV hasn't really seen the light of day but it is a rapidly
>     advancing field, making full use of cryptography (as in PKC),
>     formal methods (as in the Dutch KOA system), transaction security
>     (as in Kwangjo Kim's FIFA system), strong voter identification (as
>     in the US DoD, Estonia and others using PKI) and "open code"
>     designs (my own work: emitted Java remote client code encapsulates
>     the entire election and is made public, is signed). 
> I'm amazed that people continue to hammer on about technology, when 
> one of the major issues to be faced human behaviour, people. With 
> postal voting in the UK, coercion is a massive problem in certain 
> communities (old people, those in residential care, immigrant 
> communities...). It's unlikely to decrease with REV. Who owns and 
> controls family/home computers? Largely men-who-are-head-of-household.

The most likely REV users will be Internet users (79% of French Internet 
users would vote online, for example), not just computer users.  The 
demographics for Internet use are not predominantly men of 40-60.  
Unlike postal voting where the head of the house can merely collect the 
postal vote and vote it, REV can use strong authentication tied to an ID 
card (as in Estonia).  And you can vote more than once - a coercer would 
have to act at the last possible minute or otherwise confine you from 
visiting any Internet terminal anywhere in the country.
A good REV design includes people in distributing trust (audit and 
signature of software, keys etc) and excludes other people to prevent 
fraud.  Lots of hands touch postal votes, all of them can change them.  
It's a human problem only improved by removing some of the people.

So is the need for remote voting then a human problem?  Is it the 
voter's fault they can't attend a polling station?

> The 'Australian system' (a secret ballot in a public location) was 
> introduced because of widespread voting fraud in many countries. It 
> incorporates many checks and balances that would be lost under a 
> remote system (e.g. candidates, agents and independent observers can 
> monitor what's happening as everything takes place in a public space; 
> citizens can challenge others at polling stations; nobody is allowed 
> to be with the voter when they cast their vote, unless they need and 
> want physical assistance to do so....).

I'm well aware of this system, it was first deployed 200m up the road 
from my work, at the Melbourne Town Hall, 149 years ago.  It is an 
excellent system, the best in the world.  It also employs PR where 
possible.  And voting is compulsory.  Unfortunately the rest of the 
world has mostly only employed 1/3 of the Australian system: supervised 
polling and observation but they have not adopted PR nor compulsory 
voting.  I am less confident this system will continue to scale, it is 
expensive and cumbersome, it has poor reach and it relies of amateur 
workers to collect and count the votes.  This means that the whole 
government-to-citizen interaction is erudite, infrequent, expensive and 
minimal : I number some boxes.  I'm not, for example, able to make 
comments about foreign policy.  I have to choose among some career 
politicians to speak for me.  Then they lose and preference to a 
hard-right religious party, which gets a seat in parliament.  So 
actually, its not a great system, but I digress.

> Of course, not all election mayhem is down to fraud and conspiracies - 
> cock-ups also occur on a significant scale. For example, in the last 
> elections in the UK, one election administrator told me that more than 
> 10,000 ballots were delivered by the Post Office to the wrong London 
> borough. Whether such votes ever get counted is down to a third party 
> taking initiative and sorting out the resultant mess, which often 
> doesn't happen. And I'm sure that one borough's experience is not unique.

I'm glad to read it.  The paper system isn't perfect and it isn't an 
adequate defence of the status-quo with regard to electoral 
modernisation or the introduction of electronic voting technology in the 
majority of democracies.  My state provides two hours of training to 
22,000 people for one day of polling.  I can't believe these people can 
be vetted very thoroughly.  Coordinated infiltrations must be pretty 
easy to execute and in swinging seats, not many votes are needed to tip 
the balance.  The massive distribution of polling-place voting means any 
one ERO can only see a few stations.  No one- or few-people can see all 
votes come in and be safely stored.  The mere logistic effort needed 
keeps elections expensive (AUD9 a ballot) and infrequent.  Then the 
whole thing is trojaned by the postal vote.

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