[E-voting] David Dill Unplugged

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Fri Dec 15 14:35:05 GMT 2006

Exactly.  It's a mixed message.

There is a strange situation in the USA where there is a large group of 
people (including activists, educations, and computer scientists) who 
are promoting the idea that "computers are part of it so get over it" 
and promoting band-aid improvements (paper trail with no meaningful audit).

HB550 is supposedly being rewritten to say voting machines must have a 
"paper trail" but that means nothing if
--The paper trail is not the ballot of record
--The paper trail is useless for auditing or recount (due to overwrites 
due to paper jams, paper put in backwards, window closed over the paper 
trail viewing area, plus toilet-paper style roll is virtually impossible 
to use for a 1% audit let alone a full recount)
--There is nothing to ensure the paper records are ever looked at (some 
states now have legislation that forbids a recount using paper if a 
machine was used for the original count)
--There is no meaningful audit required (and to be statistically 
meaningful is very different in each of the elections, so in some cases 
a very large percentage would be required, such as 27% or more, 
depending on the circumstances--and even so it's not clear that would be 
suitable for detecting fraud which could use non-random distribution or 
impact the methodology of choosing precincts to audit)
--The way absentee ballots are handled is completely different and often 
has no accountability at all (yet in some places absentee/mail-in 
ballots are the majority or all of the votes)
--When there's a discrepancy, then what?

I don't think there's any likelihood of HB550 being rewritten enough to 
address the problems.  Kucinich has a much better proposal, HB62002 I think.


Fergal Daly wrote:
> Am I missing something? Dill's calling for a paper trail and
> explaining how ocmputers can't be trusted, so describing him as a
> "voting machine advocate" is a bit odd. Is he a voting machine
> advocate or is he in the "if you must have a machine, here's what it
> should do" camp?
> F
> On 15/12/06, Catherine Ansbro <cansbro at eircom.net> wrote:
>> *OpEdNews*
>> Original Content at
>> http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_michael__061214_david_dill_unpluggd_3a.h 
>> tm
>> <http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_michael__061214_david_dill_unpluggd_3a.htm> 
>> December 14, 2006
>> *David Dill Unpluggd: Computer glitch leaves electronic voting machine
>> advocate without a script*
>> By Michael Richardson
>> It happened at Harvard. Stanford University computer scientist David
>> Dill was at Harvard's computer resource center talking about electronic
>> voting machines. Dill, one of the nation's foremost "paper trail" voting
>> machine advocates, is the founder of a lobbying group called Verified
>> Voting. About ten minutes into his Power Point presentation to the
>> assembled Harvard intelligentsia, Dill's laptop computer crashed leaving
>> him without a script. The irony was unmistakable.
>> Dill then departed from his prepared remarks explaining, "I know so much
>> I can't organize a talk." The next hour was devoted to a Q&A session
>> that rambled in a self-contradictory trajectory revealing more about
>> Dill than electronic voting machines.
>> Before the "glitch", Professor Dill was in full reformer mode and
>> sounded pretty good. Dill explained he had spent his two decades at
>> Stanford, "trying to check software correctness, but it's not something
>> we can do."
>> The three big "unsolvable" problems with electronic voting identified by
>> Dill were error, security, and making sure the system is running what
>> you think it is running. "We can't prove correctness....We don't know
>> how to make systems secure....Why do we even trust the hardware?" Dill
>> warned, "It is wrong to hand control of elections to private companies."
>> Dill declared that any voting technology should be at least as
>> trustworthy as hand-counted paper ballots, which he characterized as the
>> "gold standard" for voting. We should "give up" on audits and instead
>> "empower each voter to check their vote."
>> "We have made a mistake by focusing on technology; instead we should
>> focus on procedure."
>> Then the questions started and Dill lost his way. After advocating for
>> precinct optical scanners or printers on touch screen machines, Dill
>> admitted that optical scanners do not always count the ballots
>> correctly, "A careful hand-count is more accurate than optical scan."
>> Touch screen printers were open to "nefarious individuals that could
>> cause the paper record to be unreliable." Dill also admitted that
>> self-deleting malicious code would not be detectable.
>> The Harvard computer experts in the audience got Dill to admit the push
>> for electronic voting machines came from marketing by the vendors; that
>> there were problems with machine certification standards leaving a
>> "gaping hole"; that there was no way of testing for viruses; that the
>> Election Assistance Commission is "highly politicized" and incapable of
>> the tasks it is presented; and that, "What we have now are a bunch of
>> bad voting systems."
>> Dill acknowledged that "vote-flipping" happened all over the country in
>> the 2006 election and that it is an "insidious" phenomenon without
>> explanation. Dill said that 1% percent audits are "frighteningly bad" in
>> anything but a statewide race and that an "over-qualified janitor at an
>> electronic voting machine vendor could rig an election."
>> After admitting that a "careful hand-count" is the most accurate and
>> cheapest way to count votes and that optical scanners could be rigged
>> and don't always accurately record the ballot entries of voters, Dill
>> then advocated precinct-based optical scanners as his solution to the
>> problem of election fraud.
>> After his confusing, contradictory talk, Dill was asked about his
>> support for H.B. 550, a "paper trail" electronic voting machine bill
>> pending before Congress. "That is my public position, although the bill
>> is being rewritten and I don't know where I stand."
>> [Permission granted to reprint]
>> Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston.
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