[E-voting] RE: E-voting Digest, Vol 47, Issue 2

Craig Burton caburt at alphalink.com.au
Sat Mar 10 10:02:51 GMT 2007

I spoke recently with Russ Michaels about the HBO doc and he said that 
the business of exposing the voting cartridge hack was an emotional and 
difficult thing to pursue and record.  I think the issue is that 
electoral staff are kind of self-appointed police of the election 
process, regardless of their IT, logistic or other skills.  This isn't 
to say they deserve to be told they can't be trusted as a motivation for 
removing them from the vote casting process nor should they be made to 
feel that a hack on a Diebold tally machine indicates that they have 
failed.  However, are they responsible for the carriage of democracy, 
yes they are.

One- or few- people's enthusiasm and rigour aren't enough for the 
logistics of modern elections which are elaborate, to say the least.  
The "sleepovers" so heavily criticised are an established practice, due 
to logistic constraints.   Electoral staff took ballot boxes home with 
them, now they take evoting machines home.    Belgium's process of 
hiring polling officers at random like jurors is a good defence but 
again, this keeps the skill base available for elections pretty low.  
But the skills needed to delivery elections are incredibly diverse and 
unique and the process is under pressure from dropping attendance and a 
mobile, absent electorate.

If electoral people were the perfect accountants, we'd implicitly trust 
them and there would be no need for observers.  However, all 
participants are partisan, even though the electoral commissions of 
various countries flout equal employment laws to hire 
non-party-affiliated people.  Are elections never going to be 
automated?  Even the most tedious and error prone aspects?  The 
logistics are more elaborate with PR/STV and the logistics have been 
obliged to scale for 150 years without any great changes in the process, 
security or auditability despite many other processes updating.  Another 
50 years of single-channel, manual paper elections seems inconceivable.

David GLAUDE (PourEVA) wrote:
> In Belgium, there are less and less observers, at least where we have
> electronic voting (I don't know for the paper side = 56% of the country).
> But because of eVoting there are less and less observable step.
> And even if something can be observe... it is not obvious what to look for.
> Election goes in two step:
> 1) The voting
> 2) The counting
> I must admit that there is not much more to observe during step 1. But
> maybe the problem is that they do not know what to look for because the
> procedure and the logic behind those procedure is far from beeing
> understood by a typical partisan observer.
> When one of us (PourEVA) became observer, and because above the fact
> that he was well aware of the eVoting issue, he was also computer
> literated... he found out many flaw and for most of them he could
> estimate the added risk of not respecting each part of the procedure.
> We went to court trying to explain how the fact that the procedure was
> not respected made it impossible to proof anything about this election
> and to trust the result... but the judges (even at the appeal level) did
> not understand.
> Those without IT background and without an idea about computer security
> should be given instruction on what to look for and what to watch for
> during the election. This seems to be what ORG want to do. Because in
> paper election, it seems obvious what should be observed but not for
> eVoting.
> For step 2, there is once again almost nothing to observe because in the
> Belgian case there is nothing to count. It is just about watching some
> operator inserting floppies in a computer and printing partial result
> every now and then.
> A friend of mine that was party whiteness at that stage did attempt to
> get closer, go behind the screen, talk with the operator to know more
> about what was going on... and that friend made computer science studies
> at the university so he could have understand... but it was a big NO NO.
> He decided to stay quiet so as to monitor what could be monitored,
> because it was rather clear that he had to sit and wait otherwise he
> could have been kick out. I am not joking, I have another eye whiteness
> that was taken out of the "counting" area by the police (I must admit
> the guy is a bit paranoiac and could have well gone postal about the
> fact that this was just a poor copy of democracy).
> The only occasion where party representative were given many explanation
> was in Liège last year. This is because the counting was giving
> impossible result. The operator did try to explain as much as possible
> what was the normal process, what was going wrong and what to expect
> once the new floppies with the new software will be there. The only
> reason they did explain is because there was a problem and they wanted
> everybody to accept that those strange result were just a bug.
> It was not a success because many of those whiteness went to court
> trying to cancel the result of the election... without success.
> David GLAUDE
> Craig Burton wrote:
>> It's is the mutual distrust among partisan operators and observers we
>> can rely on.  This is why there are usually two or more people at each
>> observable step,
>> Best,
>> Craig.
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