[EM] Voting Machine Accuracy and Capacity

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Thu Jul 25 10:15:00 PDT 2002

Seems like those who can should be campaigning on this topic.

Topic, "Re: [UWSA] FROM RISKS about new ways of voting", was electronic 
(sometimes called DRE) voting machines, need for verifying whether they 
work accurately, and problems with accomplishing this.

In another post ANNEMERKL at aol.com of GA responds to what Jack wrote with:

 > I too, felt there should be a paper ballot that the voter receives that
 > shows how one voted, and then deposits before leaving the voting
 > precent.  Knowing that machines do make mistakes, there needs to be an
 > actual paper trail.  However, I was told that it was difficult to make
 > sure the voter deposited the paper ballot after voting. It seems in one
 > state, votes were being sold and in order to get payment, proof of deed
 > was the actual ballot that was voted.  I believe that GA is smart
 > enough to come up with a way to produce a paper trail so the ballot can
 > be verified by the voter eliminating any questionable actions, ----if
 > they have not already done so.   Anne

She suggests a paper trail.  No real challenge to do one PROVIDED its 
existence could be tolerated - bank ATMs do a paper trail:
      In the bank world, knowing who did what IS ESSENTIAL to the 
relations between bank and customer.
      In the voting world, knowing who did what MUST BE AND REMAIN A 
SECRET, so existence of a paper or other trail cannot be tolerated.  Anne 
mentions bribes to pay for voting "right".  There could also be punishment 
such as losing jobs, or worse, for voting "wrong".
      Even producing a paper for the voter seems intolerable:
           How does the inspector verify the voter is handing over the 
paper from the actual vote without destroying secrecy?
           How does the paper serve this purpose without allowing misuse?

Still, verifying accuracy is essential, and Jack quotes some useful words 
at the end.

BTW:  BESIDES doing whatever it does accurately, any new equipment should 
have the capacity to get beyond simple plurality voting.  I see ranked 
ballots as essential and would do the counting by Condorcet rules, though 
equipment that could count by IRV rules would have the capacity I am 
asking for today.

On Wed, 24 Jul 2002 15:02:41 -0700 Jack Perrine wrote in part:

> [ From reading below it certainly seems that those who were upset over the
> vote counts in Florida have worked overtime to produce something much worse.
> Granted there are some rules given that if adopted might be useful, but
> as things stand now what vendors are trying to sell as voting machines make
> what happened in Florida seem like accuracy incarnate
> Jack ]
> Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2002 15:54:47 -0400
> From: "Rebecca Mercuri" <notable at mindspring.com>
> Subject: Explanation of Voter-Verified Ballot Systems
> An explanation of the necessity for a
> Voter Verified Physical Audit Trail for Electronic Balloting Systems
> by Rebecca Mercuri, Ph.D.
> Professor of Computer Science at Bryn Mawr College
> Electronic voting info: http://www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html
> Email: mercuri at acm.org
> Phone: 609/895-1375, 215/327-7105
> Many of the new voting products now being purchased in the US are
> self-auditing in that they produce ONLY an internal electronic audit of the
> ballots cast. Some of these machines have been sold with trade secret
> protection such that it is not possible to INDEPENDENTLY examine the
> machines for correct operations (except perhaps under court order, and even
> there the examination may be required to be sealed or not disclosed).

My initial reaction is that it should be illegal for a government to buy 
or use such equipment involving trade secrets.  Governments should be 
required to do complete design analysis and testing, and citizen groups 
should be allowed to do their own design analysis and do testing under 

One test that seems possible is a simulated election, with a videotape 
record and a computer analysis of this tape, but no such recording being 
acceptable in an actual election.

> This situation, which is becoming more common as fully-electronic
> (DRE/kiosk) voting systems are introduced, means that the voters as well as
> the poll workers and election officials have NO WAY to verify that their
> ballots are recorded, transmitted and tabulated properly.  Machines have
> failed in actual use and independent recounts have not been provided. (See
> reports in press accounts.)

"transmitted" reads as if the machine is connected to something outside 
during voting.  My picture is that connecting the machine to ANYTHING 
other than a power source, during use, introduces possibility of various 
complications.  At end of election the first requirement is a local report 
of the results.  AFTER this has been attended to, most any transmission 
elsewhere would be acceptable.

> Further explanation follows below:
> All Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems must provide a physical
> audit trail that is reviewed by the voter at the time their ballot is cast.
> (DRE voting systems are those that are constructed as to be self-contained,
> where the voter makes ballot choices that are directly entered onto
> electronic data recording devices.  These would include stand-alone kiosks
> as well as networked machines.)  ...

I discuss rejecting such audit trails above.

I see "networked machines" as unacceptable - this thought introduces too 
many opportunities for problems, especially if the internet is involved, 
for there required secrecy seems impossible.

> Since it is, in principle, impossible to verify that a computational device
> is free from programming errors or nefarious code, no electronic voting
> system can be verified for 100% accuracy, reliability, and integrity. ...

Neither can you get THERE with the AVM mechanical lever voting machines I 
have voted on all my life.  Also, those machines simply count votes for 
each candidate and keep no record of any kind as to a particular ballot.

Nor do we demand 100% of computational devices elsewhere.  For medicine, 
air traffic control, and many other critical uses, we hopefully do what we 
can and, for many uses, what we can do with computers is better than what 
is possible without them (humans can talk of 100%, but cannot really do it).

Related to this, computers used should be simple and dependable, such as 
Z80s (with anything as complicated as what is now used in PCs being 
unacceptable), and the programming in a high level, BUT SIMPLE, language, 
to make analysis practical.

> ------------------------------
> Date: 22 Jul 2002 14:20:03 -0000
> From: Daniel Boyd <boyd at buffalo.edu>
> Subject: Auditing of voting machines
> It strikes me that the auditing of the Palm Beach electronic voting machines
> doesn't even reach the level of care applied to Las Vegas slot machines.
> Slot machines are governed by a Nevada state agency and are continually
> inspected at random.  The inspectors pull a machine out of service, check
> that the circuit boards are the correct, legally-certified boards that are
> supposed to be in the machine, and read the PROMs.  The state has enough
> access, and knowledge of the design, to verify not only the program that is
> supposed to be running on the hardware, but the hardware itself.
> That "proprietary-hardware/trade-secrets" excuse wouldn't get one of those
> Palm Beach machines within ten feet of a casino floor in Nevada.

Except that a machine should not be pulled out of service during election 
(unless there is reason to believe it is failing), having qualified 
inspectors doing such inspections should be classed as ESSENTIAL.

> Jack Perrine     |  Athena Programming  |   626-798-6574
> _________________|  1175 N Altadena Dr  |   ____________
> Jack at Minerva.com |  Pasadena CA 91107   |   FAX-398-8620

  davek at clarityconnect.com    http://www.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
   Dave Ketchum    108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708    607-687-5026
              Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
                    If you want peace, work for justice.

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