[EM] Re: touch screen voting machines

Ken Johnson kjinnovation at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 10 23:53:02 PST 2003

Eron - I share your enthusiasm for open, secure, and fair elections, but 
I don't think open-source software is necessarily the solution. What is 
more important is that the process be transparent and independently 
verifiable by anyone - not just by a few computer specialists. Following 
is a rough idea of how I would like to see the process operate:

After making my vote, the voting machine gives me a receipt - much like 
a bank teller machine - containing a record of my vote and a 
randomly-generated vote ID number. I check the printed receipt for 
correctness, seal it, and have a polling agent stamp it with a unique 
serialization number that is assigned to me and recorded, along with my 
name and address, as evidence of my vote. The voting machine has no 
information about the serialization number or about my identity, and 
there is no record - other than my stamped voting receipt - identifying 
me with the computer-generated vote ID. In essence, there are two 
completely autonomous, non-communicating information systems - a 
computer database associating vote ID's with votes, and a second system 
(perhaps comprising only written records) associating vote serialization 
numbers with voters.

The votes are counted by the computer, and the entire database of votes 
and vote ID's is placed on the Internet so that any voter can log on and 
verify that their vote was properly recorded. Independent auditors can 
also download the entire database to verify the tally. Authorized 
parties (e.g. law enforcement) may access the vote serialization data to 
verify that only legally-registered voters have voted. If any 
discrepancy is sufficient to potentially affect the outcome of the 
election, then the election is nullified. Furthermore, if sufficiently 
many people claim that their votes were not properly recorded, they 
would present their voting receipts to a judge to be reviewed in 
confidence (this is the only situation in which the association between 
a voter and thier vote might become known to another party), and if the 
discrepancy is confirmed the election is nullified.

With this type of process there is no problem using "black-box", 
proprietary voting software, because it gives the voters themselves (not 
just a few compter experts) the ability to confirm correctness of the 

Ken Johnson

election-methods-electorama.com-request at electorama.com wrote:

>Message: 1
>From: Eron Lloyd <elloyd at lancaster.lib.pa.us>
>Organization: Lancaster County Library
>To: Forest Simmons <fsimmons at pcc.edu>, <election-methods at electorama.com>
>Subject: Re: [EM] touch screen voting machines
>Date: Mon, 10 Nov 2003 12:04:59 -0500
>Yes, this is a very interesting subject. Is this the proper mailing list to 
>also discuss the development and design of the actual voting systems 
>themselves, because I sure would like to be in that discussion. One of my 
>biggest questions is whether these "modern" voting systems being purchased 
>across the country thanks to HAVA et. al. can easily be modified to support 
>IRV, etc. should the states/counties move to such an election method. Also, 
>the security issues alone deserve much debate...I've pretty much come to the 
>point that an electronic system would be good only to ultimately produce a 
>paper ballot which was then counted, not the other way around.
>If anyone is interested, I'm starting a project to develop an "Adaptable 
>Voting System" using Python and the application framework Qt to produce an 
>open-source, fully auditable election system that can be used at terminals, 
>on-line, or other flexible ways to hold elections, and uses generic, open 
>(XML) formats for the ballot (I'm currently looking at OASIS EML), vote 
>results, and statistics to then apply different election methods to it 
>(Approval, IRV, etc.) to watch the different outcomes. Though it will mainly 
>be a prototype, perhaps something more could come of it.
>I feel passionately that open, secure, and fair election systems are the only 
>way to protect the integrity of modern democracies.
>On Friday November 7 2003 8:44 pm, Forest Simmons wrote:
>>The latest issue of "Hightower's Low Down" talks about the various private
>>companies (and their conflicts of interest) that have been supplying the
>>touch screen voting machines, along with some of the hanky panky that has
>>already taken place.
>>Besides the outright scandals there are the suspicious results:
>>For example, three Republican candidates in three separate elections
>>counted by machines supplied by the same company with tight Republican
>>connections win by the exact same margin of votes, some improbable number
>>like 10,800.
>>When authorities requested permission to audit the voting records, the
>>company explained that they didn't have room to save them so they had
>>erased them.
>>Do you trust these guys?
>>So far there are no laws that require these companies to reveal the
>>internal workings of their machines.
>>It looks like Bush won't need a boost from the supreme court this time

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