[EM] voting machines

Philippe Errembault phil.errembault at skynet.be
Sun Aug 29 02:18:58 PDT 2004

In belgium, we use voting machines, and there are many problems 
you didn't think about : 

The stealing of code seems to me not to be a problem. 
Free software people do it for years, and they can manage it.
Sometimes they attack company who stole their code and it works. 

Now about the real problems : I will browse a little summary 
of them but it will not be complete since I'm not THE specialist.
My friend David I put in copy because he also doesn't read 
everything on this group could say much more.

1/ The code !!MUST!! be public, since even when it is checked 
by gouvernment designated "experts", there are other people who 
can find flaws in it. Look here : http://www.afront.be/lib/vote.html
to see a sample of what can happen.

2/ Even when the code is public AND people finds flaws in the 
code, the government can decide they don't care. (that's what 
happens in belgium). Most people are unable to understand those 
flaws but when people do, there should be taken account of it.

(Most concerns were about vote secrecy and cryptografic 
weaknesses (e.g. weak randomisation, etc...))

3/ Even about things that didn't raise any concerns, there can 
still be problems. In belgium, some inconsistencies arose that 
were never explained. So the experts concluded to a improbable 
but possible bit flipping in memory. They also concluded that, 
as the problem had been detected and corrected, it was as if 
it didn't happen; and as the explanation they gave was by a 
very rare phenomenon theyt could assume it didn't happen 
elsewhere. The new parliament voted it's agreement with their 
conclusions (But would any new elected question his election ? 
I don't think so...)

now the problem is that (according to my analysis) the explanation 
was wrong (would you believe that a bit changed, precisely in an 
votes counter, and not anywhere else in a MUCH larger memory 
pool ? Quite strange, isn't it ? According to me the problem arise, 
not in memory, _but in the process of reading or writing the memory _ 
IT IS !!! So, saying that the problem didn't appear anywhere else is 
quite abusive, especially since it was detected for a small party and 
would have much easier been undetected for a large one.

4/ In some places the machines were backed by a ticketing system, 
to verify how reliable the electronic voting was. There were errors 
of 8-9% BUT the experts concluded that it was the tickets that were 
badly designed and that it was not possible to reliably recount them 
"according to the terms of the law" (I don't know what this means...)

5/ By the way, this year, there still were problems and they were angry
about the company which designed the program that showed the 
inconsistencies because they were expressely asked to avoid that. 
=> they do not want potential problems to be shown to public !!!

So,you can see that with voting machines, the problems are not 
necessary were we expect them, and that, as for nuclear power 
plants, the reliability flaws doesn't only from the software design, 
but also from the hardware (which is NOT publicly reviewable), 
and even more, from misinformed people, and/or lazy people 
who prefer to turn their eyes away from the red blinking warning 
light instead of having to manage the problem.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dave Ketchum" <davek at clarityconnect.com>
To: "James Green-Armytage" <jarmyta at antioch-college.edu>
Cc: <election-methods-electorama.com at electorama.com>
Sent: Sunday, August 29, 2004 7:08 AM
Subject: Re: [EM] voting machines

On Sun, 29 Aug 2004 00:20:08 -0400 James Green-Armytage wrote:

> Dave Ketchum <davek at clarityconnect.com> writes:
>>If someone writes usable code, AND makes it public, what stops someone 
>>else copying the code without paying those who did the work?
> The threat of a law suit stops them, of course. I mean, these machines are
> being contracted in large numbers for public use, right? In fact, public
> access to the source codes should make it even easier to determine that
> one company is using a source code that was copyrighted by another
> company. So I think it would be foolishly easy to catch copyright
> infringement.

They make the argument, get away with it, and it makes more sense if 
someone would copy open code and that someone would be allowed to do secrecy.

> Anyway, I don't see why designing the software for an electronic voting
> machine would be so hard anyway. It would probably require less hassle to
> just design your own rather than steal someone else's and fight it out in
> court. I mean, you give the voters a menu for each office or issue, and
> whatever buttons they press, you save that as a tiny file and add the
> numbers to the overall sums for the candidates. I think that most
> competent software designers should be able to dispatch something like
> that pretty quickly without any serious brain-strain.

Sounds simple until you try and start stumbling over the details.

Sequoia has been into elections for decades, if not a whole century.  Used 
to be their website had a detailed discussion, and I liked seeing good 
answers to a zillion questions.  That discussion is no longer public, but 
they now have a short discussion that shows the topic is complex.

> You may have read that there are very rigorous standards for electronic
> slot machines... their source codes are inspected on a regular basis to
> ensure fairness. It is pathetic that any government officials would take
> the notion seriously that we don't need voting machine standards which are
> as rigorous as slot machine standards, but that's where we seem to be.
> Man, this stuff has got me really worried. It's just scary how unconcerned
> the Republicans seem about having a verifiable vote-counting process. It
> doesn't seem unreasonable at this point to fear a slide into a
> dictatorship, that is, a loss of all democratic accountability, by means
> of voting machines which routinely falsify the result in favor of the
> ruling party.

Read about Diebold - could be the Reps are DELIGHTED with what they have got.

Puzzle is why the Dems are not making more noise.

> Sincerely,
> James

  davek at clarityconnect.com    people.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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