[EM] Why We Shouldn't Count Votes with Machines

rob brown rob at karmatics.com
Thu Aug 14 23:42:29 PDT 2008

On Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 11:01 PM, Dave Ketchum <davek at clarityconnect.com>wrote:

(most of Dave's comments snipped out, I responded to only a few)

Open source is ESSENTIAL:
> While it encourages quality programming by those who do not want to get
> caught doing otherwise, it also encourages thorough testing by the
> community.
>     But, there is a temptation for copying such without paying:
>          Perhaps the law should provide a punishment for such.

The law already does.

Well here is where you and I differ.  I think if electoral fraud in the US
>> were eliminated, it would be a good thing, but not dramatically change
>> things, any more than eliminating shoplifting would dramatically change our
>> economy.  I do not believe that such fraud changes the outcome of a large
>> percentage of elections, and in those it does, it was pretty close anyway.
> Most elections do not inspire the fraudsters.  The few they care about may
> be near ties, responding to minimum fraudulent effort.
> Thus, a few false wins can be big trouble.

However, if they are near ties, that isn't quite so big trouble because both
candidates are pretty popular anyway.  While it may offend our notion of
democracy to have someone win (a two person election) who had only 49.99
percent of the vote....its really not that huge a deal....not nearly the
same scale of a problem as one where a truly unpopular candidate could get
himself elected by fraud.

Like with everything else in the world, we want to minimize the ability of
criminals to profit from their crimes, but how much are we willing to give
up to reduce the chance to zero?

> If plurality voting were replaced with a ranked system such as a condorcet
>> method, I beleive it WOULD dramatically change the entire dynamic of
>> politics, in a very, very good way, by nearly eliminating the polarized
>> nature of government due to partisanship.  That is huge, comparitively.
Could be BIG - Plurality NEEDS primaries.  Condorcet does not need such, but
> could not object if parties chose to do them anyway for other reasons.

Yes, although maybe it would be more accurate to say that candidates that
want to win need primaries under plurality.

The only thing that is immune to checking would be the compiler itself,
>> since the compiler needs a compiler to compile itself....but someone would
>> have had to have done something evil (and very, very brilliant) a long time
>> ago to pull that off....good for a sci fi novel anyway, but not so much in
>> the real world.
> Compilers do not have to be that complex - since voting programs need not
> be that complex, such as would need a high powered compiler.

Well, even a basic C compiler has this issue, since the compiler itself is
written in C, so there is a chicken egg problem.  But this is really not a
real world concern (and if it was, someone would have been using it to steal
money from banks, etc).  It's an amusing theoretical concept, but not much

Perhaps my 2-cents will inspire a response.  I agree, in general, with Rob
> that we have a fixable problem that NEEDS fixing.

Cool.  :)  Indeed, while I think that voting security is important, lets not
throw the baby (fixing the problems with plurality) out with the bathwater

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