[EM] Idea for a free web service for (relatively) secure online voting

Mike Frank michael.patrick.frank at gmail.com
Wed Oct 8 19:28:44 PDT 2008

Here is another question.  Will average people really gain confidence from
cryptographic ballot certificates?

To explain the issue in a more detail:  The certificates in my system (like
other crypto-based voting systems) only really "prove" anything if you
accept certain cryptographic assumptions, namely, that certain functions
have a technical property of being "one-way," which basically means they
can't feasibly be inverted.  No one currently knows how to rigorously prove
that any one-way functions actually exist.  However, a number of functions
are strongly *believed *to be one-way, because large numbers of extremely
smart mathematicians have tried to find an easy way to invert them without
any success.  Still, for all we know, there could be someone out there (at
the NSA, perhaps) who already knows how to invert these functions, and just
isn't admitting it.  So, we can't really be *absolutely *100% certain that
these certificates can't really be forged.  But, most cryptographers believe
that they can't.

Given this semi-cloudiness about the situation, will voters feel that the
certificates really help prove anything about the correctness of the
election results?  Will they feel any better about the results of an
election system that provides certificates than they feel about one that

Certainly, the certificates do make it much harder to intentionally miscount
the ballots, in the sense that getting away with this would require the
system designers to have access to the work of some genius mathematicians
that have solved problems nobody else has been able to solve, and whose work
has been kept entirely secret from the world.  And further, it may be the
case that these problems really are truly impossible to solve, in which case
systematic fraud in this kind of system is really impossible.  But we don't
really know for 100% certain that the problems are insoluble.

To anyone reading this... Would the use of crypto technology like this in
your election system make YOU feel any better?


On Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 8:42 PM, Raph Frank <raphfrk at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 12:35 AM, Mike Frank
> <michael.patrick.frank at gmail.com> wrote:
> > That is a good point, although may I point out that it is similarly
> > improbable that the vote-buyer will successfully influence the election
> > outcome by buying only my one vote.  To have a good chance of influencing
> > the outcome, he has to buy a lot of votes.  This increases the chance he
> > will get caught, as well as the cost; mightn't it be more cost-effective
> > just to take out a really misleading television ad?
> The fact that vote buying requires so many votes and the fact that it
> is illegal makes it hard to achieve.  However, some 'machines' have
> handled it by coercion rather than by buying.
> However, assuming it was legal, you could offer to pay every $100 for
> their vote and then tax back $1000 when you get elected.
> > But, I might point out though that, even if the system itself doesn't do
> > anything to help the voter prove how they actually voted, it may still be
> > logistically difficult to prevent the voter from sneaking a cellphone
> > camera, for example, into the voting booth, and taking a picture of their
> > ballot screens (or bubble sheets, or whatever kind of ballot is used) to
> > show to the vote-buyer.
> Often it is just a matter of 'keeping honest people honest', i.e.
> unless it is easy to break the rule, most people won't bother.
> > Do we need metal detectors at the entrances to the polling places, so
> people
> > can't bring in their cellphone cameras?  What if they bring a low-tech
> > paper-and-plastic disposable camera?  Do we have to pat down the voters
> like
> > criminals, or strip-search them, just in case their hidden camera is
> really
> > small?  (You can already buy really tiny cameras, they are expensive, but
> > the vote buyer can buy them and loan them to the voters.)  Basically,
> what
> > I'm asking is:  How far is too far to go to try to make vote buying
> > impossible?
> I would say that precautions should be taken such that it is keep to a
> low level.  Probably that means that little if any precautions are
> required, other than banning cameras.  Checks probably wouldn't even
> be needed.

Dr. Michael P. Frank, Ph.D. (MIT '99)
820 Hillcrest Ave., Quincy FL  32351-1618
email: michael.patrick.frank at gmail.com
cell: (850) 597-2046, fax/tel: (850) 627-6585
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