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Excerpt: "No one has yet figured out a straightforward method of ensuring that one of the most revered democratic institutions - in this case, electing a US president - can be double checked for fraud, particularly when paperless e-voting systems are used."

Lingering concerns about touchscreen voting means New Hampshire voters will use paper ballots, while South Carolinians will use the troubled touchscreens in their upcoming primary. (photo: engadget.com)
Lingering concerns about touchscreen voting means New Hampshire voters will use paper ballots, while South Carolinians will use the troubled touchscreens in their upcoming primary. (photo: engadget.com)



Ballot Secrecy Keeps Voting Technology at Bay

By Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American

10 January 12

 

epublicans during Tuesday's New Hampshire primary will use a technology recognizable to Washington and Lincoln to make their choices

Voters in the recent Iowa caucuses and Tuesday's New Hampshire primary will rely on paper ballots as they have for generations. In the very next primary on January 21, South Carolinians will vote with backlit touch-screen computers.

In an age of electronic banking and online college degrees, why hasn't the rest of the nation gone the way of the Palmetto State? The reason is simple and resonates with the contentious debate that has yet to be resolved after at least 15 years of wrangling over the issue of electronic voting. No one has yet figured out a straightforward method of ensuring that one of the most revered democratic institutions - in this case, electing a U.S. president - can be double checked for fraud, particularly when paperless e-voting systems are used.

Electronic balloting has yet to reconcile two conflicting needs in the polling place. Any election must proceed under a cloak of anonymity. But if a recount is required, election officials must go back and reproduce a verifiable audit trail. No account number ties the transaction to an individual, as it does when you transfer cash from checking to saving. What tangible proof then is there that those 5,734 votes really registered at the elementary school on Main Street? "If you have a machine collecting and recording votes with an electronic ballot box there's no way to go back after the fact and see if the machine made a mistake, whether through malice or simple software error," says Stanford University computer science professor David Dill and founder of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election watchdog.

Electronic voting has its share snafus to prove the case of the doubters. In 2006 voters in Florida's 13th Congressional District election learned firsthand that there is little recourse when e-voting election results are in dispute. That year Democratic nominee Christine Jennings, who lost the election by 369 votes to Republican Vern Buchanan, claimed that 18,000 votes went uncounted in the district. Without a ballot paper trail to follow, the matter was left to the courts and Buchanan held onto the seat.

"They couldn't audit the election because there was no way to evaluate the machine's accuracy," Dill says. "It's like you have a worker who's doing your accounts who is very smart but not very trustworthy. If you have some independent way of checking the numbers he started with against the numbers he finished with then you don't have to trust him, you can double check his work and catch any major errors. That's what we need for voting machines."

How Do You Cast Your Ballot?

Voters can cast their ballot in a variety of ways, depending upon the method adopted by their election district. This includes paper ballots, punch cards, two different types of touch-screen electronic voting system (one that prints out a receipt verifying your vote and one that does not), optical scanners used to digitize paper ballots, or some combination of these.

New Hampshire, like nearly two-thirds of the country, has a paper ballot system that voters mark up and turn in to election officials who count the ballots either by electrical scanners or by hand. With the optical-scan approach, if the ballot is not filled out properly or is unreadable, the scanner will not accept the vote and the voter can fix his or her ballot before leaving the polling place, Dill says.

South Carolina is one of the more than 15 states that thought they were forward looking when they decided to rely primarily on touch-screen e-voting systems that do not provide any verification receipt that voters can review to ensure the accuracy of their vote and which election officials can consult later if a recount is demanded.

The accuracy of the paperless Election Systems & Software (ES&S) iVotronic direct recording electronic (DRE) machines used throughout South Carolina has come under scrutiny in recent years. Researchers from the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina last year analyzed the results of South Carolina's November 2010 elections. Audit trail files produced by the software of the ES&S system indicated to the researchers that "votes were not counted, that procedures that should have been checked automatically were not checked, and that vote data to support the certified counts has not been collected or stored," according to their report (pdf).

Given that South Carolina spent more than $30 million to implement e-voting systems, it is unlikely they will replace them, particularly with low-tech paper ballots and optical scanners. Still, the stakes are high in South Carolina. Since 1980, every winner of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary has gone on to win the party nomination.

Internet Voting

Online e-voting seems a logical step at a time when home buyers can take virtual tours of real estate thousands of kilometers away and students can receive college degrees without ever setting foot in a classroom. Some voting districts allow military personal and overseas voters to print ballots from Web sites and mail in those ballots.

Not unexpectedly, some groups are even calling for the right to take voting directly to "the cloud" in the hope of accommodating absentee voters and attracting those not inclined to make the trip to their local polls. Americans Elect, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit has registered as a political party in Alaska, Arizona and 13 other states with a platform that advocates Internet-based voting. Americans Elect does not have a candidate yet for the 2012 presidential election, but the group is using an Internet-based nominating process to solicit one. Given that primary season has begun, it's more likely that this movement will prove to be more of a symbolic one in 2012.

Internet voting has all of the same problems as electronic voting, with the added threat of getting your vote flipped to the other candidate or erased by a hacker based anywhere in the world, Dill says.

Efforts to test prospects for Internet voting have failed miserably thus far, asserts Jeremy Epstein, a senior computer scientist at SRI International who has researched voting technology, citing in particular the Internet-based system that the Washington, D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics tried to set up in 2010. That system was undone when a group of security testers were able to hack into the site and make the University of Michigan fight song play each time someone cast a vote.

 

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+1 # Douglas Jack 2012-01-10 22:03
A double blind system with the traditional paper ballot requires that; electors cast their ballots in privacy. Each party has representatives who simultaneously count all ballots together following closing of the electoral polls. An electronic system must have paper ballots which can be randomly checked or recounted if one side feels that errors or fraud is being committed by the other side. Exit polls whereby community multiple stakeholder (founder, worker, supplier & consumer) owned news media take a poll of those leaving the voting area provide a source of statistical verification. The best way to ensure true representation is to return to the Economic Democracy foundation of First Nations here and of all our indigenous ancestors. Humanity's democratic heritage is found in multihome dwelling design (apartment & townhouse-like) and progressive ownership of specialized Production Societies. www.indigenecommunity.info
 
 
+10 # nice2blucky 2012-01-11 01:19
Like hell, no one has figured it out.

It is simple:

Mandate paper ballots as the official determiner in elections: use electronic machines for voting, which produce paper ballots for submission. Let the electronic machines do the non-official initial tabulating, soon after the ballot-box closes, count paper ballots on separate machines, and, if contested, count paper by hand, etc.
 
 
+7 # hkatzman 2012-01-11 01:19
Voting is easy. There are 3 steps and each step must be transparent to the voter. (1) Fill in a ballot. (2) Confirm it was correct and cast it. (3) Count the ballots.

The electronic voting systems seem to ignore these steps and block transparency. Each of these steps is accomplished very easily with the technology used for state lotteries (at least the NY lottery). Why is that so simple and effective? And voting is so complicated?
 
 
+4 # epcraig 2012-01-11 02:35
It is not as though computer geeks have failed to note cheating when computer voting has been adopted. Of course, nobody listens. It is High-tech so it must be good.
 
 
+1 # colpow 2012-01-11 04:25
Please refer to:

http://www.hackingdemocracy.com/

for a real mind bender.
 
 
+3 # Rita Walpole Ague 2012-01-11 06:16
Confession #1: The only thing I do well with a computer is cuss at it.

Confession #2: This low tech woman has come up with a solution to allow every vote that's cast to be honestly counted. The paper ballots (with auto copies to be kept by the voter) have numbers on them known only to the voter.
Upon voting, the ballot is immediately scanned with results appearing anonymously on overhead screens visible to all, and aforementioned numbers appear alongside votes so the voter(s) can be certain his/her vote has been counted and counted correctly. Election judges keep their eye on overhead tallies to assure there are no miscounts, deletions, etc..

Courage we must have, including chancing the possibility of others guessing for whom/what we've voted, in order to.....

UNDO THE COUP!
 
 
+4 # danigo 2012-01-11 06:33
It would be very easy to devise a system whereby a confirmation voucher was produced, checked by voter and deposited in an urn at the exist of the voting booth. This would have the speed and sccuracy of eectronic voting and also be verifiable. Why is this not done?
 
 
+8 # pernsey 2012-01-11 06:45
They can do a lot of things to get a more accurate vote, the truth is they want something that can be hacked and manipulated...h ow else will the republicans have a prayer in the real election?
 
 
+5 # superguts 2012-01-11 07:44
Since Election 2000 I have been obsessed to innovate an election system. It was mentioned that deibold never made a mistake with its ATM machines, but could flip 5 million voted undetected, and no proof either way.

So, Lets give our ballots the respect and integrity that a $1Bill has: Serial Numbers and watermarks.

For voter-privacy issues, Ser.Nrs cannot go all the way out to the last digit, but only to groups of 100. Counting 100 ballots per each block will provide total accountability.

I will be trying to gear up for this campaign to Congress, (for an Act of Congress) to standardize our national ballots, and have them printed at the US Mint.

Get a glimpse at cleanballots.org

I've worked very hard on this for over 10 years.

Because the US Constitution gives States the responsibility for conducting and operationg elections within respective states,

Implementation thru an Act of Congress to provide funding to each state that signs on to the new National Standards for Elections should be awarded $1 per registered voter, and another $1/vote cast.

This amount may be altered as seen fit by parties involved.

Please see cleanballots.org
A shoestring now, but a powerful force to come.

Thanks very much.
 
 
+1 # T4D 2012-01-11 08:12
I have participated in two small recounts, an Iowa House District, and a County Office race. Iowa still uses paper, darken in the ovals, ballots that are electronically scanned at the Precinct, spoiled ballots are rejected with two do-overs allowed. At the end of balloting the Precinct scanner, recorder reports to the County Courthouse computer with a "hand-shake" transfer. Hand counts show an error of less than 0.01 percent. No hand count, no trust.
 
 
+1 # Seneca 2012-01-11 14:38
This was a good article about the repblican connection to both diebold and ess
http://motherjones.com/politics/2004/03/diebolds-political-machine
Are people still so naive? Brainwashed?
 
 
+1 # Regina 2012-01-11 16:13
Isn't it amazing that ATM machines can operate flawlessly, including the paper printout, but voting machines, some made by the manufacturers of ATMs (e.g., Diebold!), are subject to shenanigans of all sorts, and are uncheckable and therefore uncorrectable. "Tain't the technology, 'tis the "politicology."
 

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