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E-Vote Gear firm hacked

We've all heard how electronic voting with no paper trail running on windows CE is the wave of the future and presents no risk to democracy or the control of the free world because the software is so totally secure and absolutely foolproof that there is no need for a paper trail or any ability to audit an election.

>VoteHere Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., confirmed Monday that U.S. authorities are investigating a break-in of its computers months ago, when someone roamed its internal computer network. The intruder accessed internal documents and may have copied sensitive software blueprints that the company planned eventually to disclose publicly.

Let me tell you folks, keeping the free world safe from tyrants is at stake here and we tech people have a responsibility to rake thes politiciuans buying these systems over the coals.

*There is no such think as absolute computer security.*

Ed the Millwright
Monday, December 29, 2003

Electronic voting is a disaster wating to happen.  It's the biggest threat to democracy since capitalism.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

It's more than that - the group insane enough to steal an election using hackers will be the group that tries to take over the world and will not be afraid to use as many nuclear weapons as is necessary to usher in a global fascist state. These electronic voting systems should be terrifying to everyone. In my case, I would never dack these things and we can hope so for most people with decent technical skills would not either. But you can be sure that there are plenty who have the skills who would be thrilled to do so for the right price, or even for the promise of power in the new order.

Ed the Millwright
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I'd hack a Diebold e-voting system -- but only to demonstrate how easily it could be done, especially considering how much of a hacker I ain't.  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Electronic voting isn't 100% secure or reliable.

Then again, neither are paper ballots. (c.f., Chicago in 1960, Florida in 2000).

The entire idea of electing representatives is fraught with so many logistical problems that I'm beginning to believe that voting subverts democracy rather than sustains it.

I refer not only to illegal practices like outright vote stealing and voter intimidation, but also to such things as the disenfranchising of third parties by the first-past-the-post system, the curiously constructed Electoral College, the gerrymandering of districts, the lax authentication procedures needed to preserve voting confidentiality, and most disturbingly -- the rise of the career politician class, highly unrepresentative of the common American, and the propaganda machinery needed to drive their political campaigns.

I think there is a much better way to ensure representative democracy than this.

So to me, arguing whether electronic voting is dangerous is a bit like complaining that the Titanic was painted the wrong color.  We're already fucked.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The rise of a class of career politiciancs is the logical result of a democratic state whose administrative positions are not restricted by any other external factors (such as noble birth).

The only ways to avoid the phenomenon of politics as a lifelong career, exclusive to all other occupations, is to either return to some kind of monarchy or aristocracy where only a person's extra-political status allows them to enter politics -- or else to abolish the state that provides political careers in the first place.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "Democracy: The God That Failed" is a very illuminating recent book on this subject.

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Voting and its affects on democracy is something I think about from time to time.  Apart from adding a 'None of the above' option on any first past the post system on the whole I think voting has largely outrun its usefulness.

Voting is only useful in the long term if it is constrained by some qualification and those voting can be held as responsible as those they vote for.  Otherwise its simply an exercise of delegation and a subsequent reduction in responsibility in those that voted.

Universal suffrage seems the best method and any alternative which created an elite would be worse.  On the face of it, we're screwed either way.  However, amongst western industrialised societies we no longer have a self selecting elite purely by education (though the USA is tending towards its own form of aristocracy), and the ownership of property.  The majority of citizens are just as capable as any that are elected, though the majority of citizens are not members of political parties and possibly would not be motivated by ideas of 'policy'.

So I propose that we go back to something closer to the original form of democracy.  We choose by lots, randomly, those that are to govern and be responsible for voting upon the issues that arise.  There would need to be a minimum education level but it need not be onerous.  Every able adult would be entered into the lottery and if their name were drawn they would be selected.  Following that a series of debates and presentations amongst those selected as well as those they were replacing would shake out the actual positions with heads of local, regional and national government voted upon.

It is of course not perfect, though the lottery itself would be hard to fix suborning those selected afterwards by some or other power group would be possible so it would have to be policed.  Political parties as a result would fragment and over time become largely irrelevant.  Public policy would tend towards the conservative (with a small 'c'), more interested in management than in any great idea or set of beliefs.  Those selected could behave more as judges than politicians and able to be independant.

You can yawn now :-)

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

>> The majority of citizens are just as capable as any that are elected

I seriously doubt that :-) When you think about it, it takes quite a lot of skills to occupy this kind of position (good knowledge and practice of law, economics, psychology, etc.) Besides, it's usually more than a full-time job, ie. say good-bye to your private life during your whole term.

Na, I don't think most people have what it takes.

Frederic Faure
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Simon: it's amazing, but I have come to roughly the same conclusion that you have: it would be better if we just chose representatives by lot.  Of course, I think the Greeks did something like this -- government by jury.

The details of my system are a bit different though.  If I were able to rewrite the Constitution, I would establish a heirarchical system of councils.  The lowest, local levels would consist of volunteers chosen by lot.  The position would be paid, and each member would serve a short term.  At the end of the term the council would select their best delegate to go on to the next higher level of government.

The problem is that these days very few people believe that government is "We the People"; rather "gummint" is some alien, some Other, some monster obedient to no master.  I think this system would bring us back to a governance "of the people, by the people and for the people".

And it's not all so bad.  Local representatives might as well be chosen by lot anyways.  At the local level, very few people know anything about the person they are electing; the winner seems to be the one who puts more signs up around town than the other guy.

I'm reticent to institute any minimum education level necessary to serve on the council.  Handing the service of credentialing citizens back to the government could lead to government biasing which citizens and viewpoints it wants to perpetuate.  Having given control to the ordinary person, I'm afraid of having it taken back via this method.  By ensuring that the councils are of a decent size, this would reduce the chances of one idiot or a group of power-hungry individuals from doing much damage.

This will never happen, but it's an interesting idea to think about.

Sorry for the US centric bias of this post; I'm an American.  =-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"Then again, neither are paper ballots"

Brings to mind the election a few years ago (I think it was in south France) where the candidate who *lost* had more votes then there were registered voters.

Tom Hathaway
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I find everyone very soft on this topic considering :

- the previous presidential election was already suspect.

- your 'elected' government is the one which reabilitated Hitler's 'preventive war' for reasons still to be found in the desert.

I know I'm rude, but this is a big issue. Everyone here will agree that an electronic voting system has to done very carefully. So why are they so bad ?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Yes I believe most citizens have what it takes to govern, if I thought they didn't I'd be even less sanguine about them being able to vote for anybody else to do it for them.

The business of government is simpler (and more tiresome) than most people might think.  If you see it close up its the usual hotch potch of blunders, good intentions, flabby thinking and make do and mend as with any other human occupation.

And I'm not surprised Alyosha that you come to such similar conclusions, after all we're right. :-)

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"keeping the free world safe from tyrants is at stake here"

"Electronic voting is ... the biggest threat to democracy since capitalism"

"the group insane enough to steal an election using hackers will be the group that tries to take over the world and will not be afraid to use as many nuclear weapons as is necessary to usher in a global fascist state"

"reabilitated Hitler's 'preventive war'"

I think this discussion belongs here:

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

This drivel got a bold??

DPI Schtick
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Since all voting in Brazil is done electronically I should have something to say here. But unfortunately I don't. Well, maybe a few tidbits:

1-The hardware and software is proprietary and closed-source. You go to a voting booth and there's a computer-looking thingie there with a keypad and a screen.

2-Votes are counted quickly.

3-The secret crypto key is held by a government institution. Kinda scary.

4-Independent reports have demonstrated the system is secure and reliable.

5-Open Source people complain so much about it's "closeness" and "security by obfuscation" methods  that probably it will run on Linux or something like that in the future.

6-There's a book about the system stating that it's not secure.

7-The results for the last presidential election where consistent with the statistics. Actually, the left-wing was elected.

Still not quite sure what to make of it, really.

Brazilian Dude
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Reading this thread I remembered a short story by Isaac Asimov. It was about how, in the future, the result of the election for "world president" was made by a computer.

This thingy, which occupied an entire building and controlled a lot of other things in the world besides the election, choose randomly a single person from all the world. This guy goes into a room with the computer and an "operator" (it was fashioned after a mainframe-kind computer, as you would expect).

The computer then asked seemly random questions to the "voter", things like "how do you like your life?" and some other apparently meaningless stuff. Taking into account those answers it choose the president and nobody questioned.

I don't remember the name of this short history, I have read it long ago and it is somewhere on one of my many Asimov books, perhaps someone here has read it recently...

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Heh - if I remember correctly, the theory behind the story was that the computer had enough statistics on the population that it could take a "normal citizen," ask him some questions reflecting his interests and concerns, and from that extrapolate the results of an entire national election.

In other words, it wasn't choosing the President, it was doing the Gallup poll thing reduced to absurdity, a la "every program will have at least one line of code that can be removed, and one bug; so every program in the world can be reduced to a single line of code that won't work"

I'll have to reread it, but in retrospect I suspect Isaac was making a commentary on pollsters (which seems amazingly timely)


Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Computers are amplifiers.

In the past, to commit vote fraud, you had to fill out lots of slips of paper, or pay off vote-counters in many different districts, or have tons of people on the ground to make sure your allies voted (and perhaps your enemies did not).

Now you can change huge numbers of votes automatically, either by remote control, pre-destined programming, or other techniques.

You can also disenfranchise large numbers of people (see Florida, 2000) and say 'the computer must be right', or just rely on the scale of what happened to help you.

Paper ballots or printouts just make the cost of fraud higher again.

Also, a secondary counting system--a poll (or perhaps an omnicisiant predicitive computer) can help point to where fraud has occured. Though if you own two watches, you never know what time it is.

Friday, January 2, 2004

If democratic countries are able to more forcibly back development of better voting processes, it would go a long way towards making democratic processes bloom abroad. Whenever voting doesn't work, some punk is benefiting from it.

Li-fan Chen
Saturday, January 3, 2004

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