Re: VoteHere

From: charlie strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Wed Dec 13 2006 - 22:24:46 CST

oops , a cut and paste blunder... Rumsfled's name did not belong in my e-mail.

-----Original Message-----
>From: Charlie Strauss <>
>Sent: Dec 13, 2006 9:18 PM
>To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list <>
>Subject: [OVC-discuss] VoteHere
>Here's my own historical perspective on VoteHere. It's important to
>understand the big distinction between votehere the company and
>votehere the technology.
>Back in 2003, the company got a very bad rep in the Verified Voting
>community for it's marketing strategy which basically amounted to
>ramming it down people throats by trying to make end-to-end crypto
>law rather simply letting people see it might actually be a good
>idea too. It annoyed people because the system they were pushing
>worked only on DRE. That was intentional because Sequoia, an early
>adopter of votehere, was making this one of their Stalking Horses to
>force DRE and driver a stake through the heart of the paper ballot
>community. Hence from the DRE marketing perspective they did not
>want it to work on paper. Another Stalking horse for DRE, again
>with the VoteHERE fingerprints, was S.E.R.V.E. the remote voting
>system for people in the military.
>At the time I was fighting the political battle in NM to try to
>reverse the swing to touchscreens and these Sequoia efforts were
>really causing havoc. For a while it looked like the EAC and
>congress was being drawn in by this. People like Micheal Shamos were
>talking it up to undermine the case for paper ballots. Thus
>"Counted-as-cast" and crypto buzz terms really got a reputation as
>paper-ballot killers and as wedge issues. They became something to
>stamp out if paper ballots were going to have a chance, not something
>to have a leisurely educated debate on their merits.
>It's really a shame they got on the DRE bandwagon because it tainted
>what was really a noble idea. Use crypto to secure transit issues
>and possibly even allow self auditing if some of the tactical
>problems could be solved. Ironically of all the systems out there at
>the time, OVC, accupol and populex (and now maybe OVS) were probably
>actually the ones most suited to getting the good out of crypto while
>leaving out the bad parts. But instead it was being used as an
>argument against them.
>The problem all along has been the fumbling marketing strategy of
>VoteHERE--the company. It's even been in the news lately in some
>mildly unsettling ways:
>Weird but true: Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld are tied up with
>pushing this:
>VoteHere Now wants to make Internet voting the next thing:
>and in the end VoteHEre only sold 90 systems and has had to change
>it's business model:
>Other systems that were proposed in the same time frame all reflected
>the DRE only mentality. For example, Although Chaum's was a paper
>ballot it required a DRE to produce it. The crypto community sold
>themselves on the idea that MATH could do away with a paper, and have
>been barking up the wrong tree ever since.
>Thus we had a political stalemate pitting two good ideas against each
>other: Crypto and Paper.
>The biggest reconciliation came this year when Ronald Rivest
>proposed the triple ballot. The neat thing about this system was it
>was possible for it to be a pure handmarkable paper ballot that would
>allow end-to-end voter verification their ballot was counted as cast
>(with high probability). This finally proved you did not need
>actually a DRE to accomplish the task. Of course the problem was
>Rivest's scheme is flawed as he has proposed it and does not have the
>safeguards it promised. However I believe the best parts of it can
>be salvaged and used to help make vote transport much more secure and
>work with paper ballots.
>Ben's re-introduction of VoteHere-like concepts to OVC-discuss is
>therefore very timely. And I don't doubt that Alan Dechert sees this
>My feeling is this. Wrapping cypto around an intrinsically robust
>voting system (like OVC) is good. But it can't be done in a
>dominating way that changes things to jeopardize or obfuscate any of
>the good parts of OVC. The ballot system has to be obvious in
>operation to the voters and the operators. Crypto is just an add on,
>not the primary security. It It has to work robustly when people
>botch the operational details. It has to fail safely and not destroy
>the secret ballot if someone spills the keys. It can't impede
>recounts. It has to be transparent.
>If we can make a system that has those attributes we should embrace
>it. The problem is getting the crypto community to acknowledge their
>current system have fatal flaws, particularly in the usability area,
>get them started on thinking how to fix it. Most importantly we need
>to get them to give up on some of it's sexiest but useless features
>and settle for robustness and transparency instead.
>Now OVC actually may be the best possible platform to do it right.
>The reason is that most forms of Crypto need a computer in the ballot
>marking process. OVC has that. Yet it also has the paper ballots
>too so it has an entirely non-electronic channel we know how to make
>robust against election screw-ups and we know how to recount. I
>think there is a lot of potential to have the best of both if we
>think this through.
>I will close by noting that the Crypto folks have not yet realized
>that the paper ballot community is where it will finally be made
>practical. In the last days discussion Ben remarked that VoteHERE
>does not work on hand marked optical scan. Au contrair--it would
>work far better than on DRE. I suspect that Ron Rivest is probably
>the first to catch on to this.
>We should look at it more. Just don't let it become the tail wagging
>the dog.
>OVC-discuss mailing list

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Received on Sun Dec 31 23:17:14 2006

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