Re: draft of text for new OVC-sponsored bill

From: Ronald Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Sat Jan 24 2009 - 19:11:15 CST

David Mertz wrote:
>>> Also, as Jim March observed, voters' errors on hand-filled paper
>>> ballots will be random and will lack a partisan bias (unless the
>>> ballot is very badly designed). In contrast, an attack on ballot
>>> printers will (by definition) have a partisan bias.
>
> The badly designed paper is a REALLY BIG caveat. Doesn't anyone
> remember Florida in 2000 anymore? Or a thousand other jurisdictions
> with less publicized design errors in paper ballots.
The same thing can occur (and has occurred) with e-voting equipment. On
Florida, in 2006 the CD 13 (Sarasota) race (run on DREs) experienced a
huge (13%) undervote, which quite possibly flipped the result. Officials
attributed it to an incorrect race heading, made in error (?)
http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061115/NEWS/611150751
. There is no reason that a presentation attack on race headings could
not produce a similar effect.

The thing is, hand-filled paper ballots can (and should!) be audited
before the election to detect errors and attacks, and once checked, do
not change themselves (though chain of custody is still important to
prevent later attacks). Ballot printers, DREs, etc., are not anywhere
near as amenable to effective audits, and their outputs are mutable.
>
> Also, an error in a ballot printer is not *by definition* partisan.
> Sure, it could be, even if the error was initially careless rather
> than malicious. E.g. a calibration error skews votes towards the
> candidate listed lower on the screen. On the other hand, if this same
> possible error was on a system with randomized candidate order, the
> error wouldn't favor any particular candidate or party (since any one
> of them would be equally likely to occur at the bottom of the list).
> The real answer is "it depends".
>
Good point. But a presentation attack is, by definition, partisan.
Detection (and recovery) are relatively easy, straightforward, and
effective for hand-filled paper ballots, and much less so on all points
for ballot printers.
>> This essay ignores the effects of DoS attacks, presentation attacks,
>> selection attacks,
>
> We've had plenty of DoS attacks on all-paper ballot precincts! Some of
> them right here in LA county in 2008! I think Arthur has written well
> of something similar when he was an election judge, and inadequate
> numbers of paper ballots were provided to his precinct.
>
> A DoS attack need not be planned with sophisticated software that
> counts voting history per machine. You pretty much know voting
> patterns by precinct, and causing long lines among "undesirable"
> voters is an old and nasty trick that isn't particularly dependent on
> polling-place technology.
Computerized DoS is not as easily detectable -- nor nearly as easy to
fix -- as that involving hand-filled paper ballots. Let's say an average
voting session takes 5 minutes without DoS, and lines are acceptable. A
crafty attacker might add 30 seconds to per-voter reinitialization, 15
seconds to printing, and 30 seconds (total) to page flips, lengthening
the average voting time by 25%, and potentially lengthening lines a
great deal (gotta run my queueing model to say how much). Or she might
do that, and then make one of the (say, 4) machines "fail". Recovery is
unlikely unless officials break out the hand-filled paper ballots, or an
astute lawyer gets a court order extending closing time, pronto (though
the latter isn't nearly as useful, since many voters will just leave if
the line's too long).

-R
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Received on Thu Jan 7 00:09:51 2010

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