Re: Selling paper as a voting medium

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Wed Jul 07 2004 - 11:17:07 CDT

As you say, we have experience with paper, not only in elections. Theft,
loss, and manipulation of paper documents occurs with contracts, wills,
homework that was due today, etc.

No one argues when you list some security problems that can occur with
paper ballots -- a corrupt person with access to the ballots could
scribble additional marks on some ballots so they become invalid; steal,
add or replace ballots; a corrupt election worker could lose a ballot
box on the way to the central office, or leave the ballot box unguarded
in an unlocked office over the weekend. Everyone understands what it
means to watch out for those human actions, and try to prevent them and
report them if they take place.

The equivalent actions inside the computer would not be observable, and
in speaking engagements I still have people in some audiences who
sincerely question whether comparable things could happen with a
computer. Many people don't understand computers. A tiny number still
sincerely say "computers wouldn't do that, I would trust a computer to
work correctly." And how could the average non-technical person watch
out for those problems inside the computer?

Confidence in democratic elections requires people to be able to
directly observe the election process. On that basis alone, computers
should never be used in elections because even if the programming is
open source, no one can "see" what programming is in the computer at the
time of election, and most people don't have the capacity to read the
open source code anyway. The use of computers forces most voters and the
public into a "trust me" situation.

The work of the OVC is of critical importance because if we are forced
to use computers, at least OVC code would be open source and SOME people
who have no financial interest could read it and tell others that it is
well designed and that it appears secure. At least OVC has a proposed
ballot reconciliation procedure, while other providers of computerized
election systems act as if such an effort is unnecessary.

An easy way to solve the problems with paper ballots is to have more
ordinary citizens engage in the election process, so there are lots of
people around to watch every step of the election, and the handling and
storage of the ballots until the election is certified. Is there any
easy way to solve comparable problems with computers that record and
count ballots?

Teresa

"Edmund R. Kennedy" wrote:

> Hello David: I agree that paper is an under rated medium. It's
> something that we've been using for literally centuries (think
> papyrus) and that we understand quite well. In the, "New York Times,"
> article on the Napa Valley elections that I recently posted, it's
> fascinating that they are able to fairly easily distinguish between
> different types of writing devices used on paper. I'm not altogether
> sure that this is something that is easy to do on a removable SD Ram
> chip or similar. Also, we do take ourselves a little too seriously at
> times and despite the importance of our work it's a good idea to
> introduce a little levity now and then. Bread does not rise without a
> little levening. Thanks, Ed Kennedy
>
> David Jefferson <d_jefferson@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> Ed,
>
> I can't quite tell if you are being serious or
> humorous--maybe both.
>
> I, however, am serious. Many people seem to think paper is
> some kind
> of retro, analog medium from a bygone era, and our support
> for it as
> indicative of our failure to appreciate the speed,
> reliability and
> overall cleanliness of electronic storage. But other than
> recordable
> optical disks, which are much too large, we really don't
> have any
> convenient, write-once media other than paper. Likewise, we
> have no
> other medium that is directly human readable without the
> intervention
> of some device and/or software. The combination of those two
> security
> properties is, as far as I know, unique to paper. If we make
> that
> essentially technical point, I think we will win some
> additional
> respect for paper ballots.
>
> David
>
> On Jul 6, 2004, at 8:07 PM, Ed Kenn! edy wrote:
>
> > Hello David:
> >
> > ??? Humm.? Paper might be sexier if we used some sort of
> cyber
> > language to
> > describe it.? How about,
> >
> > Non volatile mass storage
> > Graphite write and photon read technologies
> > Recyclable cellulose medium.
> > Verifiable write once, read many technology with added
> mark up
> > capabilities
> > Uses commonly available infrastructures
> > Low unit cost.
> >
> > Think that might help?
> >
> > Thanks, Ed Kennedy
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "David Jefferson"
> > To:
> > Cc: "David Jefferson"
> > Sent: Saturday, July 03, 2004 10:26 PM
> > Subject: Re: [voting-project] OVC Architecture Decision
> Tree
> >
> >
> > > > 2.? Why a paper ballot?? We know what the problems are
> with paper
> > > > ballots.
> ! > > > We've had a lot of practice getting it right for
> over a 100 years.
> > > > Even if
> > > > things mess up, it's easy to correct things with paper
> ballots.
> > >
> > > I think there are better ways to describe why a paper
> ballot is
> > > good.
> > >
> > > Paper has a trio of fundamental *security* properties
> that, as far
> > as I
> > > know, no other storage medium enjoys:
> > >
> > > a) It is write-once storage.? After it is written, it
> cannot be
> > > overwritten or erased, by humans or software, without
> detection.
> > >
> > > b) Paper is machine readable (via OCR).
> > >
> > > c) Paper is ALSO readable directly by humans without the
> need for
> > > special equipment or software.? Hence, ordinary people
> do not need to
> > > trust some device or program (even if open source) to
> read it.
> > >
> > > David
> > >
> > ?> 10777 Bendigo Cove
> > San Diego, CA 92126-2510
> > USA
> > ?
> >
> > Amendment I
> > Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
> religion, or
> > prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
> freedom of
> > speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
> peaceably to
> > assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of
> grievances.
> > ?
> > ?
>
>
> 10777 Bendigo Cove
> San Diego, CA 92126-2510
>
> Amendment 1 to the US Constitution
>
> "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
> or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of
> speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble,
> and to petition the government for the redress of grievances."

==================================================================
= The content of this message, with the exception of any external
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain
==================================================================
Received on Sat Jul 31 23:17:10 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Jul 31 2004 - 23:17:15 CDT