coin based voting --

From: D. C. Lapena <chito_dot_lapena_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Wed Jul 05 2006 - 11:37:38 CDT

This idea may be off field .. but what if we go back to the idea of a
mechanical voting system that is token based?

Barring the political realities of such a solution, it seems that we
should be going more for a solution with this level of openness and
verifiability.

The advantage of this system would be that there are several methods
to perform counts of the votes without the need to open the token
boxes (more discussion of this below).

1. each choice of a ballot would have a coin box associated with it.
The boxes are sealed with lead solder or other tamper-resistant,
breakable seal
2. each coin box has a front end mechanical coin acceptor like the
ones for gumball machines (only accepts one token at a time)
3. user places a token (can be RFID tokens, casino tokens, etc -- not
publicly available tokens) on each choice for which he/she wants to
cast a vote
4. the voter pushes a loader mechanism in to drop ALL tokens into
their corresponding sealed box. A mechanical counter for each ballot
choice with a coin is incremented. The user hears the coins physically
drop
5. Once the loader is pushed, it can only come back out when a poll
worker comes to turn a key to release it

6. once unloaded from the voting machine assembly, each box shows its
initial count outside. The coins are clearly visible because the boxes
are made of transparent, hard plastic. A label that designates the
ballot choice is sealed inside where it is read through the
transparent case. The token receptacle is sealed with a transparent
substance (like epoxy or something like rubber cement) mixed with
glitter. A high resolution photograph of the seal is taken from a
standardized position with register markings after it dries. A copy of
the unit's weight is under the seal. The photograph is archived at
full resolution and the file is digested to a hash which is printed in
a public newspaper and web site. In case of a ballot dispute, image
analysis software, along with human vision, must be used to verify the
integrity of the seal since the hash will not match subsequent
photographs (the photograph that generates the hash can be analyzed by
eye or with image processing software to yield the same features that
match the visual state of the seal).

7. each vote box can have 2 chambers -- a top and bottom chamber. The
top chamber is loaded with the initial votes. Gear teeth exposed
outside of the sealed mechanism can be engaged to turn a wheel, which
operates a rotating single coin loader and counter between the 2
chambers. This allows for a limitless visual and mechanical recount of
the coins WITHOUT the need to compromise the seal of the box.

Coins can be counted from the front to rear chamber as well as rear to
front. When there are no coins in the front chamber, the second
counter should read equal to the first counter. When there are no
coins in the rear chamber, the second counter should read zero.
Counter discrepancies due to miscalibration or mechanical failure can
be overriden by an aural and visual count.

An optical sensor outside of the case can be placed just below where
the coin drops from one chamber to the other to perform an external
electronic visual count.

This relatively simple mechanism uses the most reliable counters and
validators we have on the planet -- ones similar to those used for
vending machines.

Simplified mechanisms can be used to minimize maintenance and increase
sensory verifiability of the count.

There may be logistical problems for large numbers of choices. But
these are likely surmountable problems.

For the blind, each choice can have a talking mechanism which simply
reads the choice into headphones when the box is touched. (amenities
for other disabilities would still need to be worked out)

Advantages:
usability -- People understand coins and how coin operated machines work

anonymity -- tokens not associated with voter

vote capture integrity -- System assures one vote at a time by
mechanical locking and use of rationed tokens.

high level of confidence and open verifiability -- System provides at
least 7 sealed counting methods and at least 1 unsealed method -- 2
methods of mechanical machine count, capability for mechanically
driven automated optical recount, capability for hand-driven visual
count and capability for a hand-driven auditory count. With RFID
tokens, an electronic count can be performed, again without need to
break the seal of the box. Additionally, the boxes can be weighed for
an immediate count verification within the tolerance of the tokens'
standard weights. Further, it is possible to perform recounts by
breaking the seals and counting the tokens externally as an absolute
last resort. RFID tokens can have the box's fingerprint written to
them to preserve integrity in this case.

Robust -- solution does not fail if power is out. Reliability is not
vulnerable to normal indoor heat and cold variations. Records can
survive some catastrophic events like floods, hurricanes or even fires
if boxes maintain their integrity. It is possible to perform an
accurate and reliable count in many ways even if the built in counting
mechanisms are completely disabled as long as the box remains sealed.

Can be supplemented by LCD display -- display can summarize voter
choices which he/she can verify against the physical choices. The
display is non-interactive and non-authoritative. If it exhibits
compatibility problems with the physical data it can be shut down
without affecting the counts or the voter's ability to vote.

Disadvantages:
People can cheat if they can get extra tokens. People can lie about
losing tokens.

Mechanisms can get jammed...(but are likely to be as reliable as any
other electronic or mechanical voting system in terms of uptime)

Boxes may need to be constantly swapped out, especially in highly
populated precincts.
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Received on Mon Jul 31 23:17:03 2006

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