RE: Spoiled ballots, forged ballots, destroyed ballots

From: John Payson <jpayson_at_circad_dot_com>
Date: Fri Jun 11 2004 - 19:14:52 CDT

There are a lot of features of OVC, John, and of voting
procedures/terminology in general, that you seem to misunderstand. I
would strongly recommend studying the FAQ and other documentation
(including list archives) for a while, before posting further off-mark

Apoligies for my incorrect terminology. What I meant was a ballot
which has been altered in such a way as to be no longer valid, but
which still exists.

My concern is that while it can be made difficult for someone to add
"valid" (but faked) ballots to the ballot stream, or to alter valid
ballots without invalidating them, it is physically much easier for
someone to render a valid ballot invalid. If the existence of invalid
ballots within the ballot box is not considered prima facie evidence of
monkey-business by election officials, then this represents a means by
which corrupt officials can alter an election.

Actually, since as you acknowledge there's a possibility that a voter
might print a ballot but not cast it, this means that even a shortage
of ballots in the ballot box doesn't constitute prima facie evidence
that something's wrong. Given that there have been elections in which
some ballots were accidentally left out of a stack that was fed through
a machine, this would seem like something that should be addressed.

I suspect that some of my philosophical beliefs in what constitutes a
secure voting system may be at odds with the proposed mechanisms of OVC
voting, and there is no interest in adapting such mechanisms to fit the

In particular, I believe that a good voting method should meet both of
these requirements:

-1- It should be possible for any interested person to be
    shown that the election is tabultated correctly and
    EQUIPMENT OTHER THAN HIS OWN**, and that the only means
    by which election results could be altered, **EVEN IF
    by physically altering or replacing cast ballots;
    ballots should contain features to make such trickery
    detectable given a reasonable inspection (say 30
    seconds or so).

-2- Persons other than election officials should not be
    able to throw an election into doubt (that election
    officials will be able to do so is unavoidable).

I believe that it is possible to satisfy both of these requirements at
reasonable cost. Although a broad enough conspiracy among officials
and manufacturers would allow fraudulent ballots to be forged that were
indistinguishable from real ones, that would require a greater
conspiracy than would be needed to cheat in most other ways.

I think that using open-source software to conduct elections is a good
idea, but a person should have no reason to trust the legitimacy of
even open-source software on any machine they don't own, since there
is no way to know what software a machine is "really" running. I do
not, therefore, consider the fact that a piece of machinery claims to
be running a certain piece of open-source software to be evidence
sufficient for me to unquestioningly trust that machine.

Perhaps people on this list don't think the requirements I listed,
particularly the ALLCAPS portions of #1, are important. Perhaps they
don't think they're achievable. If the latter, I could show how
they could be achieved. If the former, then this list is a waste of
my time.

Anyone who's interested in further correspondence is invited to write
me directly, if the matters aren't of interest to the list.
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Received on Wed Jun 30 23:17:13 2004

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