More on Victorian e-voting report (fwd)

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Mon May 09 2005 - 16:56:10 CDT

(Good) Word from my Aussie contacts...

Paper gets thumbs up vote
By Nathan Cochrane
May 10, 2005

The immediate future of a secure electronic voting system that people
trust lies not with gee-whiz technologies but old-fashioned paper-backed
systems, a Victorian Government inquiry has found.

The scrutiny of acts and regulations e-democracy subcommittee, chaired
by Labor MP Michael Leighton, found that the internet and mobile phones
were a poor second to paper.

It has recommended that e-voting for local and general elections be
restricted initially to a few machines running open-source software that
has been hardened by "white hat" hackers who have tried to break their

That source code would be published on the Victorian Electoral
Commission website.

PCs would help people - those challenged by traditional paper ballots,
such as those with vision impairments or poor English, for example - who
found filling out paper ballots difficult.

It recommended tried and tested methods: paper ballots that the voter
places in a box at the polling station.

PCs should not be linked to the internet, and their voting records
should be transported along at least two separate physical routes to a
tally office, where they would be checked against each other at the
close of polling.

"The committee does not consider that it is appropriate at this time to
discard the paper trail in favour of electronic record keeping only,"
the report says.

"This recommendation is based on the strong need to provide the public
with confidence in the system developed, using a simulacra of the model
of voting with which they have familiarity."

Leighton says the committee was impressed by the ACT's experience with
e-voting, based on the open source eVACS polling stations supplied by
Canberra consultancy Software Improvements.

The Californian e-voting debacle that centred around US technology
provider Diebold made the committee wary of recommending proprietary

"From what we saw in California and the ACT, neither have a perfect
system," says Leighton. "In California, they stressed heavily the need
for a paper audit trail.

"Even if technically it's not necessary, it's important for public
The Government has until November to table its response in Parliament,
and Leighton hopes there will be some electronic polling booths at
high-traffic stations by the next state election.

He advised gradual adoption of the technology, acknowledging that it
would disappoint staunch proponents of e-voting but emphasised the need
to have full public confidence in the system's integrity.

The Blackberry-toting Leighton, who confesses some see him as "a bit of
a nerd, a geek", says the committee would not recommend widespread
e-voting or internet ballots just because they were "state of the art".

The inquiry erred on the side of those who warned of worst-case
scenarios, such as hacker infiltration of internet polling servers and
distributed denial of service attacks. The public liability from such an
assault would be "catastrophic" he says.

"Our system (unlike the US Florida count) isn't broken and therefore we
couldn't identify an overwhelming public need or benefit (for internet
voting). We would prefer to see further developments there first."

The inquiry also looked at how to boost voters' involvement in the
democratic system outside elections.
* All government websites should meet the W3C's web accessibility
guidelines for disabled users;

* Introduce e-voting for parliamentary votes;

* Government information sent over RSS-feeds to newsreader
("aggregator") software;

* Online information in Adobe's proprietary PDF format duplicated in
text or HTML;

* The web used to expand freedom of information requests;

* All email stored on government servers reviewed prior to deletion;

* Instant messaging monitored to help formalise a usage policy;

* The Victorian Electoral Commission to build a portal for candidates'
statements to be sent over RSS;

* More public input into policy formulation over the net.

- RSS - Really Simple Syndication. A way to send headlines - and
sometimes short snippets of information or multimedia content, such as
audio, pictures and video - to a desktop PC or handheld device for quick
and easy reading of a range of topics.
- White hat hacker - IT professionals who break into computer systems at
the invitation of their owners.

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Subcommittee -
eVACS open source polling -
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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:27 2005

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