Re: Shamos Rebuttal, the Finale

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Sun May 15 2005 - 02:54:23 CDT

Some news articles slammed the use of EVMs in India and said they
malfunctioned and many people thought they were just props for an
illegitimate election. I did not keep the emails with those reports, but
they may still be available.
Teresa Hommel

Anand Pillai wrote:

>Hi Ron (and other authors of this paper),
> I was going through the rebuttal document and found this
>interesting mention of Indian EVMs at section 4 ("Miscellaneous
>Errors") of the document.
>"Finally, in his 1.5, Shamos implicitly argues that DREs are suitable
>for America because India has chosen to use them nationwide. The
>authors fail to understand Shamos s intent here. Perhaps he will issue
>an updated version of his paper explaining his argument more clearly?"
> I have not read Shamos' original paper, but there are a few key
>differences between the Indian EVMs that were used in the Indian
>general elections last time and the American DREs, like the Diebolds.
>1. First of all, the Indian EVM is basically a hardware device with very little
>software components. All the logic of the device is embedded into
>firmware, a microchip specifically designed for the purpose of
>recording the votes. Hence the opportunities for tampering with the
>voting 'software' is very little or non-existent.
>2. It has a ballot unit and a control unit. The control unit has a
>'close' button which when pressed will freeze the voting firmware in
>the system so that it becomes read-only. This is done in a polling
>station at the end of voting, so that the system cannot be tampered in
>any way later.
>2. The amount of intelligence in the voting system itself is minimal.
>The voting system has no idea of the candidates, their names etc. The
>system can be considered essentially as a 16-way electronic slotting
>system, which can record upto 3,840 votes in all these 16 slots. The
>balloting officers put a strip of paper along side each of the 16
>slots on the machine (or lesser, if the number of candidates is less
>than 16). The voter pushes a button next to the slot with the name of
>his candidate which records his/her vote for him. At the end of
>the polling officer presses a button on the control unit, which shows the
>total number of votes polled against each 'slot'. It is now the job of
>the polling officers to take the machines to a tabulation center,
>where the tabulation officers look at the names of candidates against
>each slot and manually add up the votes from each polling station.
>3. Thus the system, though technically a DRE does not preclude the
>human role completely since tabulation of votes is done manually for
>each DRE. It is not a fully automated system as an American Diebold.
>4. Since each ballot unit can record only upto 3,840 votes, the chances that
>a corrupt party can influence voting results by capturing a polling
>booth (which is quite common here!) is vastly reduced, when compared
>to the old papor balloting system. Once the polling officer has closed
>a ballot station, the firmware is effectively untamperable.
>5. Thuis the Indian e-voting systems are designed entirely different
>when compared to American DREs. They are also much less complex with
>no GUIs,
>databases and associated software components. Hence chances of someone
>actually tampering with the 'software' just before an election is much
>less in an Indian election when compared to an American one. The only
>way to tamper with an Indian DRE is to introduce malware into it right
>at the production stage, when the code for the firmware is written.
>This however is very unlikely since there are strict controls in
>place. Of course, the second way to influence the voting results is to
>influence the tabluation officers themselves so that votes are
>incorrectly tabulated for a candidate. But again there are different
>(human) layers of checks and cross-checks in place to avoid
>malpractices such as these.
>Even with such as simple system and effectively tamper-proof DREs,
>there are quite a few people here in the academia who are unhappy with
>the Indian DREs
>and recommend systems with a paper trail.
>However my point is that the Indian EVMs and American DREs differ so
>much that any comfort that Shamos draws from the fact that India uses
>DREs in voting
>cannot be used as a direct argument for promoting the use of the same
>in American elections due to the vast technical and political
>differences between the two systems.
>Here are few links where you can find more information on the Indian DRE.
>About the Indian EVM:
>About the non-use of paper trails in Indian EVMs
>On 5/14/05, Ron Crane <> wrote:
>>This is the (really) final version, signed by all authors. Feel free to
>>use it wherever appropriate. We will submit it for publication in
>>appropriate peer-reviewed fora; suggestions on where are welcome.
>>P.S. Note to other authors: this version corrects "George V. Bush"
>>(where did *that* come from?) to "George W. Bush," so please pick up
>>this version for publication on your websites.
>>OVC discuss mailing lists
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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:36 2005

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