Re: securing electronic ballots

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Wed Nov 26 2003 - 08:46:24 CST


> Lori Flynn <> wrote:
> |I am curious why voters need to physically touch the ballot at all. What
> |I've heard about voting in Brazil (where 100% of the population is
> |required by law to vote at national elections, and where 100% of the last
> |presidential vote was electronic) is that a paper ballot is printed which
> |is visible behind glass to the voter. The voter verifies that indeed it
> |shows the correct choices made. Then the paper ballot drops (in front
> |of the voters' eyes and behind glass) into a locked box.
> Brazil indeed does a lot of things right. Overall, their system of
> democracy is more advanced than ours in the USA.
> In fact, Rebecca Mercuri mostly likes the paper-behind-glass system
> also. So there is some USA support for the idea. For that matter, I
> myself am not really -opposed- to the idea (except, NOT as a change in
> demo plans; potentially a change for the future only).
Primarily, it's Rebecca Mercuri and Peter Neumann pushing that idea.
They've been pushing it for years -- I don't see it ever gaining any

> Perhaps Alan will decide to further elucidate his reasons for preferring
> the physically handled ballot. One of those I myself put less weight
> in: the thing with the glass is custom hardware, not as easy to do with
> off-the-shelf commodity printers.
There are two stunning reasons:
1) cost
2) Vision impaired can get verification with our system.

and a bunch of other minor reasons.

> However, one thing that EVM2003's approach handles quite well is blind
> accessibility. A blind voter can carry the printed ballot (with only
> the obfuscated barcode showing out of the envelope) over to a
> non-connected reading-station. The cast votes can be verified using
> only headphones. It's hard to see how to achieve quite the same effect
> with a paper-behind-glass system.
Bingo. Exactly. It's too bad Lori missed the UC Santa Cruz event (this is
her campus, btw). Shawn Casey O'Brien came all the way from Southern CA to
denounce the paper ballot. He had never heard of or seen a system where the
blind voter could vote privately AND unassisted AND be able to verify what's
on the ballot. I showed him.

> Sure, the original voting booth could itself have earphones, and just
> read the intended votes. But that doesn't let the blind voter
> -anonymously- assure herself that the paper really says the right thing.
Right. You can't really have the same machine verifying the ballot. All you
can get that way is assurance that the machine knows how you intended to
cast your votes. You need an independently programmed machine to get actual

> In my mind, both systems have advantages and disadvantages relative to
> each other. It's not clear to me how to weigh the comparative
> significance of blind-voter anonymous verification and
> missing-paper-ballots. Of course, I'm not adverse to hearing a scheme
> that addresses both concerns (again, not for the demo; but that's just
> our start).
I've never been convinced of any problem with missing ballots. If you want
to vote, you turn your ballot in. If you don't want to vote, you don't turn
a ballot in. A scheme to prevent these "missing ballots" is a solution to a

The printer under glass thing is highly problematic. It's hardly worth
discussing. One problem is the paper handling. You have to be able to
cancel your ballot if you don't like what you see. These ballots have to be
marked in some way or destroyed without the voter touching the ballot. This
necessitates dedicated expensive hardware. I think you take the $4,000
paperless DRE and add about $1,200 for that. It's a ridiculous waste of

Alan D.

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Received on Sun Nov 30 23:17:09 2003

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