Re: How difficult is software? [Re: OVC-discuss Digest, Vol 37, Issue 18]

From: Ronald Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Tue Nov 27 2007 - 00:30:32 CST

Hamilton Richards wrote:
> To be sure, most voters can use pen and paper, but electronic ballot
> printers have their advantages:
>
> + there's no expensive inventory of blank ballots to be printed
> and securely stored
> before the election
>
> + disabilities and alternative languages are accommodated more easily
>
> + overvotes can be prevented, and undervotes can be detected
>
> + unlike ballots marked by hand, in which the voter's intent can
> be obscured by stray marks
> and other mistakes, machine-marked ballots can be read,
> manually or by machine, with
> extremely high accuracy
>
> + machine-printed ballots eliminate a time-honored technique for
> fraudulently disqualifying
> ballots by surreptitiously adding stray marks (e.g., using
> bits of pencil lead hidden under
> vote counters' fingernails)
>
> Whether these advantages are worth the cost is open to debate, but
> they should be debated and not simply ignored.
>
EBPs also have disadvantages:

* They're vulnerable to attacks that modify the ballot or that modulate
the difficulty of selecting certain candidates. Since these attacks
trick or coerce the voter into making certain selections, she will not
notice any inconsistency between her (final) intent and the printed
ballot, rendering "voter verification" meaningless.

* They're vulnerable to attacks that simply misprint the ballot (and
store corresponding electronic records, if any). The existing studies
(e.g., Selker) show that most voters don't "verify" paper trails, and
those who do tend to miss most defects.

* They're vulnerable to delay- and denial-of-service attacks, which can
cause selective vote loss.

* They're expensive to buy, store, deploy, and maintain (though
open-source machines might be less so than proprietary ones), and
require more training than many pollworkers are willing or able to absorb.

There's something to be said for EBPs for those who need assistance to
vote independently. There's much less to be said for them for the
general voting population, and more to be said against them.

> Such control software is actually *in control*, and if it screws up
> there's often no way for a human to intervene. Voting software, on
> the other hand, *can* be used in such a way that screwups can be
> detected and corrected before any harm is done.
>
Not always. An attacker can perpetrate much mischief upon a voter left
alone with a machine. See above.

-R
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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:27 2007

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