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 - 13:01:17 CST
I don't know whether Selker's paper has been peer-reviewed. I also don't know of any paper -- peer-reviewed or not -- showing that voters effectively "verify" machine-printed receipts or ballots. If you do, please cite it.

-R

Barbara Simons wrote:
Selker's paper was about a very special system with a very special 
setup, and it has little to nothing to do with EBPs.  Also, does anyone 
know if the paper has been published in a peer review journal?  If 
anyone has a reference, I'd appreciate it if he or she would send it to me.
Thanks.
Barbara

Ronald Crane wrote:
  
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 23:17:28 2007

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