Re: Representative Holt's OWN WORDS [Re: OVC-discuss Digest, Vol 36, Issue 9]

From: Ronald Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 21:06:46 CDT
Danny Swarzman wrote:
I can't help it there are many things in this that are almost right.

On Oct 30, 2007, at 2:49 PM, Hamilton Richards wrote:

If the video's unsourced claim that "up to 10% of the
electronically-generated paper records allowed by HR811 are damaged,
unreadable, and unusable for audits" is based on anything, it's based
on early implementations produced by manufacturers who have an
interest in seeing them rejected. Electronically generated
voter-verified paper ballots can be far more reliable than
hand-marked ones, and far less vulnerable to ballot-box stuffing and
spurious rejection by crooked election officials.

If this has change, we need to see the data verifying it. The  
inherent problem with the paper trail is that there is no way to  
know. Voters don't check it. It is not easy to inspect. When there is  
a difference between the way a voter remembers marking a ballot and  
the paper, they just assume it was their mistake.
Right. Also ballot printers can selectively (1) delay or deny service; (2) manipulate the order of the candidates on the ballot or remove candidates from the ballot; and (3) modulate the voter's ability to select candidates. All of these attacks either reduce voting rates or manipulate voters into making the attacker's preferred choices. Since none of them create an inconsistency between the voter's intent and the VVPB, "verifying" the VVPB does nothing to catch them.
Concerning code inspection, it's universally accepted in computing
science that code cannot be validated by inspection.

David Wagner made this point. Effective disclosure would require that  
the inspector be able to do unit testing and follow the code with a  
debugger or other tools. That is what people do when they make  
software. They specify, code and test. All of this needs to be clear  
and transparent.
Code cannot be "validated" by inspection, but it sure can be, er, "invalidated".

The mythical golden age
The video makes the claim that "we already have 'verifiable'
elections. They're called hand counted, paper ballot elections. We
don't need a federal bill...". The colorful history of election fraud
in the days before computers is so widely known that this can only be
another disingenuous claim. Its author's antipathy to the use of
computers in elections is evident, but since it is unsupported by any
logical arguments, it's far from persuasive.

If there are fewer steps, fewer things to go wrong, that is a source  
of security. How can you dispute that. There can be fraud without  
computers. Using computers gives more means of cheating.
Yes, it sure does. Computerized casting devices are a necessary evil for the small number of voters who need certain kinds of assistance to vote independently. They are an unnecessary, expensive, insecure, unsupervisible extravagance for the vast majority of voters who can hand-mark paper ballots. Computerized tabulators are evil, but might or might not be necessary depending upon circumstances. At least they can effectively be audited.
Profits are evil?
The video ends by asserting that no one should make a profit from
elections. Does that mean that election officials should not be paid?
That the suppliers of printed paper ballots should provide them at
cost? How about the printers' suppliers of paper and ink? This smells
like a religious argument more than a logical one, and the thing
about religion is that you either get it or you don't. Brandishing
religious arguments at nonbelievers is famously counterproductive.

The problem with the 'profit' motive in practice is that large  
corporations have the power to corrupt the system. History tells us  
that they do.

The privatization of government functions opens the door to conflicts  
of interest. Not the same as paying a salary to elections officials.
I agree. Some functions are so important to the preservation of Liberty that they must remain with government or with citizens themselves. Some good examples are courts (do you really want a private judge deciding whether you should go to prison?), the military (droves of Blackwater hens are flying home to roost just now), regulatory agencies (many, e.g., the FTC, have been "captured" by their industries and have thus failed of their purpose -- can you say "leaded toys"?) -- and elections. There's nothing wrong with elections officials getting paid or buying paper for ballots, but there is something wrong with delegating the presentation of ballots, the recording of selections, and the tabulation of results to private entities, particularly when that delegation involves the use of technology that's opaque to essentially all citizens.


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Received on Wed Oct 31 23:17:04 2007

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