Re: Denying the Troops a Secret Ballot

From: <dr-jekyll_at_att_dot_net>
Date: Sat Sep 04 2004 - 11:08:22 CDT

Another suggestion -- Those States whose absentee ballot systems aren't working should clean up their acts. If their absentee ballot systems are too broke to fix and they want an example of how to do it correctly, I'd suggest they look at New Hampshire. An absentee ballot is requested. It gets sent in the mail. If it gets lost, the voter can still vote at the polls or, if there's time, request another absentee ballot. The absentee ballots are counted at the precinct level on Election Day, usually at about 2:00 PM, in public. When the voter's name from the absentee ballot envelope is called, the voter is checked off as having voted.

The one area where technology can help would be by letting people get their ballots electronically. This could be by having the ballots posted publicly or by allowing email absentee ballot requests and sending the ballot as an attachment to the return email.

I'm a firm believer in technology, but in the case of absentee ballots, I believe the problem is carelessness and poor management. With all the high-tech unemployment in America these days, there is a more than ample supply of highly qualified people to promptly and accurately handle our military's absentee ballots as part-time workers.

I find it oxymoronic that the HAVA law, which is supposedly all about unassisted secret ballots for a small handful of select persons with disabilities, becomes a source of the loss of secret ballots for our military voters.


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-------------- Original message from David Mertz : -------------- 
> On Sep 4, 2004, at 5:44 AM, charlie strauss wrote: 
> > It seems to me that if there ever was a good case for 
> > VoteHere technology this would be it. My sense is that the risk to 
> > troops is not so much corruption of their vote but rather knwoing 
> > their vote was cast, counted and delivered secretly. 
> I think I see the main risk as the vendor (or other interested party) 
> selectively "losing" a lot of votes for one candidate. So indeed, a 
> VoteHere/Chaum type system gives assurances that a vote actually is 
> included. 
> I think a simpler system would address the basic issue too. For this 
> suggestion you need the premise that two separate semi-trusted entities 
> don't share secrets: (1) Each voter completes an electronic ballot; (2) 
> EBI is encrypted with public key of Entity A; (3) Encrypted EBI is 
> signed by private key of individual voter (private key could be issued 
> at time of voting, of course, and emitted on a paper stub); (4) Entity 
> B receives the collection of signed/encrypted ballots and a list of 
> voters, and makes sure they match; (5) Entity B removes signatures from 
> all ballots, then transmits unsigned (but encrypted) ballots to Entity 
> A; (6) Entity A decrypts all the ballots and turns them over to the 
> canvassers. 
> Actually, Entity A can be two competing political Parties who share a 
> private key in advance of the election. Each Party can receive the 
> same encrypted ballot collection; and if they don't produce the same 
> decryption, you know someone is not being honest. 
> Entity B -could- delete ballots in transit, but B has no idea what 
> votes each encrypted ballot contains, so the fraud options are greatly 
> reduced. B knows that a voter cast a particular encrypted ballot, but 
> this does not disclose a secret, since the contents are not visible. 
> But VotHere has thought through these sorts of things. So I guess 
> they, indeed have an OK system. Well, except the "we pretend it's open 
> source, but if you see the code the NDA contaminates you" part. So who 
> really knows if their system is any good... if you know, you can't say. 
> Actually, though... I wouldn't even be so worried about the 
> non-cryptographic handling if it just had procedural transparency: let 
> elections monitors watch the steps; publish the protocols and source 
> code involved; etc. The secrecy is the real killer, even more than any 
> cryptographic flaws. 
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Received on Thu Sep 30 23:17:02 2004

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