Re: Is Open Source Enough?

From: Edward Cherlin <echerlin_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Sep 07 2007 - 13:33:15 CDT

Teresa,

Nobody has answered your essential question clearly, so I'll have a go. The
OVC concept is to use paper and electronics together to create a protected
and auditable system. The idea is somewhat like double-entry bookkeeping,
where every entry has to have an exactly balancing entry, and all the debits
add up to the same total as all the credits. But we can make our system far
more robust than that. The paper and electronic records can provide strong
checks on each other. This makes fraud much more difficult, and can detect
and in many cases correct simple errors, such as losing a batch of paper
ballots. We propose to use encrypted signatures and message hashes in a
number of places in the system, chosen on the basis of the detailed threat
analysis that we must do.

For example, we will have a digital "checksum" (actually a much more
powerful hash function) for each ballot, capturing the ballot number and all
of the votes cast. In order to change a vote, one would have to change the
paper, change the electronic record, and change the hash for the individual
ballot and the election as a whole. With sufficient collusion, this can be
done, but the number of opportunities to uncover the collusion is much
greater, because there are more places to observe a discrepancy.

At the simplest level, this protects against addition, removal, or
replacement of ballots and tampering with electronic vote records. Of
course, this requires properly designed, executed, and observed chains of
custody for both paper and electronic records, where as far as possible
nobody can access both, and mandatory audits.

Similarly, having people verify their printed ballots protects against
electronic shenanigans. Not 100%, but with a high level of confidence. It's
like retail receipts and ATM records, where a system could fudge some
numbers, but enough individuals check to make that too risky.

However, the only way to make sure that this works is for the public to
demand it. As they say, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. We need
to demand proper systems and proper procedures, and we need to demand that
corrupt voting officials do prison time, even if it's at Club Fed. Getting
DAs, AGs, and Federal attorneys to prosecute their political colleagues, the
Secretaries of State and Registrars of Voters, may be the most difficult
part of the process. But that sort of thing does happen here and there.

Voting reform would help make officials more accountable. So would full
public financing of elections, and a Federal law making the process much
more uniform. The Carter Center won't observe US elections, which do not
meet their standards.

We can go into much more detail. How much do you know about financial
auditing and computer security, particularly the use of encryption
technology for both secrecy and validation?

On 9/4/07, Teresa Hommel <tahommel@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> Well. actually, I did read "Deliver the Vote" by Tracy Campbell and the
> 68-page fraud chapter in Harris's 1934 book on Election Administration. The
> latter was better in describing the types of fraud conducted with paper.
> Then I wrote a paper on the subject,
> http://www.wheresthepaper.org/ElectionFraud_DontWorryAboutPaperBallots.htm
>
> My idea is to use surveillance cameras to watch the ballot boxes, with a
> feed to the internet, so that the whole world can watch any of our thousands
> of local pollsites. And the cameras follow the ballot box to the central
> location and to the warehouse, and watch the boxes and ballots until each
> election is certified.
>

Unfortunately, any stage magician knows dozens of ways to fool the cameras.
The Amazing Randi is available for demonstrations.

The need for citizens to perform the easy and manageable task of watching
> ballots would involve so many people that it would, I predict, revitalize
> our people's faith in our elections. Participation engages people. Telling
> people to come out for 5 minutes and vote, and other than that to mind their
> own business, is part of what is shutting people out of the democratic
> process.
>
> Teresa
>
> Arthur Keller wrote:
>
> Thanks, Teresa, for your message.
>
> There is a long and dishonorable history of fraud from hand-counted paper
> ballots. So hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots are NOT a panacea.
>
> I do believe that it is possible to design a system relying on the proper
> combination of people and computers that is more reliable than one that
> relies on people alone or computers alone. I also believe that it is
> possible to design a system that is more inherently secure and can withstand
> audits better than a hand-counted paper ballot system and far better than
> the systems we have today.
>
> You, Teresa, cannot be there to count all 100+ millions cast in a
> Presidential election. You have to rely on others to ensure that batches of
> the ballots are counted accurately and that those batches are combined
> accurately. With hand-counted paper ballots, only a small number of people
> in a precinct can ensure that a particular precinct is counted accurately.
> I would like a system in which anyone can audit and recount a precinct.
> Would that be preferable? I think so.
>
> Best regards,
> Arthur
>
> At 10:16 PM -0500 9/3/07, Teresa Hommel wrote:
>
> Remember the "Ain't I a Woman" speech of Sojourner Truth?
> Below is a copy, in case you don't recall it.
> It came to my mind as I read your discussion of members of the public
> inspecting software.
> I thought, ain't I a member of the public? But I don't want to inspect
> software to figure out if elections are honest and properly conducted.
> Elections are about votes and ballots, and I want to observe my own votes
> on my own hand-marked ballot, and observe the handling of the ballots once
> they are cast.
> Instead of spending the rest of my life reading 50,000 lines of bad code,
> which is what it would take me, I would rather spend one or two days per
> election watching the ballots and vote-counting with my neighbors.
>
> Teresa Hommel
>
> *Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?
> Delivered 1851
> Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio
>
> Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out
> of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the
> North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
> But what's all this here talking about?
>
> That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and
> lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever
> helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!
> And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and
> planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a
> woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it -
> and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen
> children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with
> my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
>
> Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it?
> [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got
> to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a
> pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my
> little half measure full?
>
> Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much
> rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come
> from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing
> to do with Him.
>
> If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world
> upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back
> , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men
> better let them.*
>
> *Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing
> more to say.*
>
>
> --
>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------
> Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4507
> tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
>
> ------------------------------
>
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-- 
Edward Cherlin
Earth Treasury: End Poverty at a Profit
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Earth_Treasury
WIRE AFRICA  http//www.wireafrica.org/
http://www.linkedin.com/in/cherlin

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Received on Sun Sep 30 23:17:07 2007

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