Think Tank Bashes Paper Trails For E-Voting

from the missing-the-point dept

A think tank has released a report bashing the idea of requiring paper trails for e-voting systems. The logic behind this uses some sleight of hand and some misdirection to make such a statement actually try to sound sensible. The key argument the group makes is that a paper trail would not increase security while increasing cost. That's actually true -- but that's not the point. People aren't asking for a paper trail to increase security. They're asking for a paper trail to make the machines auditable so the machine's ability to count accurately can be checked. In response to this, the think tank notes that the paper trail might not be perfect, so it's a waste. They point out that printers jam and the hand counts of paper trails may not be accurate either. That's nice, but again it's missing the point. Without those things, there's simply no way of knowing whether or not the computer count was accurate or whether the votes were tampered with. No one has suggested that a paper trail is the perfect solution to all of e-voting's problems. No one denies that paper trails potentially add other problems to the process. But the concern here is not in making e-voting cheaper -- but in making it better. Adding additional mechanisms to make the machines more reliable and more trustworthy seems like a reasonable step, though certainly not the only one that should be taken.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Confused, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 6:43pm

    Don't you have to qualify as being intelligent before joining a think tank? I always assumed I didn't have a chance, but if you can shoot from the hip and not think things through even before you make public statements, maybe I should put in an application...looks like the bar is pretty low, huh?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 7:23pm

    I can just see this now.

    Tuch screens use Vista as their operating system.

    Cracker enters machine by back door Microsoft put in Vista so that Microsoft can update computer with out owner's permission.

    Cracker programs computer so that Daffie Duck wins election.

    No paper trail.

    A Walt Disney cartoon character wins election.

    National headlines Daffie Duck Wins Election!

    Who are these Bozos kidding.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    MiniDevil, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 8:09pm

    It's Bashes. Not Bashses

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 8:09pm

    It would be nice to know who actually funds this "think tank". In 5 minutes of searching, I found only links to their articles - nothing on who they are.

    A tech group with objections to insuring accurate elections sounds very suspicious to me. Why would they care either way?

    Any electronic system provides business for their industry. In fact, moving from paper ballots to electronic voting was an immense windfall. Any further changes just mean more sales.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    JuarezTraveller, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 8:13pm

    This Think Tank Is Nuts

    "Think" tank? Either there were too many conditions in their tests or they didn't consider enough configurations. Clearly, a paper receipt verified by the voter or poll worker (like maybe with the final display on the screen?) and left at the poll provides a much better recount capability than the present system with many machines which offer none at all. Voter verification is required if we want to have a more accurate auditing process. And I just can't believe they actually said that the paper will prevent the use of innovative technologies. We don't vote so that we can use innovative technologies. We use innovative technologies so that we can count our votes better. In addition, that stupid argument misses the whole point of employing good ergonomics in the human-machine interface. Finally, their argument that people won't know if the machine or the paper is right is an argument to eliminate the machines and to use older methods of voting.

    This "think" tank is nuts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Dave Johnson, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 8:28pm

    It isn't complicated

    Use the touch-screen computer as an input device, and have it print a paper ballot that the voter looks at and then puts in a separate ballot box. Simple. This gets rid of all of the problems we have had in the past where people make mistakes - like Florida in 2000. Now we have lots of votes thrown out, but using the touch screen as an input device to print a paper ballot all those problems go away.

    And if we have a paper trail security doesn't even MATTER. Open source doesn't matter. Hacking doesn't matter. Because we can count the paper ballots that the computer prints and the voter checks.

    You can use the computer for a fast preliminary count, but the paper is there for a physical count. Since it is printed from a computer it is standardized and can be passed through counting machines.

    It's really so simple -- why do the voting machine companies resist this? They would make more money selling the printers. I have never before heard of companies resisting selling high-margin add-ons. Sheesh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 8:39pm

    Re:

    Don't you have to qualify as being intelligent before joining a think tank?

    No, you need to have the right political connections. Most think tanks are political in nature even if covertly so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 8:51pm

    Re: It isn't complicated

    It's really so simple -- why do the voting machine companies resist this? It's really the elections officials who don't want it. If there's a paper trail then someone can challenge the results and then they might have to do a manual recount. The officials want to be able to say "Sorry, that's impossible because there's nothing that can be manually counted. However, I'd be glad to press the automatic count button again. Just a moment. Yep, there it is, same result. Count confirmed, I did a perfect job again." A paper trail also makes it more difficult to rig elections which is something else some officials don't like about it. The voting machine companies are just giving these corrupt officials what they want. That's what it really boils down to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Jetson, Sep 19th, 2007 @ 10:39pm

    Leavers and Sprockets

    Digital Punch Cards are still the way of the future

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 1:16am

    So just who is this think tank?

    So just who is this think tank?

    The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) , was created by former Members of Congress Jennifer Dunn and Calvin Dooley in partnership with the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

    ITI describes itself as "One of Washington's most effective lobbying groups." Members include Accenture, Agilent, Apple, AMD, Applied Materials, Canon, Cisco, CA, Corning, Dell, Ebay, EMC2, EPSON, Honeywell, HP, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Kodak, Lenovo, Lexmark, Micron, Microsoft, Monster, National, Semiconductor, NCR, NetApp, Oracle, Panasonic, Qualcomm, RIM, SAP, Sony, Sun Microsystems, Symbol, Tektronix, Texas Instruments, TimeWarner, Unisys, VeriSign, and Vonage. There may be more not publicly listed.

    Honest voting is essential to democracy. To oppose it is to oppose democracy. Remember the names of the companies listed above.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 5:05am

    Re: It isn't complicated

    computer generated scantron type ballot cards that can be verified by the voter and then easily counted by another computer that can be tampered with to count incorrectly, still same problem. Let's just have an IQ test b4 hand to make sure ppl know how to punch a ballot. that seems to be the main issue. obviously the ppl who had problems in florida in 2000 were just to stupid to look at their ballot to make sure it was ok before they turned it in. These must be the same ppl who move across 4 lanes on the highway while talking on the cell phone and changing the radio station. you can't fix stupid people - Ron White.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    RandomThoughts, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 6:11am

    Ron, lighten up. These are the same folks that drive down the interstate with their right turn signal blinking for 40 miles.

    You will be old one day also if you are lucky.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    voting machines?, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 7:21am

    Why?

    Why on earth do we accept these devices?

    This is simply a case of trying to "save" money where the cost savings are completely unjustified. It's false savings 101. Why would we rely on an overly complicated machine that any security expert would agree, could potentially have a plethora of problems, and put it in charge of our voting process?

    WHY? It's an ridiculous concept. What's so wrong with the old way?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Why?

    That's the thing "we" don't accept them. These voting machines just started popping up in districts all over the place the people in most of those districts had no say so in the matter (there may have been a few that held an election to decide to switch)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Why?

    What's so wrong with the old way?

    Too hard to rig.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    AllAboutVoting, Sep 20th, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    Shallow analysis

    This review and many of the comments misses the core point of the report (This is the ITIF author's fault really; he buried it in rhetoric promoting eVoting and disparaging voter-verified paper audit trails).

    The core point of the report is that there are better techniques for giving a voter confidence that their vote was counted as cast then a voter-verified paper audit trail and that Congress ought to allow and encourage deployment of these. I agree with this core point and have often been frustrated that I have no way of telling if my vote counted in existing systems; including paper-based systems.

    My review of the report:
    * summary
    * point-by-point

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This