Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

County Suing To Make Sure E-Voting Remains Insecure

from the ah,-local-politicians dept

It appears that the politicians in Riverside County, California are pissed off that the Secretary of State would stoop so low as to to want electronic voting machines to work properly and be secure before they can be used in elections. So, rather than, say, fix up those machines to make them so we can actually trust them, they've decided to sue Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. They don't seem to have come up with an actual reason to sue him, other than that they don't like that they have to put in place security features to make sure democracy works as it's supposed to. The most amusing part is the claim of Riverside County board chairman Roy Wilson, saying that they've run "29 accurate elections" with touch screen voting. That's exactly the problem. No one knows whether or not those elections were accurate, because there's no way to check to make sure the votes were counted properly or that no one tampered with the results. Of course, it seems likely that Mr. Wilson was elected via such touch screens, so it's no wonder he believes in them.

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  • identicon
    Bakaneko, 5 May 2004 @ 2:01pm


    Dr. Wilson's been on the board for a lot longer than touch screen voting has been going on.

    Riverside's been running touch screen voting for the longest time, and has had a great deal of scrutiny. They're using Sequoia systems, not Diebold, so don't attach that monkey to their back yet.

    While I agree an audit trail is absolutely necessary, their objection is that the decertification was across the board for all machines, even those that did not register any problems, and that its going to cost them an extra $3 million dollars, which they definitely do not currently have after the central state government raided the coffers last year, to switch things over now when they have no record of any problems.

    While I'm leary of the current state of eVoting systems, I do see their point, and fail to see any benefit to throwing out rather off-the-cuff accusations like "They just don't care about good elections!" and "He probably got voted in on voter fraud anyhowz!"... That's just irresponsible, and wrong.

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

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 5 May 2004 @ 2:10pm

      Re: Actually...

      Just to be clear, I'm not saying he was originally voted in that way, but if they've been using those machines for so long, hasn't he come up for re-election during that period?

      Anyway, I think the more serious point in your third paragraph doesn't hold much weight either. Just because there haven't been *known* problems, doesn't mean we should require them to make sure the machines are secure. How many times do we need to go over this? This isn't about the machines having *problems*, but about the fact that there's no fundamental way to make sure they're working the way they're supposed to.

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

      • identicon
        Bakaneko, 5 May 2004 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Actually...

        It's still throwing around allegations in a casual way that you shouldn't be, which IS a very good and valid point, and kind of sad to me if people don't understand that.

        You know what? I agree with you regarding election systems 100%, I just don't agree with how you're saying it. I despise the attitude that seems to have developed in political discourse over the past 10 years especially that "If you don't agree with me, you must be a dirty rotten criminal for doing so."

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

        • icon
          Mike (profile), 5 May 2004 @ 2:34pm

          Re: Actually...

          Er... then we're in agreement. If you read Techdirt enough, you know that we feel the same way about political discourse. See, for example.

          However, that doesn't mean we'll hold back on our opinion, nor will we shy away from expressing it.

          I think part of the problem is tone. That last line about Wilson be elected by touch screen was meant to be jokey. Obviously, that didn't make it across - which is a constant problem with being jokey in text. I am not accusing him of being a dirty rotten criminal. I am, however, saying that it's wrong for him to sue the Secretary of State for trying to make elections more secure and for claiming that the elections in his county were "accurate" without any such proof.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2004 @ 3:34pm


    My question is... how does a paper trail prove anything?

    If the computer that does the counting, also prints the paper trail... then more than likely it will make the same mistake in both places.

    The only real way we could do it is have people vote on paper and on machine. use the machine to count votes and get us a quick answer... then do it the old fashioned way to backup the answer.

    Of course if the votes are close then you might end up with a situation where paper says one way and computer says the other. Whos is correct? The computer might have a flaw, but more likely the voter had a flaw and either put different values on the two methods, or didn't do the paper version correct, or only used one method.

    So that method doesn't really work either, because now people can actively cause a mis-vote by purposely making their two votes different.. enough of those and all kinds of questions will be raised.

    I guess if the machine has a window that shows your vote on paper, then maybe the voter could look, see that his/her vote was correct and hit the finish button. Then the paper moves so that the next person doesn't see their vote.

    I haven't been following the issue - maybe that is what is proposed. The question is. What can the voter do if the vote was incorrect? keep trying till it is correct?

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

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 5 May 2004 @ 3:43pm

      Re: How?

      Yes, that's exactly what is proposed. The paper trail is behind a window, and the voter can confirm that the vote was recorded correctly.

      There are also some who are suggesting a more involved method that includes some sort of numerical system that would let you check after the fact to see if your vote was counted, and if it was counted correctly without revealing any information about who you are.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2004 @ 3:41pm


    Didn't want to mix my topics, so new post.

    My question is - what will the news stations (well all stations for that matter) do when electronic voting is used everywhere.

    No more talking for hours about what each little count means for Democrat A and Republican B (no order implied by A and B).

    They will simply get the results for each time zone at the end of the day. Then tada.. the winner is...

    Thats got to have them hurting thinking about it... they must make good money on those nights, all the people staying up watching the latest counts.

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

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