Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Congress Looks To Outlaw E-Voting Machines Without An Audit Trail

from the let's-see-how-that-goes dept

Over the past few years, it seems that more and more people have realized the problems with e-voting systems. Amusingly, in the comments to our last post about the limits Florida was trying to put on researchers testing the e-voting machines for security, we had someone show up in the comments claiming that this is all a big charade -- and that e-voting machines are thoroughly tested by government agencies. Despite being asked a few times, the commenter has not explained why the company hired to do the testing was barred from further testing after they were unable to document whether or not they had conducted the tests at all. His response was that we're all just a bunch of conspiracy theorists, and that no one other than approved government agencies should get to test these machines, since we're all too ignorant to understand how e-voting machines should work, and because of our ignorance we'd hand over info to irresponsible parties (which seems like an admission that the machines aren't actually safe -- if there is information that can be handed over that would cause problems, then the machine shouldn't be used in an election). He also accuses anyone (including respected professors Ed Felten and Avi Rubin) of just being "conspiracy theorists" though none of us have put forth any conspiracy theory -- except for the commenter. He claims that the security concerns over e-voting machines are really a big conspiracy to spread fear and make everyone mistrust the voting system so we stay home on election day. Of course, it's not clear how that fear is targeted in a way to ensure that one side wins -- but perhaps we're not thinking it through enough.

In the meantime, it looks like Congress must be up for continuing this "conspiracy." Despite the fact that most in Congress seemed to show little to no interest for many years as security experts pointed out the problems with the machines, now they're talking about introducing new legislation that would require that e-voting machines have an audit trail. It's not clear how a system that allows for recounting the votes is a way to add more fear to the e-voting process and keep us home, so I hope the same commenter can enlighten us on how this conspiracy works.

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  1. identicon
    MyNameIsMatt, 8 Feb 2007 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Funny

    It's not about requiring audits, it's about having a system that's actually audit able. Now, the paper trail could still be hacked, but it gives a definitive audit trail that in the case of the hardware being hacked, and the software being altered to cover it's tracks (as has already been proven possible), once the paper trail is printed you can't change those results like you can in software. So, if the voter verifies their paper trail too, then you've got a reasonable audit trail. Of course, there are still plenty of enormous problems because most audits wouldn't require using the paper trail unless there is a special circumstance, so the smart hacker could steal the vote and even under suspicion, not force a paper audit.

    If you really are from an e-voting firm as Mike says, then it's really sad you're fighting such a situation. The innovations required for a secure e-voting system aren't that complicated right now because so many experts are covering the problems. The lack of desire to produce quality work is a rather saddening state to be in, especially when you're working on something as important as voting. I don't know, maybe you're just too partisan to care, or you're just too lazy to want to actually fix problems. Either way, it's a sad state to be in.

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