Friday, October 27, 2006

How to make electronic voting work ... securely

With all the talk about hacking electric votes and dubious individuals stealing elections, I thought I'd present a very simple solution for avoiding election fraud.

The polling booth houses a secured machine that is protected by steady-state alarm. The underlying OS would be tightly coupled with the voting software - meaning that the OS is practically nothing but the voting software itself. The security of the software is taken for granted.

When a user votes for a candidate, two things happen: first, the vote is recorded electronically. Second, a printout of the voter's decisions is printed out that the voter can visually verify. That printout, once verified, is then deposited in a secure hard-copy box within the polling booth.

After the election, a mandatory random 1% of all voting booths must do a manual recount of the hard copies to verify the number that was issued electronically. Furthermore, a mandatory 20% of all voting booths with a bias towards swing states must do a partial recount from a random sample in order to be statistically confident of the electronic results.

Is this beatable? If an entire polling station is corrupt -- all of the people are collaborating together -- then sure. But assuming that hard copies aren't compromised, the hard copies don't lie. And if we're afraid that individual voters will en masse collaborate to throw the election by submitting bogus hard copies, then we can protect the hardcopies by making them only viewable via a protected translucent window and stamping unique (non personal) serials on them. Even if the electronic votes are compromised, the hardcopies will tell the true story - as long as we trust the handlers of the hardcopies.

Since it's such a simple solution that is not that hard to come up with and several people have come up with it already, the real question is this: why isn't it in use?


Blogger The Swiss Chesse Monster said...

I like your proposal. It is exactly what I think needs to happen.

Sadly it won't. Nobody besides nerds seems to know anything about the security issues with the electronic voting machines.

11:00 PM  

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