[LINK] E-voting fears run high as election day looms

Karl Auer kauer at biplane.com.au
Thu Oct 30 09:37:22 EST 2008

On Thu, 2008-10-30 at 07:42 +1100, Richard Chirgwin wrote:
> Where requirements [...]

The requirements you put forward are indeed specialised. Voting has NO
special physical requirements. The largest of latencies, the jumpiest of
jitters, the most slack-jawed routing ever seen - not a problem. Just
get some encrypted packets from point A to point B. Not even time is a
problem - it can take tens of minutes and still be acceptable.

That's where your argument for a private network for e-voting falls

You are left with the argument that "it will make people feel better",
to which I respond "that's all about how you sell it".

That said, I'm not in favour of e-voting. I just don't like bad
arguments used against it, when there are more than enough good ones.

> While there is no discernable difference at layer one and two, if you
> need verifiable, explicable demonstration of non-interference,
> non-interception, and absolute privacy of the votes, then I would prefer
> a private network.

You seem to be missing the main point here. Encryption - ordinary,
common-or-garden crypto, available to anyone - can be used to provide
verification, etc. What is an "explicable" demonstration of
non-interference [etc]"? If you are suggesting that ANY demonstration of
non-interference in digital data, regardless of the horse it rode in on,
is going to be comprehensible to the lay person, you are sadly mistaken!
Unless you are talking about spin, in which case it doesn't matter what
medium was used.

Actually, I venture to suggest that 90% of the population would probably
have trouble understanding why paper voting is verifiable (well,
verifiable *enough*). It's certainly not obvious to me.

> mis-programmed route advertisement in another country can seriously
> affect the handling of your data packets (as happened earlier this year,
> when such a mistake sent lots of data down a black hole in - I think -
> Pakistan).

There are LOTS of ways to stop data disappearing. You just have to care
enough about the data, and not foolishly discard your only copy before
receiving confirmation that it has arrived at the intended destination.
Crypto again. Network irrelevant. Routing irrelevant.

> As to "making people feel comfortable": That comfort is integral to the
> electoral system. If the punters are uncomfortable - if, for example,
> they're confronted with an incomprehensible and opaque technology as a
> proposed "improvement" to paper-and-pencil, then democracy is
> compromised. That's at the heart of my dislike for the e-voting cargo
> cult: too many parts of it are not transparent.

Here we agree. However, my point is simply that a private network is no
more comprehensible to "the punters" than the Internet.

I don't think e-voting is a good idea, and one of the reasons I dislike
it is that it is not transparent at all. Marks on paper are something
everyone can understand. My beef is only with your remark that we
couldn't use the Internet for e-voting. We could - easily and with no
disadvantages whatsoever compared to using a private network.

> Which leaves me, personally, where I started: paper votes meet the
> requirements of the application; electronic votes do not; therefore
> paper votes are the right solution.


Regards, K.

Karl Auer (kauer at biplane.com.au)                   +61-2-64957160 (h)
http://www.biplane.com.au/~kauer/                  +61-428-957160 (mob)

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