Was 'The Nation' article partisan
It just so happened that I read the article from the Nation against e-voting (or at least e-voting in its present form) before I read the more reasoned papers against it.
Wow! Had the Nation bothered putting the facts about what was wrong with the system up front and cut out all the partisan Democrat stuff, they would've convinced me there was a problem. It's too bad they have an ax to grind with the Republicans - going off on on rants about evil corporations, Florida 2000, some wild speculation (with no proof of course) about how Max Cleland got cheated out of the US Senate election, etc... They've got their leftwing base even more riled up than it already is without adding that much insight.
Maybe Republicans are uniformly boneheads on this issue. Maybe they're not. Still, it would've been better had the Nation first convinced me that evoting systems as they are today are boneheaded. They made what I consider a feeble effort at this (at least compared to the balanced critiques) in the middle of their article (after bashing Bush&Co) and failed.
I'm not liberal bashing here either. Had a right-wing demagogue like Ann Coulter written against evoting, it would go something like: crooked 19th Dem party boss cheated in elections and Bill Clinton is a scumbag. Therefore, ALL Dems are scumbags and evoting is the latest liberal ploy to cheat elections. (OK, in the spirit of Ann I'm stretching a bit, but you get my drift.)
I'm pretty conservative, though I'm no Republican partisan. I'm wondering if other students were turned off - at least at an intellectual level - at how the Nation organized and presented their argument. In particular I wonder how it breaks down across idealogical affiliations. So maybe I'm just more partisan than I think :(. Or maybe you scum bag party boss liberals are the ones who are partisan :).
I completely agree. I think bringing partisanship into the discussion is dangerous on both sides. It appeals to peoples emotions and doesn't provide a logical argument. Just FUD.
I perceive that e-voting, and e-voting activism, has already been branded as a liberal agenda -- liberals as skeptical of non-recountable votes and private control of an inherently public process, and conservatives as winking and trusting of closed, corporate e-voting systems. That aligns with other political stereotypes about conservatives and liberals, conservatives love big business (4 private e-voting corporations, for example) and liberals hating them and trying to block their access into the "free market" of electronic voting technology. That's a sad designation, I think, because voter-verified ballots them become part of the "wacky liberal" agenda. Branding an issue that way indicates it won't be taken seriously by a wide variety of Congressional voices. [Gail Frederick]
Avichal 22:54, 13 Oct 2004 (PDT) Ahem..I didn't notice a thing. But I think that's since I am mostly "party-blind", having been brought up in another country (India). But in my opinion even an accusation of impropriety (which cannot be cleared) is significant.
Santtu Voutlainen What are the stats on races where "issues" with these machines have occurred -- who has historically "benefitted" from these cases, mostly Republicans, Democrats, or 50-50?
Hypothetical: Suppose come November 2, the Presidential election is very close, especially state X. Kerry is declare winner, but then it noticed that audit logs show that a relative large number Y of votes have been lost in state X (ie. Z+Y voted, but only Z ballots were counted) and Y is some multiple of the difference between Kerry and Bush. What would be the reaction from the Republicans? What if these lost ballots were from counties that are mostly Republican?
Ed Lazowska "Ahem..I didn't notice a thing" either. However, in retrospect, you're *absolutely* correct. Next time (should there be a next time ...), this article won't be part of it.
Pre-class poll: would you trust a paperless e-voting system?
TedZ: I'm curious about this. So before the class on Thursday, please chime in on "would you trust a paperless, non-verifiable, non-recountable e-voting system" as described in the reading material. I think everyone in the class has a pretty good computer science background, so this should be interesting. For the record: I wouldn't trust one as far as I could throw it (the machine itself). I guess that's what you get for being a Republican computer programmer. As a follow on question: given your knowledge and a bit of time, do you think that you could program a voting machine to undetectably alter vote counts?
John Naegle: I think I could trust an e-voting system - but not in their current forms. The foundations of our society and government rely on the voting process and the current systems have not proven themselves to be as good or better than the paper-based systems currently in use. Rushing to e-voting systems to combat corruption, human falicy, or social inequality isn't the answer. The move to e-voting needs to be calculated and done with a great deal of oversight.
User:kirkal: Well, in the US, with just two main parties ( the Greens and Libertarians don't really count,do they? ;-)) I would be very wary of using an e-voting system. The potential for fraud and skewed elections is enormous. That said, Florida 2000 didn't exactly put paper-voting in a kind light,either. Back home in India, for the national elections held this May, electronic voting machines were used almost throughout the country...while the results of the election WERE surprising, that was because of the way people voted and not any manipulation by the victors. I mean, in an election where there are 20+ parties with pre-poll alliances dictating where each party contests ( and post-poll alliances being significantly different from the pre-poll ones ;-) : for example, the Communists were staunch opponents of free economy before the elections but now, as they are supporting the party in power, they have turned pro-reform) , e-voting leading to possible fraud doesn't really make much of a dent in a single party/alliance's chances. In such cases, therefore, (especially as a repoll is ordered wherever there is sufficient doubt) , I would have no qualms about using an electronic voting system.
David Dorwin: I would not trust such a system because there are too many things that could go wrong, either intentional or accidentally. Some people will do anything to help their candidate, so I wouldn’t put it past some of them to change votes – either as part of a large conspiracy or just a single developer. It’s also possible that a mischievous developer could alter votes to stir up trouble or just see if he or she could get away with it. From the unintentional aspect, it’s unlikely that any significant piece of software with a limited budget is bug-free. The types of problems that could occur are endless.
I think the issues described during the last lecture about how congressman and staffers dole out money also applies here. Politicians heard loud and clear that the public wanted change, so they gave it to them. E-voting sounds good, so they decided to go with it. The politicians either didn’t have time or don’t care enough to look at the problems. Given the fact that there viable options for improving the verifiability of these machines, it’s appalling that they aren’t being instituted.
Regarding the follow on question, I think I could program a voting system that could undetectably alter vote counts, especially if I knew how the verification tests were to be executed. Whether I could alter them in my candidates’ favor is a different question and would depend on what information about the candidates is available to the software and how it is abstracted or encrypted. One way to go undetected would be to create an easter egg that could go undetected during verification and be enabled at the polling place.
All the same fraud and mistakes could be made in any computer-scanned ballot as well, but at least there would be a paper ballot to recount if there was any question.
Short answer, yes I would trust these electronic voting systems, but with strong reservations.
Before reading the papers, I would have agreed that we shouldn't trust electronic voting. But one of the papers mentioned how it boils down to trusting the machines to handle the casting, counting, and tallying of the votes without means of auditing. And it made me realize how much we already trust computers - our banks are sending money around electronically with only electronic means of auditing. We make deposits in ATMs with only a paper receipt, but basically we are trusting the bank and the receipt is only as good as the trust we place in the bank and its machine. Or transfering money between accounts using the phone or an internet web page with just a simple password and https. Should it suprise us that most citizens don't blink an eye when our elections are run electronically?
That said, there are definitely some differences between electronic banking and elections. For one, the matter of secrecy. There is no problem with us getting a receipt of our deposit and using that to verify things occurred correctly. This isn't possible in voting if we want to maintain a secret ballot.
But I would say we are closer to having trustworthy electronic voting (at least to the degree of the paper systems we're replacing) than I thought we were. And after understanding more of the issues, it surprises me less that election officials are so willing to trust these machines - they may not understand them, but they don't understand how banks do it and they trust bank systems. The real suprise to me was how bad all of the systems analyzed were and yet the elections basically works. My take away is we need more academic papers to point to so we can educate election officials on the issues and they have a chance of making a more educated decision. And perhaps work on resolving problems with electronic systems rather than trying to convince election officials to go back to paper or optical scanners. Perhaps convince some PhD student to develop a open and secure voting system as a research project:)?
EimanZ: There definetly needs to be a paper-trail of some sort for e-voting. And all the country's voting machines should be electronic, IMO. We should centralize the voting system, and not be afraid of the hurdles and obstacles that we have to jump through to make sure the system is secure and reliable. I imagine the voting machine of the future: you enter your information, the system makes sure you haven't already voted. Any discrepincies on duplicate votes can be solved immediatly by filing a 'duplicate voter' complaint which is looked at very seriously and very immediatly.
Then you vote, and when you're done voting, you get a receipt printed out that you take with you, that has your voting selections on it, as well as a secret key. When you're at home, you can go on the web and securely enter that secret key, and verify that the voting system has the votes you entered. This way, you'll feel comfortable that your vote was entered into the system correctly. If someone claims voter fraud, and if its substatial enough to need to do a recount, the voting office will ask everyone to re-enter their vote through a backup system that does not involve anyone in the previous system.
Avichal 20:05, 13 Oct 2004 (PDT) Well, I would comment on something Eimanz stated regarding users getting a recipet using which they can later verify that the vote has been recorded correctly. Well this seems a slightly different version of the VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail), where they see a printed rceipt of how their vote would be recorded under a glass window (so they cannot take it out), and once they confirm their vote is correct, this slip is deposited in a ballot (ofcourse your electronic vote is confirmed too), and this creates a paper trail.
This difference (voter cannot take the recipt home) is important to protect against the case of people buying votes. If a voter is given any means by which they can confirm that they voted for a particular candidate then potentially votes can (and I would say will) be bought.
Anyway, coming to the question, the way E-voting is being implemented (after reading the papers) I would not trust such a system. Several people have pointed correctly, and I would reiterate...after the fiasco in the last presidential poll it seems every polititian has jumped onto this bandwagon, without giving it time to mature. I think politicians rarely do understand the technicalities involved and I do not expect them to. However I think these technologies/standards around e-voting would take time to mature. Meanwhile, the VVPAT seems like a quick and 100% reliable solution to implement e-voting in it's existing form. I personally think people who are opposing it are "stupid". I fail to understand what good would it be for a machine to do it's own recount using the same processes it used to tally the original vote. And then ofcourse there are people who want to outlaw any recounting when machines are involved. I am incensed at the ignorance and thoughtlessness of the people involved.
Also, I think the integrity of our democracy hinges on the voting system, and it should be infallible.
--Jack Richins 21:41, 13 Oct 2004 (PDT) Another thought - some election officials may consider the inability to audit or recount when using electronic machines advantageous. It would save them all the time, money, and court trials involved in doing recounts or contested elections. Participants would be forced to either accept the results or have revote. As long as the machines maintain the image of being trustworthy enough to avoid recounts they would avoid the trouble of storing and protecting paper audit trail, dealing with audits, recounts, etc. I don't buy this argument, but it is a perspective that allows me understand what in the world some of these officials are thinking when purchasing these new machines with known flaws.
--Gail Frederick There's no way I would trust a paperless e-voting system! For every electronically-managed account that I have, I am constantly checking its accuracy against a paper record. I know from experience just how flawed software can be! When I've been the victim of occasional credit-card fraud, for example, it passed by even the vendor's fraud-detection scheme, if I hadn't noticed the error, it would have been attributed to me. Why should I TRUST a voting system more than other flawed electronic vendors?
Yes, I would trust a paperless e-voting system with the same reservations as I trust a paper based voting system. I loose control of my vote as soon as I place it in a ballot box -- I have to trust everyone who handles the ballot box from that point on. Note that I probably would not trust a system where every aspect is handled by a single machine, I expect that any paperless e-voting system that I'd trust would need to have at least two independent parts (similar to the system described in one of the papers). I'd be fine with these systems to be connected electronically (by serial/usb/network cable) directly to each other (but no other system) as long as the vote storing machine is heavily audited.
Regarding the issue of receipts: There are conditions under which I'd be fine with a receipt as long as your vote remains secret. An example of such a receipt (albeit not very scalable) would be one that can only be verified at a vote checking station -- i.e. you get a receipt when you voted; to check your vote you go to the same voting station (or some other location), prove your identity, verify your vote by comparing the audit logs to your receipt but don't get to keep anything that would show your actual vote. There are some holes in this system, but I expect that they could be solved with some work, possibly involving cryptography.
--Santtu Voutilainen A quick addition on the trust mentioned in an earlier comment: What really scares me about the DRE debate is the complete lack of technical knowledge and complete blind trust placed on these systems by some officials -- statements about DRE machines not being computers and thus being immune from computer security issues are just amazing (and not in a good way ;-) ).
--Damon May 14:51, 13 Oct 2004 (PDT) e-Voting machines are one of those things that are easy to accept if you don't think about them too hard. After this week's readings, though, the issues seem insurmountable for a system without a paper trail, at least in the short term. If voting privacy weren't paramount, voters could simply sign in somehow and cast their vote over a verifiably secure network protocol of some sort; the issues involved wouldn't be significantly different from those involved in online banking, and the stakes would be similar. With the privacy requirement, though, I haven't yet seen a system described that could possibly provide assurance that the vote hadn't been manipulated.
Considering that DRE is already a reality, though, I'd be happier if the opponents of DRE machines concentrated more of their efforts on mandating real, formal security audits of the systems, rather than decrying DRE on principles that the general public doesn't understand. Such audits could expose tangibly to the public the problems inherent in DRE machines (as well as the ones specific to the individual systems) and generate a popular, rather than solely academic, backlash. Failing such a backlash, I fear we're stuck with these things until they provably screw up a major election.
EimanZ: I have trouble understanding the problem with printing out a receipt that the voter can take with them. What is this worry about third-parties buying their vote about? The level of privacy needed for who the person voted for should be the same level as how much money the person has in the bank. And we print out ATM receipts all the time. If voters are gullible enough to sell their votes, wouldn't that be their problem? It seems to me that the voter has an absolute RIGHT to have a record of his/her vote.
TedZ: Oooh, that's a corker EimanZ. Its not a matter of gullibility, its a matter of buying an election. I don't think we want to go down that road.
EimanZ: I don't understand. Are we talking about some outside group telling voters "vote for cadidate A and I'll give you money"? Is there actually a history of this happening in the United States? And wouldn't it still be the responsiblity of the voter to be responsible for his/her vote, so that if its proven that he/she was bought out then he/she would be held accountable?
Also, the receipt that i'm imagining has no record of the person's identity. It simply has a random number associated with the voter, a number the voter can use to double-check his/her vote. It could not be used as a proof of vote, becasue no outside party could use the receipt to link the voter to that random number.
--Jim Jantos Just a quick comment on vote buying: First, I assume that a characteristic of a true democratic voting process is anonymity, i.e. the inability to link a voter to a particular vote. A printed receipt creates the link. A receipt may encourage vote buying because it facilitates a record that can demonstrate an individual’s vote. If someone is willing to buy a vote under an anonymous system, many individuals may be more than happy to take the money and vote for the opposite candidate; and, the vote buyer will have no way to track the votes.
Furthermore, a receipt may be used as a basis for retribution against a voter from an aggrieved candidate/party. I can certainly memorize or write a record of my votes, but I do not want an official receipt which links my name to my vote.
Lars: Even without a paper reciept, there's still risk of being threatened or intimidated into changing your vote. There was allegation in the recent elections in Hong Kong that it happened, and business owners were forced to use the cameras on their cell phones to take pictures of their completed ballots as confirmation that they were toeing the line, at: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/6a1c92db06934811a57fa646e91fb5f0.htm
James Welle: Even with paper voting methods, it seems like it would be very easy to sell your vote if you wanted to. You could get an absentee ballot or maybe bring a camera phone into the voting booth with you? I would trust an electronic voting system if I could get a receipt of my vote. I wonder why there is not any open source voting software. Since the security and private concerns are so high, it seems like it would be a great use of open source to get as many people as possible to review the code.
Avichal Australia has an open source e-voting system ACT Electoral Commission - Electronic Voting. And I think there is one in the works in US, but it may never see use or it may be a while.
However, while making it "open source" would be a good step, it still does not resolve the prolblems around this completely. Even with open source, there is no way of saying that the system has "no" bugs at all. But still, I think it is not a requirement that this system has 'zero' error. I mean, even the traditional paper ballot has a percentage of error, right. Therefore as long as the margin of error (due to whichever reasons) is equal or lower than the traditional paper ballot system, then this would become a viable alternative.
--Ted Zuvich There is a long history of vote buying and vote intimidation in the US. Several of the papers for this lecture casually mentioned some of the problems. In the past, this has taken both the form of "I'll give you money for your vote" ( or drugs, alcohol, or other commodities) AND "I'll break your kneecaps if you don't vote the way I want you to." I'm intrigued by the camera phone phenomenon -- maybe voter intimidation will make a rather dubious comeback.
e-voting Roundtable discussion
I found this via ars technica:
With the election only weeks away, John Paczkowski of Good Morning Silicon Valley fame has invited Ars readers to join in a roundtable discussion over e-voting issues. John has assembled a panel of e-voting experts, election officials, reporters and voting rights advocates for the roundtable. While readers will not be able to directly be able to participate in the discussion, they are encouraged to submit questions and opinions that will be reviewed for approval by the editor. The roundtable kicked off on Monday and will run until midday Friday. We have reported extensively on problems and concerns surrounding electronic voting and this is a chance for readers to pick the minds of the experts and join in on the discussion.
It should be interesting to watch this discussion.
Voting Systems highlighted in Oct 2004 Communications of the ACM
This month's Communications of the ACM highlights electronic voting systems. There are 8 papers, including one titled "Small Vote Manipulation Can Swing Elections", an analysis of the effects of changing a single vote per machine. I've just now started into the articles, but as always, they are meaty.
(ACM endorses voter-verified physical records, by the way.) --Gail Frederick
Link to an article of interest
John Naegle I added a new section for lecture discussion, as it happens or after the fact.
John Naegle Slide 12 states that: "Current computer technology isn’t up to the task." but I wonder if the technology the problem, or the application of the technology? It seems like the technology required to have a DRE system as good as the current paper-based systems is available, but we don't have a good implementation yet. If the technology is the problem, could there ever be technology that is good enough? What technology would be required to move to a paperless system?
David Dorwin I think that this is a general statement that will always be true unless someone makes significant strides in formal verification. Software is so complicated that it's impossible to verify there are new bugs. And even if you could guarantee that the software is bug-free, you're assuming that the hardware is bug-free. In general, this is true because hardware companies spend a lot of money on validation. However, they can't test every case, so it's possible that the bug-free software could be executed incorrectly. Also, it's possible that a marginal chip could get into the voting system and calculate incorrect results.
That said, I think most of the problems are related to not having a verifiable paper record. If some of the other issues that are within human control and capabilities were resolved, the public could have confidence in the electronic voting systems. Because of human nature, I don't see how we could move to a completely paperless technology and still have trust in the system. Perhaps Professor Dill will present some ideas later in the lecture.
John Naegle I guess it comes down to how you define technology. Is a bug part of the technology, or the application/implementation of the technology? Regardless, Professor Dill has a valid point, bugs will always exist. And even if you eliminate all the bugs, what happens when the power goes out? Suppose a category 5 hurricane was to knock out power to the state of Flordia on November 2nd. It seems there will always be an electronic point of failure without excessive cost.
David Dorwin In addition to your software and the hardware, you must also trust the compiler and OS. There are some papers on the Internet about root of trust and trusting the compiler. One of them can be found on the ACM website, and there are related slides.
Think about how many problems you or your family have with computers. Voting machines based on the PC (Windows or otherwise) are likely to have the same rate of problems. From what I've heard, governments do not have very good IT departments, so they're unlikely to be able to recover from issues quickly. In addition, it's unlikely that the election workers are going to be able to resovle basic issues on a PC.
Regarding the electornic point of failure, imagine the conspiracy theories if there's a blackout in Miami-Dade County.
David Dorwin The issue of trying to explain this to lay people was just raised. I don't think that the issues and potential problems should be that difficult to understand. I think it's more likely that people just don't want to hear it. (I'm a software engineer, so I may be biased, but the ease of problems and fraud seem pretty clear.) The vendor representatives obviously have an interest in covering there ears. So do politicians and voting officials who want to satisfy the public by making a change no matter what it is. Plus, e-voting is "sexy".
Gail Frederick Is there a product liability issue here? DRE manufacturers are selling a product that is obviously defective and containing circumventable security. If I sell a laptop that overheats and burns you, or a cigarette that kills you, then I am liable. But if I sell a DRE that miscounts an election, or provably allows tampering, is the manufacturer not at all on the hook for this product defect? Are municipalities signing agreements that prevent such litigation?
John Naegle I think David has a good point. Turning to technology, especially evolving technology, as a knee-jerk reaction to dealing with societial problems because it is new and "sexy" is a frightening proposition for those involved with the technology. There is no silver bullet, some things just take time and are hard - electronic voting seems to be one of them certainly.
David Dorwin Liability is a good question. I don't know if anyone in the class knows enough details to comment, but you could compare it to tobacco. The states had enough proof that the Tobacco companies knew that their product was unsafe but didn't tell anyone and continued to insist that it was that the tobacco companies settled. The companies knew long before it was general public knowledge, but eventually independent doctors also determined cigarrettes are unhealthy.
Obviously it is public knowledge, though perhaps limited to a few who care, that the evoting machines have significant flaws. Liability may come down to whether the companies knew this ahead of time. On the other hand, will government officials want to go after a company for selling the same officials those computers? Government officials are unlikely to admit that they bought a bad product. However, independent voter groups may file lawsuits.
Caroline Benner Can anyone comment more generally on when software vendors are held liable for their products--do you know of cases? Does Microsoft get sued (successfully?) when things like the blaster worm happen? If there aren't many examples of major software vendors being held liable, why not, does the EULA offer significant protection? Perhaps there's not much case law establishing precedents for law suits over software bugs? Perhaps taking on Microsoft would be too major an endeavor for a lot of aggrieved parties? Would it be difficult to demonstrate how a particular vulnerability was entirely Microsoft's fault?
Ted Zuvich How do you feel about vote by mail? Oregon just went to a strictly vote by mail program. I think that gets around some voting problems (accessibility, people who don't vote because they can't get to a polling station, verifiable trail ), but leaves others. Ballots could get lost (either on the way to your house or on the way back to the ballot office), Guido and his pals could come around to your house and threaten to break your kneecaps if you don't let them fill in your ballot ( or offer you some $ for your ballot ), etc.
Mandy Chang I think mail voting is a really bad idea. There's no safeguard against dishonesty-- someone could just steal my ballot without it even reaching my hands. If you wanted to implement a strictly vote by mail method, you would have to ask the voter for extensive, private information, in order to verify that the person that filled out the ballot is actually as the name states. Some people might feel very uncomfortable filling out this classified information (for legit verification purposes) because another party could just take this information from the outgoing mail and potentially steal their identity. An of course the obvious problem is, as mentioned above, is that your ballot could be lost in the mail or you could be bribed to vote a certain way.
Andrew Pardoe At the talk on electronic voting at Microsoft it was asserted that when Utah went from East-coast style absentee ballots (sign in blood that you really, really need one) to West-coast style absentee ballots (check here for any reason) that voting habits of Mormon women changed significantly. Rather than get stuck in any one example let me extrapolate and say that I honestly believe I have some (if miniscule, still extant) undue influence on my wife's vote-by-mail voting that I wouldn't have had if we went to the polls. Just the fact that she can discuss issues with me (and I with her) means that there's some external influence. And many women--not just religious ones--are in a slightly coercive relationship with their husbands. (And vice-versa. This example is meant for illustrative purposes and is not meant to characterize any one group of individuals as being different from any other group of individuals.)
I much prefer the (newly adopted) Florida method of voting early. I've long felt that the fact that I had to vote on a Tuesday discouraged my vote because I have so many other things to do on Tuesdays. People in other demographic and economic groups, e.g., grandmothers and CEO's, can just take off any time they want to on Tuesdays. If the polls were open for three or more days it would level the playing field. And in fact Florida is doing that now. [/apardoe]
Iking: Some other countries don't do all the voting in one day; one of my colleagues from (I think) Pakistan said that elections last a whole week. If the goal is to truly represent the populace in election results, we should consider an extended voting period, COUPLED WITH a gag rule on interim results (even exit polls). Otherwise, I believe people are influenced by the interim results.
Ryan Kaneshiro How useful is polling information in validating the results of an election? Polls have can certainly be misleading but it seems that there is some value when considering them in the aggregate. If a 3rd party candidate who was projected to receive less than 1% of the vote wins the election, it seems unlikely that this would pass unnoticed and unchallenged. Perhaps DRE's can be tested in races that are expected to be landslides. A few lost votes due to a crashed or buggy machine don't matter as much.
Jeff West I think that Ryan has an interesting point. However, while polling data will undoubtedly convince people that there was some sort of cheating going on how will it PROVE that cheating occurred and what will the resolution be? I know that someone who was polled to get less than 1% of the vote "probably" did not win the election in much the same way that when I flipped a coin one million times it didn't come up heads every time, but there's still a chance. In such a case where one person was projected to get 1% of the vote, do you just say "sorry, polling data makes it unlikely that you actually won this election so we are going to have to give the election to the second-place finisher." Even then, the original election data was flawed so who's to say that the second-place finisher was really second. Say that according to the vote count Bush gets 4%, Kerry gets 5%, and Nader gets 91%. According to polls Nader got 1%, Bush got 50%, and Kerry got 49%. Do you give the race to Kerry who is in second place in the "cheated" vote count or to Bush who was first place in the polling data? Do you spend a year with a congress-appointed or supreme-court appointed temporary president while you sort out who really won and who exactly was the one who cheated? The voting data itself is gone and will certainly change based on peoples' opinions of what just happened, so it seems to me as though there is no correct way to recount that data.
USER:S.Schimler writes: Polls are not entirely accurate and in terms of the presidency, in a close race like this, the polls don't even matter too much. What is more important is the electoral vote. So to answer Jeff, we give the election to the person who has the most votes in the electoral college when it meets. And lets talk history for a second. When Truman was widely predicted to lose to Dewey in 1948, did anyone think a vast conspiracy was responsible for Truman's victory? I think most of the fear that is being created here is coming from the experts and not from the common people.
-UC Berkeley 2006
Jeff West Yes, yes, the electoral college. But, not too distant history tells us that "letting the electoral college make up its mind" isn't really a viable solution. When Florida had confusion due to a close election it didn't just pick electoral names out of a hat ;). So what I said above may not apply for the nation as a whole, but it applies for individual states or for other races (senate, house, etc.) where we more directly choose the winner. Also, I think that the political climate in the U.S. is a lot different than it was when Truman won in 1948; to this day a large number of Americans make statements about Bush stealing the 2000 election (not just experts). My guess is that the reason for this is probably at least partially the power of the media in the early 21st century; 24 hour news needs to make news entertaining, so sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to find out who won the 2000 election was a competition of sorts. I think for many people "Bush stole the 2000 election" isn't much different than "The Cubs must have paid the ref to win that game last night." While it may or may not be less accurate than hanging chads, I think that e-voting would be used as a complaint for people who didn't feel that their "team" won the election.
Ted Zuvich As a follow up on the vote-by-mail comment: my wife just pointed out that she could have easily filled in my absentee ballot for me, mailed it in, and I would have never known until it was too late. I'm kind of a busy guy, and I probably wouldn't have noticed that "I never got my ballot" until it was too late to do anything about it. Or the mailman could have taken it, or any random person walking down the street who wanted to commit a federal offense and steal it out of my "completely unsecured, somewhat hidden and thus not directly observable by the neighbors" mailbox. I used to be highly in favor of voting by mail (mostly for convenience). Now I'm not so sure.
John Naegle Another vote by mail comment: my wife's absentee ballot for Washington came in the mail the other day, even though a) we moved to Boston 2 months ago and b) We are registered to vote here. Neither of us will be filling it out, but it seems that without some sort of national clearning house for voter registration, there is yet another problem with voting by mail.
Jeff West Additional "vote-by-mail" stories: I moved from Renton to Redmond in July, but forgot to call and notify the voting registration office until the beginning of September. Since ballots had already been mailed out, the lady informed me that I should just use the ballot that would be mail-forwarded to me in Redmond from my Renton address. I had the ability to vote for representatives and tax initiatives that would not relate to me in Redmond, and the lady on the phone TOLD me to fill out this ballot. At the very least, she should probably have said "sorry, it is too late to get a vote-by-mail ballot to your new location. If you get one for the Renton location please rip it up. Please vote in person on September 16!" My brother moved to Japan and wanted to continue voting for Washington State/United States issues as a citizen of the United States. However, in the process of moving to Japan he vacated his apartment and has no specific ties to the Northgate area at all. He asked voter registration if he should register with my parents' address in Poulsbo and they said to use his last U.S. address. He has no interest or consequences in what happens in Northgate and probably never will but gets to vote for representatives and tax initiatives that will effect the people in that area.
Joanna If voting by mail makes you nervous, how about voting by fax or over the Internet? Both of which methods are being used in this current election to support overseas voters, especially those in the military. Unfortunately you need to register to read this NYTimes article: Pentagon to Place U.S. Ballot on Internet for Overseas Voters. The internet version is available on to members of the military, since it uses a Pentagon database to verify voter identies. Not all the states are comfortable with the resulting lack of security/privacy; only 10 states are participating.
David Dorwin Regarding John's message about the potential to vote in multiple states, how about voting in more than one country? Apparently there is no US law preventing people with dual citizenship from voting in both countries. This article discusses dual citizenship issues. At least a person who votes in two countries only gets one vote per election; a person who votes in two states could get multiple votes in the presidential election (the only national race in the US).
Patrick Haluptzok I think the voting through mail does for sure offer more opportunities for fraud - but the level of fraud has to outweigh the increased participation in the election. The electronic voting machines to me are a red herring - I see the future in voting at home either via mail or the internet - and that is the trend in voting that we need to focus on fixing.
The Diebold analysis and the DMCA
From: Edward W. Felten Sent: Friday, October 15, 2004 3:46 AM To: Ed Lazowska Subject: Re: DMCA and Diebold voting code
Ed Lazowska wrote:
> When Yoshi and everybody wrote the Diebold analysis paper, why didn't > they run afoul of the DMCA? (The "reverse engineering" aspects.)
The DMCA doesn't ban all reverse engineering. Since the researchers didn't circumvent a technology that controlled access to the code (or one that controlled copying of the code) the DMCA wouldn't really apply.
Diebold might have tried claiming that in the course of studying the code the researchers had copied it, in violation of good old fashioned copyright law. There are some cases that say it's okay to copy in the course of reverse engineering if the reverse engineering is otherwise legal and copying is necessary to do it. But the facts in those cases were different enough that there might have been some risk that they wouldn't apply.
> Also, how about "trade secrets"? Did that not apply since the code was > on the internet?
I think that once the code was on the net it would be much harder for Diebold to argue trade secret.
> In general what were the risks involved in doing the paper?
[adaptation of Felten's answer] The law in this area is really complicated and the precedents never match a new case perfectly. Thus, it's difficult to predict what a judge might decide.
The Productivity Paradox -- Measured Away?
Walker 17:19, 15 Oct 2004 (PDT)
Several reasons have been suggested in the lecture for why the productivity drought from the late 70's to early 90's gave way to healthy productivity growth in subsequent years. One not mentioned is that during the mid-90's reforms were intitiated that changed the yardstick by which productivity is measured.
The productivity figures measured by the government are obtained by dividing Real (inflation adjusted) GDP by some factor such as total hours worked; productivity growth is then the change in this value. Other measures of productivity are similarly defined as some inflation adjusted output measure divided by some input factor. So a change in the way GDP is calculated, for example, has an effect on the productivity statistics. One change in particular in recent years has served to boost the GDP measurements and that is the decision to classify software purchases as investment rather than as a business expense. Since investment contributes to GDP while business expenses do not, and since software purchases have increased, this reclassification has contributed positively to GDP growth measurements. While perhaps not an unreasonable change, it is worth noting that no other nation in the world has (at least as of a year ago) followed the U.S. in making this reclassification. In any case, since American businesses are more aggressive in their purchasing of software, this change in yardstick helps U.S. GDP measurements more than it would other nations.
Second and more significant, beginning in 1995 drastic changes were made in the calculation of inflation. First, there was the introduction of more aggressive Quality Adjustment methods. Quality Adjustment has been applied to reduce inflation at least since the late 60's when it began to be applied to automobiles. To give an idea of how this works, in the early 80's all new cars sold were required to come with catalytic converters that met newly created emmissions standards. This typically adding a couple of hundred dollars to the price of a car that would otherwise contribute to inflation, but since the change was considered a "quality improvement", the additional price was subtracted away. In this way, changes deemed quality improvements are converted into a price decreases for the purposes calculating inflation. Up until the 90's quality adjustments were applied mostly to cars, but since then it has been applied to more and more goods, particularly in "hi-tech" such as semiconductors, computers, etc. using a new method -- Hedonic price indices.
Hedonic pricing works by reducing a product such as a computer into its constituent parts. The parts are then weighted, and gauged for quality improvements according to some metric. For example, a computer's quality is gauged on the basis of its clock-speed, amount of memory, etc. The inflation of the computer's price is then determined as a function both of its change in price and the improvements in constituent parts. So if in 2000 the clock-speed of the processors in computers purchased is double that in 1999, this quality improvement is then converted into a price decrease by their accounting. The overall effect on GDP and productivity statistics is controversial, but Deuthche Bank estimates that the use of these methods alone added as much as 3/4ths of a percentage point yearly increase in GDP in the period of 1996-2000... (http://www.euractiv.com/Article?tcmuri=tcm:29-110252-16&type=Analysis) . It is importatant to realize that other nations have started to follow the U.S. and take up the use of hedonic methods in recent years, but the U.S. is still acknowledged to be most aggressive in their application. And no, there are no international standards, so for cross-nation comparisons of GDP, Productivity, etc. one must take note.
The use of hedonic methods on technology products wasn't the only change, many economists had long argued that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) overstates inflation, and in 1995 the Boskin Commission was formed by congress to study the issue. By 1996, they had decided that the CPI was overstated by 1.1 percentage points, and suggested reforms -- most important (besides quality adjustment) was the recommendation to account for substitution effects (http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~nroubini/NYT/NYTCPI.HTM , http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~nroubini/MEASURE.HTM ). This was highly controversial at the time and many cried foul, charging that a political agenda was at work as a reduced CPI means a reduction in CPI-adjusted benefit payouts (Social Security, pensions, etc.) (http://www.prospect.org/print/V7/24/baker-d.html ). These same reforms also found there way into the GDP deflator, the measure of inflation used to calculate Real GDP, and the Producer Price Index.
To summarize: One, there is a degree of subjectivity in the calculation of productivity and the metrics that affect it. Two, when called upon to make assumptions (regarding quality improvements, etc.) government statisticians in recent years have tended to err on the side of optimism -- often explicitly tailoring them to capture "New Economy" effects. Three, though before the U.S. introduced reforms methodologies across nations were fairly similar, there are no international standards for dealing with Quality Adjustments and other factors that contribute to the various metrics affecting GDP and Productivity. Four, it is not controversial that the changes have acted to boost productivity numbers since the mid-90's, though by how much exactly is a matter of debate.
Remegraw 01:07, 20 Oct 2004 (PDT) In a Greenspan testimony (http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/hh/2001/february/testimony.htm) from Feb 2001, he asserts that "The prospects for sustaining strong advances in productivity in the years ahead remain favorable. As one would expect, productivity growth has slowed along with the economy. But what is notable is that, during the second half of 2000, output per hour advanced at a pace sufficiently impressive to provide strong support for the view that the rate of growth of structural productivity remains well above its pace of a decade ago." But at this time in history, when many companies had over-produced and invertories rose, and at the same time began shedding workers, is it not possible that Greenspan's sustained increase in productivity due to IT was in fact due to an economy with fewer workers selling goods produced in earlier months? I find Greenspan's IT-productivity shift theory a bit dubious. It makes no sense that IT investment in the 70's and 80's would not have had a similar impact on productivity years earlier, with microcomputers, databases, etc. This theory seems ad hoc without more evidence.
Definition of Productivity
From my undergrad as Econonmics major, I learned the formal definition of productivity is "typically measured as output per worker or output per labor-hour." Wikipedia
However, this model only implicitly incorporates technology (assuming that better technology tools enable workers to produce more output in less time.) Recently, economists have proposed a detailed measure of productivity: Multifactor Productivity=Output/(KLEMS) where
K is capital services
L is labor services
and S refers to purchased services Federal Reserver Bank of Boston article
"There's No Shame in Not Voting"
Jeff West: This is a little bit off topic, but I'm still interested in opinions about Trey Parker and Matt Stone's recent declaration that there's "no shame in not voting" "if you don't know what you're talking about" . This is one of those statements that you can immediately know will offend people when you hear or read it. However, I have to admit that I've always kind of agreed with this statement. I think that a lot of people do not take voting very seriously, and only vote based on the emotions that the 24 hour news stations are giving them that week. If you're not informed enough to make a decision, does it really make sense for you to have any impact? In a way it's similar to the electoral college problem; if you (or Washington) believe 100% that Kerry should be president and my brother and I (or Oregon and California) believe 50.00000001% that Bush should be president today because they showed his mom on TV (and boy she's a nice woman) but yesterday we thought 50.0004% that Kerry should be president because they showed a picture of him on TV where he was smiling really nice; does it really make sense for my brother and I to decide who should be president?
[John Spaith] I agree that if you can't chose between the Libertarian and the Green Candidate for City Dog Catcher (say not enough media coverage of the race), then you are better off not voting for that position. This is based on the admittedly optimistic hope that other voters will be more informed and make a better than random decision. For a President race where there will be more info available, this rationale doesn't hold. Still, if you hate both Kerry+Bush too much to vote for them there's always plenty of protest candidates on both the left and the right. But you still need to show up and vote.
The biggest reason to me is that so many Americans have got killed and maimed over the years protecting our freedoms - freedom to vote being just one of them. Not being informed enough so that moving to 50.00001 % for Bush after a friendly human interest piece on his mom is ignorant. Not voting at all because "Oh I'm cynical and they all stink" or "Geez it's raining and there's good TV on Tuesday nights after all" is worse. It's unpatriotic and profoundly disrespectful to those who have made sacrificies for us. Just showing up and leaving the ballot empty for the Dog Catcher or even the President is better than sitting complacently and complaining that the US sucks.
There's a more practical reason in having a high voter turnout, too. Today only %50 of the populace votes (be it voting with %100 or %50.0001 assurance for their candidate of choice), and a huge chunk of that %50 has one or two issues they care about; everything else can be damned. This means politicians just have to pander to the extremes of their party while pretending to be running in the middle (and accusing their opponent of pandering to their extremest elements).
I'm not advocting an Australia style system where people are forced to vote, since someone who only votes to avoid a fine is in the ignorant trap above. Having a more informed and involved electorate is no guarantee to get us better leaders. The current system where we don't vote and joke about it a la the South Park guys is guaranteed NOT to make things better.
Iking When someone tells me they don't plan to vote, my usual response is, "OK, then you're fine with ME making all the decisions?" After the quizzical look begins to form, I continue with, "The decisions are made by the people who show up - and I show up." And if the conversation continues, I add, "And if you don't show up, don't come whining to me afterwards." Voting is my license to bitch, and yes, I have shut down people who don't vote and afterwards try to tell me what's wrong with government. We are the government.
In my opinion, our legislatures would be more representative of the populace if the "lazy" folks, who don't want to become political analysts, at least discovered the candidates' positions on the two or three issues those folks care about most. For example: I'm involved in motorcycle rights, so I'm going to give preference to candidates who support motorcycle issues. My neighbor is a sport fisherman, so he cares about access to fishing, water quality and fish habitat. Another friend is a firearms collector - and so on, and so forth. If individuals at least voted their own "special interests", the "Special Interests" (PACs and so forth) would have less influence, by proportion; however, if the PACs et al. are the only ones doing the talking, the candidates have no choice but to listen to them.
My preference is informed voters; lacking full engagement by the entire populace, I'll take individuals voting their own interests, rather than abdicating to small groups with big bank accounts. It's no guarantee I'll like the outcome, but no one promised this was all set up to make ME happy. It does create a higher likelihood that those elected will actually represent those who elect them.
Diwaker: On a related note, does anyone have any idea what the average age of the American voter is? I remember a discussion with some friends a week back (but I don't recall the source), but he had read somewhere that the average age was pretty high, as much as in the 60s or even more. That seems like a really really high average. Google didn't give me any authoritative sources, so I was wondering if people have better estimates?
Ryan Kaneshiro: According to this census document , the age group with the highest rate of participation in the 2000 election was 65-74. It makes sense then that access to prescription drugs and health care are always top issues for candidates.
--Remegraw 01:26, 20 Oct 2004 (PDT) Relating this back to e-voting... when there are some small hurdles to voting (such as knowing where to go, taking the time to fill out the form, etc.) it seems like a greater proportion of the at-least-semi-informed folks will show up to vote. A downfall of making voting *too* easy could be that a significant proportion of uninformed people vote. I've experienced this firsthand with the UW elections... you do it online, it's easy, I was uninformed, and I flipped a coin for most of my choices.
Early e-Voting in Florida...
David Dorwin: Florida started early voting using e-voting machines today and things didn't go so well. There's an article on MSNBC. I think the NBC news report was better than the article. Click Launch to see the video.
The problem was reportedly traced to an Internet connection. The machines are connected to the Internet? Oh boy. Let the hacking begin...
FURTHER COMMENTS ON THIS TOPIC
From: Ian S. King 
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2004 11:47 PM
To: Ed Lazowska
Cc: csep590tu - Mailing List
Subject: Re: [CSE P 590TU] FW: gotta love the blogs
Dave Dill posited hacks of voting machines that would change the outcome by a few percentage points, not enough to really stand out but enough to make a difference. I will suggest a simpler, more insidious attack, that follows from the below article.
The voting machines have been humming along all day, as professionals and the independently wealthy take time at their convenience to vote. It's 5:17PM, and the polling place begins to fill with working-class people who couldn't be late to work or take time off during the day - and the voting machines "mysteriously" fail. They're only down for about an hour, but that leaves about 45 minutes until the polls close to accommodate an enormous backlog of voters. Most leave, and the voting from this district is skewed dramatically by economic status.
A new definition of the "denial of service" attack.... -- Ian
On Thu, 14 Oct 2004, Ed Lazowska wrote:
From: Lyndsay Downs 
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2004 5:40 PM
To: Ed Lazowska
Subject: gotta love the blogs
BETTER VOTING THROUGH ELECTRICITY. Forget about the risk of hacking -- the simple unreliability of electronic voting machines is horrifying. We can now add to the long list of malfunctioning voting machines (PDF) this ironic mishap:
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- A computer crash that forced a pre-election test of electronic voting machines to be postponed was trumpeted by critics as proof of the balloting technology's unreliability ... Tuesday's public dry run had to be postponed until Friday because a computer server that tabulates data from the touch-screen machines crashed, said county elections supervisor Theresa LePore. Such "logic and accuracy" tests are required by law.
Lovely! They couldn't even hold the dry run that was supposed to prove that all would go smoothly on November 2. This is hardly surprising, given the lack of credible certification and the wanton disregard for accountability standards from the major electronic voting machine manufacturers themselves. With all the uproar over the many other ways the election could go wrong, it's easy forget that many of the machines just might not work. On the one hand, this could create several new layers of uncertainty and legal conflicts. On the other hand, we won't need a recount!
Ted Zuvich: The October 2004 issue of "Software Development" has an interesting short anecdote about e-voting, from the perspective of a developer. The article is titled "The Election Night Enigma...and Other Stories." I tried to provide a link, but you must be a member to access the articles on their site. If you are interested, go to www.sdmagazine.com and search for the article. In short, this developer runs through a mishap that occurred in a vote reporting system ( not even an actual voting system ) that caused a huge amount of stress and disruption. Interesting reading, but the article is too short.
Ted Zuvich: For a truly humorous look at how e-voting is perceived, see this article in the Stranger:  . WARNING: the Stranger is a...strange newspaper. Not for the easily offended. I included this because its a good example of how awareness of some of the e-voting foibles are trickling into society.
E-voting online forum
Last week, featuring Dave Dill, David Jefferson, Avi Rubin, others. Worth a look if you're interested in this topic.
Also, I have linked a Scientific American article to the course syllabus.
Even the hint of impropriety....
Iking: Here's an interesting article on The Hill, an online publication from Washington, DC. In short, unless the New Mexico election is a definitive win for one party or the other, litigation is a certainty. Republicans claim that Bush will win New Mexico unless there is voter fraud; in other words, a Bush defeat would be prima facie evidence of fraud, at least from the GOP perspective. The identified issue: registration irregularities, including multiple registrations and registration of minors. Claims as to the source of these irregularities are predictably partisan. There is no discussion (in this article) of the voting process itself.
Voter-verifiable paper trail as an election issue
David Dorwin: Apparently a voter-verifiable paper trail for electronic voting machines has become an election issue (at least for the Washington Secretary of State position). I saw a TV ad by one candidate that mentioned this topic last night, and all three candidates mention it in their candidate statements.
Electronic Voting - The Aftermath
(User: John) I find it particularly funny that after the elections we are still enjoying large numbers of recounts across the nation. It is still not clear who the Washington State Governor is. Did Bush get a windfall vitory in Ohio? Was there widespread vote fraud? Does anybody care? As a 54 year old citizen and long time voter, I find the present electronic systems frightfully inadequate in protecting the value of my vote. The "one man, one vote" concept seems to be negligible these days. The most critical of rights maintained by "the people," is the right to select its representatives. In order to effectively do this, we must utilize a voting process whose accuracy we can believe in. Accurate counting of valid ballots is crucial to such a regime. That is precisely why we have RECOUNTS. Implementing a system of ballot counting that does not allow for recounting is tantamount to madness. Machines and people break down and make mistakes. Humans are ingenious cheaters and they will take every advantage they can in competitive scenarios. This year's elections are no different in that regard. But, the idea that American's have implemented an electronic voting regime that is not recountable is pretty unbelievable. I wonder if those brave Ukrainians would tolerate such a bogus national election? Isn't it amazing that we Americans don't even bother to ask if our election was "stolen?" Perhaps that other classmate of ours reflected our national lack of passion for freedom when he argued that it was perfectly fine not to bother to vote. Hmmmm. Perhaps, the people have lost the fervor for liberty. Too bad. I never thought I would see these days, especially after Viet Nam.