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[liberationtech] Fwd: [peoplecount] Encryption no deterent to hackers of voting machines (fwd)

Steve Weis steveweis at
Mon Jan 31 10:55:24 PST 2011

In regular operating conditions, mechanical voting machines are less
accurate compared to electronic voting machines. Ballot stuffing and
tampering are trivial, there is no audit trail, and it is difficult to
verify that a lever machine is working properly. See "Vulnerabilities
of Lever Machines" in this NIST report: .

Optical scan ballots are more accurate than lever machines or
punchcards, and leave an audit trail. However, they are still
vulnerable to old-fashion fraud and ballot stuffing. We can do better
than paper ballots. We could run elections where voters can ensure
that their ballot has been counted accurately. This can be done while
maintaining voter privacy, but without creating receipts for coercion
or vote buying.

Ben Adida and Ron Rivest have done some interesting work in this area
with Scratch & Vote:

Ron proposed ThreeBallot as well:

Ben Adida built Helios, which is a functioning open-audit voting system:

The IACR evaluated Helios for its own elections:

If you want to check it out, go vote on Lawrence Lessig's next book title:

None of this is ready for widespread deployment and more work needs to
be done to hammer on these systems, but I'm optimistic about the
developments in this area.

On Sun, Jan 30, 2011 at 8:49 PM, Daniel Colascione
<dan.colascione at> wrote:
> Hi, Sheila. Welcome to the list.
> On 1/30/11 6:01 PM, Sheila Parks wrote:
> > I am very eager to hear what you have to say about hand-counting all our
> > votes in elections and why and how.
> Election procedure is not my strength, but I share your skepticism of
> electronic voting machines: they are often opaque, unreliable, and
> selected by laymen for reasons other than merit. I'm not certain,
> however, that hand-counting is the only viable alternative, although
> it's certainly a good one.
> Back in New York, we used electromechanical lever machines for over a
> century without major issues. One key advantage of these lever machines
> was that being massive steel boxes full of cams and gears, they were
> inherently resistant to discreet reprogramming. Old-fashioned
> supervision by observers from rival parties was enough to prevent more
> mundane varieties of fraud. Electronic voting machines that merely print
> paper ballots also seem benign, if extravagant.

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