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

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at
Mon Jan 31 11:40:55 PST 2011

Dear Steve,
Thank you so much for this.  It is refreshing to hear someone actually 
defend electronic voting for a change.  In another recent discussion I 
> 1. Not all EVMs are created equal, and each design must be evaluated on
> its own merit.
> 2. The problems with EVMs should not be evaluated on their own, but
> compared to those with paper ballots.  This might not be very important
> in "developed" countries (though the infamous Hanging Chads of Florida
> could be used to argue against that), but in many developed countries
> where problems like ballot-stuff, booth-capturing, etc., are rampant,
> the cracks against EVMs *might* (depending on the design of the EVM) be
> more difficult to carry out than against paper ballots.

This was part of a conversation[1] with in which I supported Indian EVMs 
(against which a paper had been published by EFF Pioneer Award winner 
Hari K. Prasad, with J. Alex Halderman, Rop Gonggrijp and others)[2] and 
Eugen Leitl criticised EVMs in general.

  [1]: Archived discussion on Silk List:
  [2]: Hari K. Prasad et al., Security Analysis of India’s Electronic 
Voting Machines:

On Tuesday 01 February 2011 12:25 AM, Steve Weis wrote:
> 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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Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: | T: +91 80 40926283

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