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[liberationtech] Looking for collaborators for free-range voting project at Knight News Challenge:

Ruben Bloemgarten ruben at
Tue Feb 26 05:15:54 PST 2013

Irrespective of zombies et al. Voting requires the following basic
elements :
1. verifiability when casting the vote, i.e. the voter can see that the
vote that is cast will be the vote that is counted. This is not possible
without a paper trail which is also a valid vote.

2. Counting control. Each step of the electoral process has to be
transparent for it to be valid. This means that *anyone* is allowed to
observe the counting of the votes, *and* is able to understand that
counting process. A printout of a result is not sufficient. Don´t forget
that casting the vote is the least important of the process, counting
the votes is.

3. Anonimity. There can not be any moment that a vote can be backtracked
to the person voting. Again, this can not be based on "trusting a
system". In many voting laws this anonymity has to be guaranteed, a
guarantee that even with paper ballots is problematic, but is
practically impossible in the case of electronic voting.

When we are discussing voting in its function of the backbone of a
democratic system, i.e. the moment when we temporarily delegate our
individual power to a representative, deciding who will wield the
monopoly on violence, there can be no aspect of this process that is
based on trust. If ever there was a system which has distrust at its
core, it is voting.

The only way to have any form of electronic voting be reliable is when
it is seconded by a re-countable paper copy, which means the choice is
between one big central printer distributing paper ballots or lots of
little little ones printing the ballot on the fly. This excludes online
voting completely and makes the entire concept a little silly really.

Apart from a child-like enthusiasm for anything with buttons and shiny
lights, can anyone here explain to me what the intended benefits of
electronic voting over paper voting would be ?

Please note that all of the above only applies to political elections,
electronic voting is perfectly fine when voting for the X-factor.

- Ruben

On 02/26/2013 01:35 PM, Rich Kulawiec wrote:
> It won't work.  Until the bot/zombie is solved, online voting is
> a non-starter, since any election worthy of being stolen can be.
> It doesn't matter what you do on the server side: you can construct as
> elaborate and clever and secure an infrastructure as you wish...because
> on the client side, there is no way to ensure that what the user sees
> is what's actually happening.  (After all: it's not *their* computer
> any more.  Its new owners can, if they wish, cause a vote for candidate
> A to be sent as a vote for candidate B, and they can prevent the user
> from knowing that's happened.)
> And given that (a) we're now about a decade into the zombie problem
> (b) no significant effort against them has ever been attempted,
> let alone completed [1] and (c) the problem is already epidemic and
> continues to get worse [2] [3], there is no reason whatsoever to think
> it will be mitigated, let alone solved, in the forseeable future.
> This doesn't just apply to your proposal: it applies to *all* of
> them.  Unless you can propose and execute a viable plan for solving
> the zombie problem, then whatever you design/build can be undercut
> whenever someone chooses to make the effort.  (And provided they're
> not foolishly heavy-handed about it, it's unlikely you would be able
> to detect this. [4])
> ---rsk
> [1] Botnet "takedowns" are unimportant and irrelevant; their only
> purpose is to provide a forum for the spokesliars at Microsoft
> to trumpet their prowess while a gullible press and public overlook
> that they *created* this problem.  Merely removing C&C networks does
> nothing to remediate the individual members of the botnets, which are
> still compromised, still vulnerable, and likely to be conscripted into
> other botnets before the day is out.
> [2] We're now seeing portable devices zombie'd: phones, tablets, etc.
> [3] Estimates of zombie population vary, of course, but clearly, any
> estimate under 100M should be laughed out of the room.  Vint Cerf gave
> an estimate of 150M just about six years ago, and based on my own work
> as well as that of others in the anti-spam/abuse area, I thought that
> was on the high side at the time...but it's most certainly not now.
> I think the number's probably in the 200-300M range at this point.
> See: for
> Cerf's comments.
> [4] See Schneier's insightful and chilling piece on this here:
> That piece should be absolutely mandatory reading for anyone even
> considering voting systems.  It not only provides a method for
> estimating attacker budgets, but it correctly points out that attackers
> quite often could tip the balance of an election by manipulating a
> rather small number of votes -- with a corresponding reduction in the
> probability that the manipulation will be detected.
> Note that Schneier wrote that in 2004.  If you repeat his analysis
> with numbers from the 2012 election cycle you'll end up with *much*
> large attacker budgets.  For example, Schneier says that in 2002,
> Congressional candidates raised over 500M.  But
> says that in 2012, they spent about $1.82B.
> --
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