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[liberationtech] Looking for collaborators for free-range voting project

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Wed Feb 27 19:56:14 PST 2013


Replying to Rich, Rubin and Edwin:

Rich Kulawiec said:
> 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. ...

The solution I would offer isn't fully elaborated in the proposal,
but it's indicated here:

> > ... We'll begin with voting forms that are fully public; those are
> > the simplest to handle and they allow for unrestricted technical
> > freedom among providers. ...

What I mean is full disclosure of all voting data, including voter
identity and credentials. This would make verification of the results
relatively easy vs. private forms of voting, such as secret ballot. I
guess zombies in particular would be detected when people wondered why
friends and such were voting uncharacteristically, or seemed unaware
of their own vote placements, and so forth.

Also (not mentioned in the proposal) we're mostly concerned here with
continuous voting media that allow for unrestricted vote shifting.
These are not for decision purposes, but rather continuous primaries
and consensus making efforts (like the "mock poll" that Edwin relates)
that run long in advance of any decision. So the victim of the zombie
can correct her votes once she gets to a secure client. Any damage
that was done is likely to be short lived.


Ruben Bloemgarten said:
> 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 ?

One benefit is the facility of continuous voting (mentioned above),
which would be relatively difficult to implement with paper votes. A
possible application of this is described in the second proposal I
posted. There it's used to structure public discourses that guide
decisions toward legitimacy and validity.
https://mailman.stanford.edu/pipermail/liberationtech/2013-February/007357.html

The larger benefit is public autonomy. I don't know of any means of
attaining that goal aside from proposals such as these, which depend
on electronic voting. (If you see any faults in the 2nd proposal, or
have questions, please reply to the other thread.)


Edwin Chu said:
> The goal of this "civic referendum" is never to officially elect the
> governor. By providing an unofficial election result which has
> higher creditability and legitimacy than the official result from
> the Election Committee, we hope to discredit the elected CE and the
> Election Committee, demonstrating the demand for a truth universal
> suffrage, and to push the democratic development forward.
 
That's fascinating, because I've been designing software for much the
same purpose for years now. In some ways, the problem is even worse
here in North America, because we don't even realize (it seems to me)
how little freedom we have in political matters. It's perhaps too
embarrassing for us to admit.

> Because the mock poll is funded by the community, we have no way to
> set up enough physical voting stations and voter registry comparable
> to the election organized by the government. Indeed, it is difficult
> to prevent double voting in such "poor man's election". Some
> supporters of the CCP criticized the mock poll for lack of
> creditability with these reasons.
> 
> Due to the lack of resource, internet voting might be one of the
> only means to allow most Hong Kong citizen to participate in a mock
> poll.  What we need is a deployable solution to allow people to vote
> anonymously, either online or offline, at the same time provides
> enough creditability and verifiability. A perfect solution is not
> necessary because the goal isn't to replace the official paper
> votes.

One possible way forward (again) is full disclosure of all voting and
registration data through which public opinion is expressed. Whatever
else we might say about this strategy, it's hard to imagine a feasible
counter strategy aside from the suspension of civil liberties. If
that's not possible in Hong Kong (I believe it's not), and if your
polls are structured to allow complete freedom of expression (not
technically feasible today, but soon I think), then the executive
would eventually be chosen on the basis of public opinion. I doubt any
changes to the electoral rules would even be required, at least in the
first instance. Unable to suspend civil liberties and silence the
public, the committee and executive would have to bow to that public.
Because no executive can rule effectively when everyone is openly
saying that he/she has no legitimate authority to do so.

What gives the public the capacity to legitimate the institutions of
government - namely full, unfettered disclosure - also gives it the
capacity to authenticate the mock poll as its own, true voice.

-- 
Mike


> I would argue that voting backed by re-countable physical paper is
> more reliable than pure electronic voting in an official election.
> However, I think that an electronic voting is still very useful under
> some specific situations.
> 
> In Hong Kong, the Chief Execute are not elected by citizen through
> universal suffrage. The CE is instead chosen by a Election Committee
> consist of about a thousand of persons mainly appointed. The demands
> for an universal suffrage is clear, but the progress is hindered by
> the CCP of mainland China and the vested interests. On the 2012 CE
> election day, some people from the University of Hong Kong set up a
> mock poll, dubbed "civic referendum", to allow the citizen to express
> their views on the CE election. The mock is funded by public
> donations.
> 
> The mock poll provided 15 physical polling stations, and online voting
> via its website and smartphone. However, shortly after the mock poll
> began, the online voting server were overwhelmed by huge amount of
> requests from attackers and legitimate voters. It completely brought
> down the online voting. Many people went to the physical stations,
> which may be far away from their home, to cast their vote. Despite the
> difficulties, a total of 222,990 votes are still casted in the
> physical stations and online voting combined.
> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_Chief_Executive_election,_2012#Mock_polls)
> 
> The goal of this "civic referendum" is never to officially elect the
> governor. By providing an unofficial election result which has higher
> creditability and legitimacy than the official result from the
> Election Committee, we hope to discredit the elected CE and the
> Election Committee, demonstrating the demand for a truth universal
> suffrage, and to push the democratic development forward.
> 
> Because the mock poll is funded by the community, we have no way to
> set up enough physical voting stations and voter registry comparable
> to the election organized by the government. Indeed, it is difficult
> to prevent double voting in such "poor man's election". Some
> supporters of the CCP criticized the mock poll for lack of
> creditability with these reasons.
> 
> Due to the lack of resource, internet voting might be one of the only
> means to allow most Hong Kong citizen to participate in a mock poll.
> What we need is a deployable solution to allow people to vote
> anonymously, either online or offline, at the same time provides
> enough creditability and verifiability. A perfect solution is not
> necessary because the goal isn't to replace the official paper votes.
> 
> Edwin



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