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[liberationtech] E-Voting

Thomas Delrue thomas at
Sat Dec 10 04:53:51 PST 2016

On 12/10/2016 04:39 AM, Zacharia Gichiriri wrote:
> Hi All,

Hiya, I'll start off with my POV on e-voting: e-voting, whether this is
Estonia-type to vote from home (which is what I think this thread is
really talking about) or USA-type where you use a computer in the voting
booth, is a dumb idea!

Voting should be done with pen/crayon & paper so that I, and anyone else
who can count from 0 to 10, can look at the stack of ballots and recount
them without having to 'trust' a third party (closed) system that
imposes an additional requirement of having to have detailed
understanding of how said e-voting system works.

> In Africa, only a few countries can claim to have conducted free and 
> fair elections. Majority of elected representatives in Africa want
> to cling to power forever against the will of their citizens or some
> of their citizens. To add salt to the injury, all dictators in
> Africa have a poor record of development and human rights. A lot of
> African leaders point to China as a case in point where democracy is
> not necessarily a catalyst for development. But is that true?

I don't think this is limited to African countries. Belarus comes to
mind and so do a couple of others in all parts of the world.

> Back to elections, electronic voting in Africa would dramatically 
> increase transparency in the electoral process. Unfortunately,
> Africa has weak systems from Judiciary to Police that cannot
> guarantee free and fair elections.

These two sentences seem to contradict one another.

> The Police, the Judiciary, Independent Electoral
> Commissions have been and can be easily influenced by current
> regimes mostly through intimidation and in young and vocal
> democracies such as Kenya or South Africa through bribes.

How does e-voting address these issues? With e-voting, you leave even
more of a trace of your activities/votes, thus opening you up to
intimidation and/or coercion to a greater degree.

> Security is of the utmost concern but democracy is more important.

Definition of utmost: of the greatest or highest degree.
So is it security or democracy that is the number one thing? You have to
chose, you can't have both be your "primary focus".

Ideologically, I would agree that democracy is more important because it
is more conducive to provide a way to guarantee security - the vice
versa is not true.
Practically speaking though: would you care about [e-]voting if you're
cold, hungry or on the run or in hiding from your regime? (especially if
that e-voting allows your regime to track you, your location, your loved

> In one way or another people will always find ways to fight for
> their freedoms especially in the age of Internet where people can see
> the benefits of a democratic society. But instead of having people go
> to war or risk their lives, why can't we just use Technology to lay
> bare the truth?

Because that technology is commissioned by, made by or blessed by the
powers-of-the-day. I'll just name-drop MITM here which is what you can
do if you are the one providing the hardware or software that collects
the votes which determine whether or not you stay in power.
When you're in power, The Truth(tm) is malleable to what you need it to
be to stay in power, especially when you're, errr, 'morally flexible'(*).
Just because it's code (the 'e-' part) doesn't mean it's suddenly better
than what you had before. Please, stop thinking like Silicon Valley,
i.e. "I have a hammer and therefore this problem is now a nail".

Technology is a tool and tools can & will be abused if the stakes are
high enough, so elections most certainly fall under this. We've seen
this time and time again. Switching to e-voting is not going to solve
any problem related to voting itself or even its transparency. If the
stakes are high enough, I can forge the data which I will make available
for everyone to inspect, and thus prove that I should remain your leader.

This problem is true with pen-and-paper voting as well, if you're gonna
cheat, you're gonna cheat (albeit a bit harder because now you're moving
physical ballots around instead of bits) but we're talking about
e-voting here and how it is a panacea that will fix all these issues,
amirite? My point is that e-voting doesn't solve any of the issues you
(and others) raise, and therefore it is not a better solution than the
analog form of voting (pen+paper).

The *only* thing that e-voting addresses is the laziness of the
electorate that doesn't want to get up in the morning to go & vote and
wants to vote from home (Estonia-style e-voting). (Or isn't /allowed/ to
take the day/some time off in order to vote without repercussions
because they live in a feudal society. I'm looking at you over there, USA)
There is nothing else that e-voting solves -without creating bigger
problems in the process, like making coercion to vote a certain way,
easier- that cannot be addressed through 'analog' means.

I also fail to see how using technology will prevent people from going
to war. If anything, judging by our history as a species... I'll let you
fill in the rest.

> I think the subject of the discussion should be: How can we make 
> e-voting more secure and credible? On implementing an e-voting 
> system, we can look for inspiration from M-Pesa. M-Pesa handled
> $52.6 billion worth of transactions in the past financial year
> equivalent to 85% of Kenya's GDP. M-Pesa doesn't use HTTPS, it's a
> service embedded in your mobile sim card. It is built on a
> decentralized system where thousands of agents operate across Kenya.
> Users deposit and withdraw from the agents. From their mobile phones
> they can view their balance, send to other M-Pesa users etc etc..

What's with the throwing around of HTTPS and it's non-use by one
particular P2P token-exchange system? Why is this relevant to this thing?
If e-voting ever actually becomes a thing, and I fear it will, strong
crypto will most certainly play a large role in it. Suggesting it
shouldn't, isn't needed or that crypto is not germane to this subject is
unwise in my not-so-humble opinion. M-Pesa indeed "doesn't use HTTPS"
but it's also a completely different thing than e-voting.

The hammer in my tool shed doesn't use petrol either, so what?

(*) corrupt

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