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[liberationtech] E-Voting

Patrick Kariuki patrick.kariuki at gmail.com
Sun Dec 11 09:32:03 PST 2016


Spot on Thomas.

I find such disparaging remarks on Africa rather short-sighted and
downright cynical.

Au contraire, I would like to draw your attention to the just concluded
KCPE examinations in Kenya, they were marked and results announced in
record time - this proved that the use of OMR technology on a countrywide
scale works. OMR technology has been used successfully in the Philippines
elections (In 2015 a code review by De La Salle University refuted claims
that the Chinese planned to sabotage the elections -
http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2015/09/08/Comelec-source-code-review-PCOS-OMR-public-school-teachers-pay-hike.html
).

So, if we have our computer scientists focus more on building start-ups
that can grow into the "Smartmatics" of Africa and less on blaming a
failing political system, then we might have a more objective outlook to
solve most of the underlying issues.

On Sat, Dec 10, 2016 at 3:53 PM, Thomas Delrue <thomas at epistulae.net> wrote:

> 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
> ones?)
>
> > 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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