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Why Electronic Voting is not the same as ELECTRONIC ELECTIONS

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Voting in America

Electronic Voting in America has not resolved all the questions over election results as it should have done.  

The "hanging chad" issues of the Florida election in 2000 made it difficult to determine "voter intent." Electronic Voting has not made it any easier to determine voter intent either. In fact, it's quite the opposite, Electronic Voting removes the evidence of "voter intent."

The 2002 HAVA (Help America Vote Act) mandated and funded the purchase of Electronic Voting equipment -- DREs (Direct Recording Devices). However, introducing electronic devices of any sort can fundamentally alter the relationship between users, and change the ownership of the information. In this particular case it removed any means of Public oversight of elections in the absence of any physical record to inspect. The evidence was never particular good, but removing all evidence was particularly bad.

HAVA transferred the important role of citizen oversight of elections to Election Administrators and their suppliers. It changed the relationship between the citizen and the government. It privatized elections.

Elections are the moment when the current administration is being held to account. There is an obvious conflict of interest if the administration exclusively oversees the election process.  

The transition from manual or mechanical systems to an electronic system provides the opportunity to redefine the scope of the task. The method of data capture is not the only issue in an election system; ensuring the votes are subsequently counted is the major concern. Electronic Elections could have improved citizen oversight by showing how the results were derived.

Electronic Elections can achieve this goal whereas Electronic Voting on its own is a setback.

When electronic systems are introduced the whole basis of evidence is changed. Whereas mechanical and manual systems are a series of fragmented operations with their separate pieces of evidence, electronic systems can offer the opportunity to integrate the process and connect the evidence end to end, from voting to results.   Integration offers the opportunity to achieve new levels of integrity.

Normally, electronic equipment gives some form of information feedback to show that it is working correctly or as expected. Flick on the light switch and a bulb lights up. One knows there is a failure of some sort if it doesn't. Switching the light switch and seeing the bulb light complete the entire function. It is an end to end confirmation of the desired action. Seeing the switch move from one position to the other is no guarantee that the light goes on.   

The touch screen features of DREs (Direct Recording Equipment) give a superficial appearance of recording the vote correctly but there is no feedback to the user that the electronic information will be carried forward, or that it is in fact identical, or is ever used to produce the result. The DREs are an elaborate way to show the light switch being moved from one position to another but that is all. 

Electronic Voting, as implemented, lacks the necessary feedback to show that the vote was also counted correctly and that the result was based on similar treatment of all the other votes.

Publication of the result backed up by a list of the votes could provide the necessary high quality evidence as feedback. That would require a whole different concept of Electronic Voting. In fact, that would be an Electronic Election.

Only an end to end system can justify the result or expose the errors.

The current system does neither.

The key to achieving verifiable voting is preserving evidence of each vote's identity. Lest anyone is alarmed that this compromises the secret ballot, it is the vote's identity not the voter's identity which can be published. The voter needs some confidential token which allows the vote to be recognized by the owner of the vote but by no third party.

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Life-long dedication to inventing, creating, and applying new technologies to advance and extend the use of computer systems in the modern world. Accomplishments: IBM -- Key Systems Architect. Led development and building of first ATM (more...)
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Why Electronic Voting is not the same as ELECTRONIC ELECTIONS

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