Would open source make elections fair?

Would open source make elections fair?

Summary: Whether the source of a program is open or closed does not make it transparent. Transparency is what we need here. A transparent computerized voting system would offer voters' receipts, would maintain copies, and would read them against vote totals.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Diebold voting machineI'm voting tomorrow, and hope you will too.

I will line up and use a Diebold voting machine, like everyone else in Georgia, and hope that the vote count is accurate. But that's all it will be, a hope. As last week's HBO special revealed the machines and (more important) the system is both closed-source and easy to hack.

With the present Diebold system, you can't prove an election was stolen. You also can't prove one wasn't, which is very, very dangerous.

But would open source be any better?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the answer is no.

Whether the source of a program is open or closed does not make it transparent. Transparency is what we need here. A transparent computerized voting system would offer voters' receipts, would maintain copies, and would read them against vote totals. Its operation could be checked by both sides.

We have a system that works in this way, the credit card transaction system, and it's almost all closed source. But it is also well-documented. It's audited. And everyone involved has an incentive to protect its accuracy.

The irony is that mechanical systems work fine. Over 30 years ago, in high school, I used such a system to cast my first vote. Four huge, clunky behemoths were wheeled into a hallway. Pressing a lever in the front activated a counter in the back, a simple clicker. At the end of the vote the backs were opened, and the results tabulated.

No one complained. Even though I won.

[poll id=10]

Topic: Open Source

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41 comments
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  • Unintentional duplication, I presume.

    There's a paragraph that appears to be making its point by repetition.
    Anton Philidor
    • You presume correctly

      I edited it. Thanks. I thought I checked the file right after posting it, but apparently not.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • You DON'T want receipts

    Voting receipts is an idiotic idea and it only invites more corruption.

    Our votes are supposed to be [b]secret[/b] for a reason - so that votes cannot be bought and people cannot be persecuted for their choice.

    No one should [b]ever[/b] be able to find out who you voted for, and [b]you[/b] should never be able to [b]prove[/b] who you voted for.

    If you offer people voting receipts then it suddenly becomes much more enticing to try and buy people's votes. With a secret ballot, someone can offer to pay you to vote for a certain candidate, and you can take the money, but the person bribing you can never find out if you actually voted for the "right" candidate.

    There are ways to make e-voting more secure that do not involve leaving a paper trail. Certainly there are problems right now with the current group of systems in use, but we need to get off the idiotic idea of giving people receipts.
    toadlife
    • The receipt goes in the machine

      And the voter's copy goes into a box, just like a paper ballot.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • A suspicion

        Give a voter a receipt to review, and the voter might claim his vote was not recorded correctly.

        From that moment the voter, the election officals, and the voting machine would enter a strange new land whose boundaries are those of imagination. And of rule-makers who will think they've thought of everything.

        So my suspicion is that the voting process is kept as simple as possible so that it remains simple.
        Anton Philidor
        • True, dat.

          You might think that simple paper ballots, a room full of proctors, and a manual count would be as foolproof as it gets. Yet even that simple system has been hacked in the past.

          The Iraqis did something right... that purple finger is a nearly sure-fire way of preventing double-voting. But just about everything else about every conceivable system boils down to a matter of trust at some point.

          (Even the credit card processing system. For instance, I can check my receipt against that specific purchase, but I have no guarantee that the vendor won't collect my card number and sell it to some ne'er-do-well for later use. I couldn't possibly prove it if he did. I simply trust that he won't.)
          dave.leigh@...
    • Eliminate the Secret Ballot

      Secret ballots have brought as much and probably more corruption to elections than "purchased" votes ever did. If you doubt it go back and read how in 2004 one county in Washington state counted and recounted their ballots until they got the govenor that they wanted.

      In the end they counted more ballots than they had names of voters who had voted, but since there was no way of determining which vote was cast by whom their "recount" stood and one county effectively elected the govenor for the whole state.

      The secret ballot, substituted ballot box stuffing for vote buying. At least in the case of vote buying a significant number of people knew the election was tainted. In the case of ballot stuffing most of the time there is only suspicion. A district with historically low turnout suddenly has 90+ percent turnout and votes 80/20 for one canididate. Why? Was this candidate more special than any candidate that had ever asked for their vote before or did someone stuff the ballot box knowing that turnout was historically low in that district and no one would be able to prove the votes weren't legitimate?

      Eliminate the secret ballot, be a man and vote proudly for candidates that you support, instead of hiding behind a curtain like a little boy and voting knowing no one will ever be able to prove who you voted for.

      Bjorn A Freeman
      bjornafreeman@...
      • No. Wrong.

        The secret ballot makes it possible to not be forced by someone to vote a certain way.
        Techboy_z
    • You are right.

      Someone can pay off a thug to force your vote. For example, "You don't bring me a receipt with Jim Johnson on it, and I take care of you." The "receipts" should be kept by the machines, for recounts and audits, which should happen automatically on some percentage of randomly chosen machines, in addition to all of them for close results. And the machines should definitely be open source so that the code can be vetted by *anyone* who wants to. That is the only way to have open and trustworthy governance.
      Techboy_z
      • Their last pay off!

        /Someone can pay off a thug to force your vote. For example, "You don't bring me a receipt with Jim Johnson on it, and I take care of you/
        Last words from the idiot that would ever try to force a vote on me! When he returned the "receipt" he would get would be from the end of the 357 magnum pointed at him. Another great gift provided by article 2 of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America!
        msdead
        • Nice idea, but...

          You probably can't carry that .357 into the polling place...and he may be waiting for you outside. Although I certainly agree with your support of the 2nd Amendment, I don't think that solves this issue. It may not be a direct physical threat...maybe blackmail is being used on you...whatever. The point is that a certain receipt could be demanded or bought/sold, etc.
          Techboy_z
          • True

            After the election I saw where one town had 120% voter turn out. Hmmm.
            msdead
    • Vote Flippin' Happens

      You review your reciept and call for a spoiled ballot if it is wrong...before you drop it in the box...no one can get it to bribe you.
      wmlundine
      • Interesting idea

        If this has been discussed I've missed it. I guess the notion is for a machine that displays how it thinks you've voted on a ballot-graphic, which you then have to approve before it's registered. Imagine that a "receipt" is printed out for you, displaying your chronological vote number and machine number, not your name. Later, if you want, you can show the receipt and request to see how the ballot was in fact recorded... And for situations where large numbers of machines mysteriously lose all records of their electronic ballots, as happened last cycle in Illinois and Florida and Washington State, individuals could return to re-enter their votes for particular machines based on their receipts. It's not perfect but it's a start...
        kentfx_z
  • It can't hurt, can it?

    I thought the idea behind making voting machines run on open source was that anyone could inspect the code so we could all feel that it was fairly written to provide truthful results. Also so that random machines could be pulled after an election and the code they were running compared to the code that they were supposed to be running.

    Just adds another level of transparency, as opposed to the Diebold machines where they would rather pull them than let anyone see the code they're running.
    tic swayback
  • Diebold's CEO already said that they...

    ... were going to "give the election to the republicans". He said this at a fund raiser. He said this in public. He said this because he knows that there is *no* audit trail on his little black-box voting machines so no-one can ever *prove* his criminal actions, and that therefore he can get away with it.

    I wouldn't trust Diebold to count my baby's diapers after that speech.

    It's not a "Repub" or "Dem" issue, it's an honesty issue ... because there are both good and bad people on both sides of the political divide.

    Open Source or Closed Source software isn't the question, it is verifiability and transparency of process that guarantee voting accuracy.

    Just my $0.02 USD.

    Regards,
    Jon
    JonathonDoe
    • And Diebold lets nobody,

      not even the government, see the code.
      PCcritic
    • Are you serious?

      The CEO of Diebold made that statement? Was it picked up by any news organizations? I don't recall seeing anything about this in the mainstream. My little bit of news, unfortunately, comes from MSNBC and the major networks.
      I can't believe this statement would not have set off a firestorm and that Diebold would have lost all credibility and disallowed in any state?
      Where was the fundraiser, date/time, for which candidate?
      April May
      • Yes, he's serious

        And, in fact, you could have found the quote yourself in the amount of time it took you to write that post. It took me about two minutes on Google: http://money.cnn.com/2004/08/30/technology/election_diebold/

        That's from CNN, but it was covered elsewhere as well; I remember hearing it on the radio. Corporate media treated it the same way they treat all stories they'd rather not deal with: report it once and then never refer to it again.
        the_doge
        • But like anything in politics

          it'a all in the context...
          John Zern