Voters beware

Coming soon to a municipality near you = e-voting. We had seen an item in one of the papers a while ago about a proposal to use electronic voting in Windsor and meant to comment on it but had different priorities at the time. However, we are reminded of this issue because of a recent post by gypsyblog

New Brunswick will be the first province to use electronic vote tabulation in the upcoming municipal elections. Paper ballots will be scanned through a machine after you vote and so the counting is all electronic.

Gypsy links to this article which explains that the machines they plan to use there are not electronic voting machines but instead are tabulators.

Quinn said the machines being used in New Brunswick are different from the ones that led to a challenge of results in Florida during the 2000 presidential election in the United States.

“These are not voting machines,” he said. “You still mark a paper ballot and slip that paper ballot into the ballot box. … The difference is that it goes through a scanner-tabulator before it goes into the ballot box.”

Quinn said the accuracy of the machines should reduce or eliminate any challenges of the results.

The difficulties that Mr. Quinn, NB’s chief electoral officer, refers to are the allegations of vote tampering which have been bruited about in the US where e-voting has been used. Such as indicated by this testimony and which is also demonstrated in this video with a Diebold machine.

Mr. Quinn has implied that because the machines NB will be using are only “tabulators” it avoids these vulnerabilities or suspicions of hacking. We don’t think so. The tabulators will have a paper trail which the result could be checked against but wouldn’t this mean recounting and checking all the paper votes later? We doubt this will be done.

Hacking has become a fine art and available to many. You can hack a vending machine or a cel phone. You can unlock your car using a cel phone ( great when you lock your keys in your car and your spouse has the other set miles Kms away). Don’t tell us someone couldn’t tamper with these tabulating machines. Mr Quinn indicates that the cost of these machines would be revenue neutral but we think the cost for security for the machines before and between elections, and the cost of recounting the paper trail to ensure honesty, hasn’t occurred to him. We think this would be necessary and would add substantially to the cost of using them. Even then you have to trust everyone who handles them, including the company that makes them.

Gypsy is right to be creeped out by the machine maker’s market pitch:

I‘m quite sure there’s nothing sinister about this plan, but I just couldn’t help getting a decidedly evil vibe from the website blurbs of the company that is providing the voting machines: I quote: …

Are you headed for a recount, or will your first count count?

What an election should be

Dominion Democracy™ is our comprehensive yet flexible voting suite, designed to uphold the principles and ideals of the electoral process.

The company that HRM and Stewiacke have signed up with for 2008 is intelivote and offers internet and telephone voting. Where’s the paper trail there?

We noted the “flexibility” part of their promo which included this bit.

Flexible

  • Supports incorporation of existing voter’s lists or creation of new lists
  • Ability to use client provided PINs, system generated PINs, or a combination of both
  • Self-enumeration capability
  • PIN weighting feature which allows PINs to carry additional vote weight

Their demo wasn’t reassuring. Heaven help us if this becomes the norm here.

Later: speaking of hacking…

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