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Georgia says switching back to all-paper voting is logistically impossible (arstechnica.com)
48 points by okket 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

In the next 60 days, for the November 2018 election. And yes, that sounds somewhat defensible.

The decision process that got them here, however, is wholly indefensible.

A society that can't prepare an election with analog ballots -- be it ballots or pebbles -- is a democracy in distress.

I disagree. Getting some pieces of paper, pens and people to count them does not require 60 days. We don't need fancy technology to hold elections. People have been able to hold elections successfully for thousands of years.

Georgia's election administrators are simply wrong.

Printing more ballots is utterly feasible. The artwork is already prepared for absentee ballots. If the current vendor can't or won't, there are plenty of other printers who will happily take Georgia money and get the job done.

There are plenty of new ballot scanners. My own jurisdiction uses high speed document scanners and matching software.

There are two real logistic issues.

Poll site-based tabulators vs central count. The gold standard is paper ballots cast at poll sites and tabulated when the polls close. But election integrity activists would likely prefer paper ballots tabulated downtown (just like postal ballots) over continued use of the touchscreens.

Georgia has a lot of work to recover institutional knowledge for handling paper ballots. Procedures, training, and so forth.

Fortunately, all but 4 other states have returned to paper ballots. Georgia can just ask Alabama or North Carolina for their play books.

> Georgia can just ask Alabama or North Carolina for their play books.

Not sure about the rest, but this seems naive. I'm guessing other states' procedures will require extensive modification to be applicable in Georgia's particular context. That alone would, realistically, take up the time to the next election.

For the election after that, of course, they have absolutely no excuse.

Maybe so, but should be able to borrow their ballot tabulating machines if that's the issue.

They're probably using them.

Yeah, but not unreasonable for Georgia to have a one day delay.

Who are the manufacturers making COTS high speed document scanners?

Every vendor now has a high speed solution. You can call your election administrators (likely the Auditor) and ask what they're using.


My jurisdiction now uses ClearVote tabulation software, which works with Fujitsu and lbml scanners.




Fujitsu will even rent their machines to you.

Voting must not only be fair, but also able to be seen to be fair. Without a BSc.

> ...modifying the voting process would be too expensive, too unwieldy, and, in the end, not worth it.

Wow. Government saying that securing a functioning democracy is “not worth it”. Those people need to be voted out of office stante pede.

See but you're just putting words in their mouth. Saying that paper ballots are required for a functioning democracy seems like kind of silly.

chance of compromised digital ballots * cost of harm < cost of switching + chance of compromised paper ballots * cost of harm

Are you really faulting government for being rational and pragmatic?

Within the mother lode, Lamb found on the center's website a database containing registration records for the state's 6.7 million voters; multiple PDFs with instructions and passwords for election workers to sign in to a central server on Election Day; and software files for the state's ExpressPoll pollbooks—electronic devices used by pollworkers to verify that a voter is registered before allowing them to cast a ballot. There also appeared to be databases for the so-called GEMS servers. These Global Election Management Systems are used to prepare paper and electronic ballots, tabulate votes, and produce summaries of vote totals.

The files were supposed to be behind a password-protected firewall, but the center had misconfigured its server so they were accessible to anyone, according to Lamb. "You could just go to the root of where they were hosting all the files and just download everything without logging in," Lamb says.

Why is there a requirement for optical scanners? In other democratic countries, the counting of ballots is still a manual process (e.g. UK https://theconversation.com/explainer-how-britain-counts-its... or Germany https://www.dw.com/en/german-election-volunteers-organize-th... ), which, while labour intensive, seems to work. Are there particular reasons why it couldn't work in Georgia?

Its logistically impossible because they wont be able to rig the outcome as easily if there was a paper trail.

I mean these people are supposed to be the guardians of our votes and democracy and they're sounding corrupt.

Who watches the watchmen?

> Who watches the watchmen?

Elected officials, who are elected by the process that the 'guardians' are guarding/implementing. Why would they want to change a system that they succeeded in? It's an unbreakable circle.

It's an unbreakable circle.

Surely there are referendums before pitchforks to change the election process? A single voting that needs to succeed.

This comment adds zero information to the discussion. Not hacker news standard, I think.

> Plus, even if the Peach State somehow could get enough paper ballots, it doesn't have enough optical scanners to read them.

I think they are mistaken. Georgia has approximately 20 million optical scanners capable of reading ballots (population of 10.5 million, each averaging a bit less than two working eyeballs).

Great! Have everyone scan their own ballot and enter the results into the spreadsheet for tallying -- crap we just invented digital voting.

What if voting machines left a paper trail that was audited by the voter before submitting digitally and each precinct asynchronously counted their paper ballots and corrected their digital number after the fact if there's a discrepancy?

Or just collect a group of people to count the ballots as has been done for hundreds of years. Third-world countries that have suffered massive destruction in wars manage to conduct elections just fine without the use of any advanced technology. I'm pretty sure Georgia could manage just fine if they cared to do so.

ilaksh 40 days ago [flagged]

To me going back to paper is not the answer to more fairness or security. Maybe having a paper or other physical representation also would be a good measure though. But to me this is largely about a distrust of technology as much as anything.

As usual I am ready to accept your hate, downvotes and lectures about how ignorant I am.

The gold standard for the USA is the Australian Ballot. Private voting, public counting.

What makes it work is the one-way hash of dropping your ballot into the ballot box.

There is no non-paper system that can match that quality for our form of elections.

Anyone who wants to improve election integrity, paper or otherwise, would advocate for simplification. The two biggest wins would be: Switching from winner-takes-all to approval voting would make our elections less brittle. Issuing separate ballots for federal, state, local would simplify ballot processing.

> There is no non-paper system that can match that quality for our form of elections.

Let me take a stab at one:

Each precinct has a number of voting machines on a local network. Voting machines print a paper receipt viewable by the voter. When the polls close the precinct has an instant count for a preliminary report that can be verified after the fact by a scanner/humans.

It's good to think these things thru. Nicely done.

There are two holes with respect to our current system of voting.

#1 It's not immediately obvious, but the order which voters sign-in is preserved, as is the order the ballots are cast. So it's trivial to identify each voter's ballot.

One variant of this idea is some kind of ballot marking device. Mark or print the ballot, tabulate it separately. This can have value for accessibility reasons. But doesn't add anything to the current processes.

#2 Your idea is generally known as the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). Research and experience has shown that voters mostly do not review their ballots before casting.

Further, there's no reason to believe what you cast is what was recorded. In fact, one of the times I observed a random "audit" of the VVPAT, when administrators encountered a problem (cheap thermal printer shredded the output), they just put the memory card in a new device and reprinted the VVPAT. So the only thing being verified was that the printer worked.

A variant of the VVPAT is to give voters some kind of receipt. Then later they could verify that their vote was cast and counted correctly. But just having a receipt allows someone to verify how you voted, destroying the secret ballot.

There are proposals for using some kind of crypto to obfuscate the actual votes, but still allow one to see their votes were counted. Suspending disbelief for a second, the reason these systems don't work for our elections is because of information leakage. All the crypto based systems rely on some kind of hash collision, to hide your ballot in the herd of ballots. Unfortunately, with our small precincts and complicated ballots, collisions are rare. So even after hashing your ballot would be uniquely identifiable. To make such systems feasible, we'd have to increase the herd (bigger precincts), or simplify the ballots (perhaps splitting federal, state, local races on to their own ballots).

It's about distrust of a particular technology in a particular country, that has been thoroughly validated through experience.

Is it possible to make electronic voting work safely and securely in principle? Yeah.

Would I trust anyone in US to do it today, considering various interest groups, political limitations etc? No.

It's not a distrust of technology, it's a distrust of for-profit companies, insisting on using proprietary software, and refusing 3rd party, let alone public, auditing. And that these companies fight against laws that try to bring scrutiny to these products.

It's definitely distrust of technology, and it's 100% justified in this case. IMO the computer industry is simply not ready to provide the level of security needed for elections. The factors you mention make it ten times worse, but it was bad enough already.

It is not distrust of technology to know that hacking happens, and that placing this into the targets of hackers is asking for trouble. For this I prefer non-networked technology, or at its simplest--Paper.

I think you're right, that it's not an answer to more fairness or security; but it is one way that will improve confidence among the people you rightly portray as being distrustful of technology. We want them to participate in this process and feel like they can trust it.



To be fair, paper ballots also have their problems, Kennedy likely won the election because of ballot stuffing. However, I think it weird that we oppose electronic voting because of security concerns but similarly aligned groups oppose voter ID. If we cared about election integrity, we’d have a 100% photo ID requirement with facial recognition along with using election ink on a finger, along with tamperproor paper ballots. But I don’t think these groups actually care about election integrity — they simply seek to delegitimize election results for candidates and parties they don’t like. If their guy won, there wouldn’t be any challenge. Donna Curling (and her husband,) the lead plaintiff, has given over $48,000 to Democrat candidates, including contributing the maximum to David Scott — a congressman who, despite running unopposed in 2016, spent almost $1,000,000 in campaign funds on fancy DC restaurants and other nonsense — especially ridiculous since he ran unopposed. He literally just had to sit in a chair doing nothing and he would have won his election. But he managed to spend more money than many candidates in contested races. He may not have broken the law, but any reasonable person might have reason to believe that there is even more nonsense inside his tent.

And yes, this is relevant because Scott, throughout his career has engaged in highly questionable and potentially illegal campaign activities. Scott is also a member of the highly corrupt Congressional Black Caucus who has featured a veritable rogue’s gallery of unethical at best, illegal at worst members: Corrine Brown (federal prison for fraud,) Chaka Farrah (convicted of 23 charges of racketeering and fraud,) Eddie Bernice Johnson ethics violations,) Maxine Waters (multiple ethics violations due to involvement with OneBank,) Alcee Hastings (impeached as a judge,) Sheila Jackson-Lee (Medicare fraud,) Charlie Rangel (tax evasion,) Gwen Moore (ethical violations.)

David Scott also made the list of 25 most corrupt congressmen.

And the lead plaintiff is a major fundraiser for Scott.

If this Curling person actually cared about election integrity and ethics, then why would she significantly support one of the most corrupt congressmen in office?

David Scott, incidentally opposes voter ID laws and yet one of his biggest supporters is worried about election machine hacking? While I am not a fan of electronic voting, this entire case seems designed to deligitimize the election. People like to cite that voter fraud isn’t a real problem, yet election machine hacking also hasn’t been a proven problem either. So if voter ID is unnecessary because “fraud doesn’t happen,” then hacking an election machine seems even more unlikely — there hasn’t been a single proven case that a voting machine has been hacked but there has been multiple occasions of voter fraud. If we were trying to prevent election irregularities, then a paper ballot along with strict voter ID seems completely reasonable; but the Donna Curlings of the country don’t care about that. They care only that their guy wins.

"...yet election machine hacking also hasn’t been a proven problem either"

Fraud and errors are indistinguishable.

Voter Action proved in court that Kerry won New Mexico in 2004. Because the touchscreens didn't count spanish language ballots. As in none.

Fraud? Programming error?

Doesn't matter.

Voter ID disenfranchises the poor, otherwise I don't think anyone would have an issue with voter id requirements.

So make ID’s free, and then require voter ID :/ seems the solution is right there. I have a hard time imagining the US can’t bear the cost of printing a few hundred million ID’s.

It's not cost. The US has a long tradition of viewing required national identification documents as a violation of individual liberties.

But voter fraud disenfranchises everyone. Every single state has free ID programs. We have campaigns to help people get food stamps (which incidentally require ID,) but we can’t have similar programs to ensure everyone has ID? The idea that we can’t get ID for the poor is just ridiculous. Even illegal immigrants in California can get drivers licenses and they are far more marginalized than poor American citizens in terms of access to services.


> But voter fraud disenfranchises everyone.

What voter fraud are you referring to?

The type of voter fraud that IDs would counter is "in-person" voter fraud. The amount of in-person voter fraud in the United States is extraordinarily miniscule, effectively zero.

When states pass laws which intrude on liberties, they are generally required to justify those laws with "compelling interest". With near-zero in-person voter fraud there is no compelling interest on part of the state for voter ID programs.

In 2016 North Carolina had one documented example of in-person voter fraud out of 4.8 million voters. But the state still requires voter ID to counter "voter fraud". This is absurd on the face of it -- it's transparently obvious that North Carolina republicans (among others) are seeking voter ID as a mechanism for suppressing the vote among various disadvantaged groups.

If you can reliably ensure that every single citizen who is entitled to get an ID can do so with no impediments at all in all fifty states, every territory of the United States, and the District of Columbia, without cost or delay, then fine.

As it stands, no one can ensure that.

Getting a birth certificate, often a requirement for a "free ID," costs money, time, and administrative overhead. Sometimes it is virtually impossible for someone who was born in an "uncommon" way.

Showing up in person, almost always a requirement for a "free ID," costs money, time, and logistical overhead. There are several states who oh-so-conveniently place enrollment centers for these IDs juuuuust outside the convenient reach of population centers whose citizens are more-likely-than-not to vote in the way that the incumbent politicians would prefer. Or the state pleads austerity and closes so many facilities that the wait just to enter one to request an ID is many hours. Or the delay in manufacturing the ID reaches near-infinity around common voting deadlines.

And then you have the asinine lists of acceptable IDs. For several years, for example, Texas would not accept a student ID issued by a public college but would accept an expired law enforcement commission card issued by any city or county in the state. So someone may, inaccurately as it turns out, believe he or she has a "government-issued ID" when he or she actually doesn't have one that's acceptable for voting.

And then you get into all of the other myriad edge cases that should not disqualify someone from acting as a citizen. Married women who changed their names. Married men who changed their names (because a man changing his name is "suspect"). Children who were adopted but still have old paperwork.

Voter fraud is not a sufficiently large problem that it needs to be solved by throwing a 200-pound anvil of paperwork at preventing it. And it's not good enough to say that "most" people have a driver license or state ID or passport or something like that. Every citizen should be entitled to vote.

"...similarly aligned groups oppose voter ID"

Please stop spreading FUD.

All jurisdictions require some kind of ID to receive a ballot.

The issue is dramatically restricting the permitted forms of ID, thereby disenfranchising people.

If the government requires me to have a particular form of ID to vote, then it must provide that ID, for free. Otherwise it's a poll tax, which is unconstitutional.

> All jurisdictions require some kind of ID to receive a ballot.

That's false.

See http://canadavsamerica.com/voter-id-laws-canada-vs-america/

18 states do not ask for or require ID, including California, New York, and many other large states.

Where I vote in San Francisco, no ID was required. I was shocked, but they just asked for my address. You can register by filling out a form and they mail you a postcard. You sign the postcard and return it via the mail. All I needed was an address.

When I went to the polls, I told them my name and address and that's it. If I gave them someone else's name and address, I could have voted in their name. Then I could have gone to another precinct and voted in another name. There would be no possible way I would have been caught (as there are no cameras there, either).

Unless they tried to vote as well, no one would know. And even if the victim ended up voting later, I wouldn't have been caught as I didn't give any identifier, and since they didn't give an identifier either, and there were no cameras, there would be no way to resolve the issue as to who voted illegally.

Sorry, but I don't view this as a secure system.

You need ID to open a bank account, go to a hotel, rent an apartment, rent a car, get a credit card, pretty much anything at all, but no ID is needed to vote. And it's frankly patronizing to say that people are too poor to obtain ID.

Canada requires a federal ID or two forms of other IDs to vote.

France seems to be OK requiring IDs, with an exception for living in towns with less than 1000 people where everyone knows everyone else.

Germany requires an ID to register, and the polling official can ask you for ID at the polls.

Iceland and Israel require photo IDs.

Interestingly, the only major nations that don't require IDs are the UK, US, and Australia. In Australia, voting is mandatory, though.

Mexico requires an ID to vote, and they have plenty of poor people who are able to obtain IDs.

The Netherlands requires an ID to vote.

Norway requires an ID to vote.

Switzerland requires an ID (but you can also present your ceremonial sword -- WTF)

Belgium requires an ID to vote.

Italy requires an ID to vote. They have poor people there, too. So does Greece (lots of poor there) and Spain.

I don't see why people in the U.S. are so intransigent on this issue -- why are we not willing to learn from the lessons of other advanced nations that seem to be able to hold elections just fine with requiring IDs.

Another problem is standardization. We need standardized elections, with standardized vote counting equipment, processes, registration requirements, etc.

The U.S. is just a huge backwater in this area -- no real chain of custody, no standardization, and no IDs. It's literally a third world system in the U.S. where they might as well give each voter some ink thumbprint. Just a crazy, dysfunctional system where there is no secure binding from identity to registration, or from registration to ballot, or from the ballots in the ballot box to the ballots cast.

Anyways, as someone who comes from Europe where everyone needs an ID, I'm just baffled by how much people are opposing this here.

Voter ID requirements have been proven to disenfranchise poor and ethnic voters time and time again.


Other countries may have different outcomes. But in the US, this isn't up for debate. Factually, and unarguably, the result of requiring voter ID in the US is disenfranchisment.

They have not been "proven" to do that, and it's certainly up for debate. The very article you cite -- which is very far from a theorem or proof of anything at all -- points out that a very small percent of the population is without ID.

The U.S. is not special, and frankly your claim that this is not up for debate is indicative of a type of intransigence and refusal to both face facts and learn from the success of other nations in this area. So participate in the debate or it will go on without you.

Voter Id are laws are coming, and the debate is just getting louder -- it's time the U.S. joins the modern world and reforms the entire system from top to bottom, and including IDs is a basic building block of building a rational voting system that is based on standardization and chain of custody principles, starting with proof that the person who is voting has a right to do so.

"Where I vote in San Francisco, no ID was required. I was shocked, but they just asked for my address. You can register by filling out a form and they mail you a postcard. You sign the postcard and return it via the mail. All I needed was an address."


This is no different than postal balloting, which only requires a signature. (Do you also oppose postal balloting? I only ask because every time I've attended an election certification board meeting, there's dozens of irregularities with postal ballots. Which doesn't get any attention.)

You may not consider this sufficient. But myself and many others do. Because the rate of voter fraud is infinitesimal and the legacy of disenfranchisement is huge. As an engineer, you cannot consider the costs & benefits, or the risks & rewards, separately.

All those other nations provide a free national ID. Do you support that in the USA? I do.

Further, in the United States, voters must be registered to vote.


So maybe the semantics are throwing you off. The voter has already been identified. On election day, their identity is being confirmed.

"Another problem is standardization. We need standardized elections, with standardized vote counting equipment, processes, registration requirements, etc."


"The U.S. is just a huge backwater in this area -- no real chain of custody, no standardization, and no IDs."

And now you've lost me.

>This is no different than postal balloting, which only requires a signature

In principle I don't oppose postal balloting. As implemented, I don't support it, as I think it's not a secure voting system. It would be possible to make it into a secure protocol, though. I am a bit worried about it, frankly.

> All those other nations provide a free national ID. Do you support that in the USA?

Yes, of course. It's crazy we didn't have this 50 years ago.

> And now you've lost me.

We don't have a national id system, or a national voter registry. We don't use a national e-verify system for employment. We don't have national standards for elections. We don't have national standards for voter registration. In one place, there is same day registration, in another you need 60 days. One place uses paper ballots, another doesn't. The system is run by county clerks in backwater places rather than experts at the national level. We are piggy backing social security numbers as a form of authentication, when they are really identifiers and not secrets.

These were all standardized systems adopted in Europe a long time ago. We are completely disorganized in the most important things that are necessary to support the functioning of our democracy. We're even backwards when it comes to simple things like chip and pin.

FWIW, I oppose postal balloting, except where it improves enfranchisement (eg on demand for disabled, military, overseas). It has all the pitfalls of electronic voting and adds a few new ones. It lowers turnout. [1] It leads to ballot chasing, driving up the costs of campaigns, and alienating voters.

The Oregonians get fluffed up in defense. But everyone thinks their baby is beautiful.

[1] Mail ballots in Washington State now have prepaid postage, which appears to have boosted turnout 3%, restoring turnout to the pre-all mail voting levels. We'll see if that holds.


We have national standards. Enforcement is spotty. It sounds like what you want is national administration. At one time, most of us election integrity activists would have probably agreed with you, before the Voting Rights Act was gutted. If our elections could somehow be administered in a non-partisan way... But I just don't see it on the horizon.


Chain of custody for paper ballots and gear is the norm. But the best laws, regs, rules mean nothing without civic participation. Administrating and observing elections is a mountain of work. We just don't have enough people stepping up. And election administration nationwide is chronically, notoriously underfunded.


Despite the opposition to Real ID, we do have national identifiers. The NSA, Lexis/Nexus (nee Seisent), ChoicePoint, Google, Facebook, others have uniquely identified everyone living and dead, tracked in near real-time. But the US Federal government refuses to leverage, license, nationalize these demographic databases for anything other than terrorist watch lists.


For one, it'd completely moot the current debates around the census, voter registration databases, immigration, Social Security, etc.

You can't manage what you don't measure. And there are powerful interests who thwart all efforts to measure.

Well, I am a supporter of Federalism, but I think national level concerns do need to be managed at the national level. To me, basic identification of citizens and holding elections is a national concern.

By the way, I understand the fear that many on the left have for ID cards. I think it's out of date and overblown, but I get it. However, having elections be managed locally does far more to disenfranchise people. Imagine how much more enfranchised people would be with natiowide short term registration (same day if possible, otherwise say 24-48 hours notice), nationwide free ID, and the same standards for availability and access to poll booths. No more shuttering polls in minority areas, no more unwieldy registration requirements. It seems to me that such an overall package of election reforms should appeal to everyone concerned with the poor voting, and they should be able to concede the ID card issue. It's just a strange thing to fixate on, when the real obstacles to voting are not the ID, and when almost everyone else is able to handle having IDs just fine, and in fact IDs are required for the most trivial things nowadays.

I do think, there are privacy and civil liberty issues that need to be addressed, but as you point out, this stuff is happening now anyway, and I'd be much more comfortable with a standardized national ID and registration system that was democratically controlled than by what is happening now and the resulting chaos of our elections. I am not going to even bring up Florida and the hanging chad debacle.

Do any of these other countries have the local / state / federal government separation nightmare of the United States, or do they have the same voting standard applied unilaterally for all citizens regardless of location? If not, then they aren't apples to apples comparisons. The American system is 50 different legal bodies, which means 50 governors, 50 senates, N local governments, all doing their best to muck up the system to bend to their own political goals. It's designed to be complicated, which means there can't be an easy answer without re-wiring the entire system.

Many of these countries have a federal system -- the U.S. is not unique in this regard. In fact, switzerland makes our Federalism pale in comparison. Germany is more federalist. The U.S. is not unique in any way in having a federalist system.

Seriously, I need to keep saying this, but the U.S. is not special. We have no special insight about running elections that allows us to do it better than others. We do not have a monopoly on poor people. We don't have better healthcare, we don't have better police, we don't have better schools, or courts, we don't have better civic institutions more generally, and we certainly don't have better voting standards.

We should learn from the rest of the world and adopt best standards that work well across the OECD. Almost everyone in the OECD requires an ID to vote, and they have a better system, on average. We need to drop this irrational (and frankly, racist) notion that our citizens are unable to obtain IDs because they are too poor or dumb or too disorganized to get them.

I'm not sure you understood my point. I am actually in agreement with you that we should be looking to the rest of the world for a voting model that works, because I feel that ours is a failure. I am not advocating against voter-id laws in fact, I am quite for them, but I recognize that these laws in the United States are frequently designed as weapons to be used against members of other parties.

My point is that the rest of the world has exactly 1 legislative body governing elections. America has 51 (perhaps more, I'm not sure to which level of influence local governments can influence electoral processes, but they can certainly influence zoning of polling booths. American resistance to a federal identification card is quite unique, and silly.

I'm sorry. You are that standardization is a problem. You can have different political organizations oversee the voting process. I'm not saying do away with states. Yet you can have a standardized system.

If we built an interstate highway system and have standardization in rail and roads, we can do this for elections as well.

> My point is that the rest of the world has exactly 1 legislative body governing elections.

How do you come to that (wrong) conclusion, especially after the parent comment spelled out for you that other countries have similar federal systems?

"We need to drop this irrational (and frankly, racist) notion that our citizens are unable to obtain IDs because they are too poor or dumb or too disorganized to get them."

Here's a nice writeup about Spread The Vote, one of many orgs helping people get their voter IDs.


FWIW, the misc election administrators have been nudging things closer together. One of the benefits of HAVA. In my experience, the EAC has been reality-based.

People should be able to vote from home using their phone.

The technology to do this in an acceptable manner does not exist.

Sure it does, we're just making it more complicated for lofty ideals that don't really matter in practice given absentee voting exists and is popular. I think we have the technology for what is essentially a form submission app tied to a database.

People would understand that voting online wouldn't be anonymous but I'm willing to bet its a trade that many many people would be willing to make because it's already how absentee voting works.

You are prepared to make compromises which we know threaten democracy. Things like secret ballets are not a lofty ideal but a fundamental component of an election. Non secret ballets instantly compromise an election's integrity.

Please study some history on elections before making dangerous suggestions.

People should be able to vote from home using a mail-in paper ballot with an audit trail, like we do here in Washington state.

And if you replace a mail-in-paper ballot with a digital form-submitted ballot on a database with audit logs does anything really meaningful change about the interaction?

Given the lack of a track record of people in our industry to deliver reliable, secure software? Yes, and I'm amazed this is even a question.

Paper ballots have been used quite successfully for about a thousand years. It's not broken, so why fix it?

I disagree, merely because that sounds like a system ripe(r) for abuse.

On the contrary I think "we" know a great deal more about how to build secure authentication systems for individuals on phones than we know about how to build once off voting machine systems.

Pretty much all of the experts on this topic disagree with you. My understanding is that in order to have a good voting system you must be able to verify the result even if the software was compromised. It’s a VERY tricky requirement, and basically comes down to involving paper.

You don't know how to prevent coerced voting which is much easier to perform without centralized polling stations. Tech can't solve all social problems.

Absentee voting exists. 23 million people voted with a system susceptible to this 'problem' in 2016. I think we'll be fine.

It doesn't matter that experts know how to do it. Everybody can verify pen & paper ballot and virtually nobody can verify "secure authentication system".

We need everybody to trust election outcome.

Actually having read your comment I agree with you and have changed my mind about using phone. Voting should be paper based.

The thing that I think would be great about using your phone to vote is that more people would participate in the U.S., where voting is optional. Would make no difference here in Australia where voting is mandatory.

"We" have no idea how to build a secure electronic voting system to decide who the next government will be.

NB in an election of a government there is no central trust store. And everyone (including your grandad and thick cousin) need to understand the process and be able to verify it.

Don't assume the government would hire "us" to implement it. There's plenty of terrible security in mobile apps, just as there are examples of good security in mobile apps.

Ugh, another critical service on my easily-lost, easily-stolen, easily-broken, unintentional security token (er, I mean, smartphone)?

Several states have voting from home using mail, with paper ballots.

This is possible because you apply for the ballot first, and can do so in someone else's name. With vote-by-mail system, it doesn't work, because voters have their ballots mailed directly to them.

What if their phones are compromised and flip votes?

What if their mail-in-ballot was intercepted and changed?

We could have a contest, on say cable, and put the contestants couch candidates through a series of challenges involving intelligence, endurance, talent, and agility and a panel of judges to give them feedback.

Could not do worse than we do now.


Anyways instead of paper ballots, use silver tokens with as many boxes as there are candidates.

Then just weigh the boxes and don’t bother counting.

(A 1oz silver token would cost $30 to fake)

How would you prevent a corrupt voting offical giving silver-painted lead tokens to anyone wearing a Democrat hat?

How would you verify that the weighing machine isn't tampered with?

Paper voting is simple, anyone can check a box. it's easy to secure, you can have hundreds of people who all don't trust one another watching a ballot box all day. And it's easy to verify, those same hundreds of people can all count along when tallying.

Rich, poor, white, black, literate, illiterate, young, old. Everyone can participate and can validate with a basic paper system, and you'll never conveniently have broken machines or run out of tokens in some areas that predominantly vote one way or the other.

You might be interested in reading about the history of the Australian ballot[0] to get a sense of we vote the way with do ("we" being fairly loose in this case, as many places outside the US use the Australian ballot -- and some American don't).

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_ballot#United_States

It lacks reasonable audit capability. Paper ballots can be inspected and recounted; tampering and ballot stuffing can be observed. Tokens in a particular bin can't be audited in the same way.

And it may also lack anonymity--unlike the folded paper vote, you could be observed putting the token into a particular slot.

You should have more than a single threat in your threat model. In addition to counterfeit tokens you may want to take a look at theft of tokens either during or between elections.

“Logistically impossible” -> it’s more work than it’s worth to us.

Surely some kind of linked list with fancy crypto smarts could make this whole process less sucky?

This joke isn't bad enough to be funny.

Still better than your snark. But blockchain could probably work.

I don't understand. Who can add new blocks? How does this work?

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