Friday, September 14, 2007

Poisoning the Well on Electronic Voting

A "think tank" called the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is due to release a report on Tuesday, September 18, with the counterintuitive conclusion that a paper trail does not add to the security of electronic voting systems. They're holding a briefing, at which the following will explain their conclusion:

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)

Robert Atkinson, President of ITIF

Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst with ITIF

They've got a heavy burden of proof to lift, since it's apparent to anyone who thinks about this subject that an all-electronic system can never be trusted.

They also have to show that they were not funded, commissioned, or beholden to someone with a motivation for making electronic voting paperless. Rep. Ehlers fails that burden immediately, because as a sitting member of Congress his insight into secure electronic voting is suspect.

They may say a paper trail doesn't in itself add security, which only applies if the paper trail is done poorly.

With the long development and approval cycle of election systems, there is a gaping hole in any all-electronic system: fault exploits are developed quickly, while the systems have great inertia. An unfixable design flaw may be widely known on election day, and yet the vulneralble system will be deployed because that's how the government works.

I'll have more when they release the report.


Daniel Castro said...

I hope you have had a chance to review our report that we released at ITIF on electronic voting. It is publicly available at -

I hope that you will find that the kind of universally verifiable or "end-to-end verifiable" voting technology we advocate for in this report would be much more secure and reliable than anything that we currently use in our elections. Our goal is simply to raise awareness of these issues, and move the discussion past "for or against paper trails" to "how do we really secure our elections"? Since this technology is available today, we want Congress to support bills that will get us there, not pass bills that would prevent us from using these better voting systems. (And we are all for audit trails -- we just don't think you should mandate that it be paper audit trails.)

Loren Heal said...

I read, and posted, on the report.

I agree in principle that mandating "paper" audit trails is suboptimal, but tangible audit trails are essential, and paper is as good a choice as we have. It's ubiquitous, universally understood, and most importantly, the default technology to verify the media is our own eyes.