Vote for Red Hat!

by on September 15, 2006 · 16 comments

Luis Villa urges Red Hat to join the voting machine industry. He suggests that the open source model would be a good fit for voting machine development:

  • Security- As Ed Felten demonstrated spectacularly yesterday, the current generation of electronic voting machines are painfully insecure. Go watch the video. Open souce security auditing can do much better than that. (Diebold’s defense, by the way, is that Felten should have asked them for more information. That would not be a problem in an open source context.)

  • Cost- Governments are fairly price sensitive, especially in low-profile areas like voting. Open source is traditionally very cost competitive, and in this particular case, the closed-source systems have to license components like WinCE, so they are definitely at a disadvantage.
  • Pre-existing community- Corporate-sponsored open source work does best when it works in hand with existing bodies of volunteers and expertise. Such groups already exist in open source voting; open voting consortium is the first hit on google but I believe there are others as well.
  • Political motivation: one of the most tried and true ways to motivate open source contributors is to give them a bad guy. Voting fraud is replete with bad guys on all sides; if a project got enough backing (i.e., RH) to make it look like it might get actually used in an actual election, people would come out of the woodwork to audit and patch it.
  • And he points out that Red Hat is one of the few open source companies with a track record of building complex, mission-critical hardware-software systems.

    I find this argument pretty compelling. I still think the best solution would be not to use computerized voting machines at all, but if we must have them, it’s hard to beat open source for security, transparency, and affordability.

    • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

      Tim: I think you’re discounting how corruptible the current system is, and focusing only on what the current generation of e-voting machines do or don’t do, security-wise. Well done e-voting (particularly including the printing of a reliable paper trail) could be much more reliable than the current mishmash of paper technologies, which as any resident of Florida, Ohio, or Chicago will tell you is deeply insecure already.

    • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

      Tim: I think you’re discounting how corruptible the current system is, and focusing only on what the current generation of e-voting machines do or don’t do, security-wise. Well done e-voting (particularly including the printing of a reliable paper trail) could be much more reliable than the current mishmash of paper technologies, which as any resident of Florida, Ohio, or Chicago will tell you is deeply insecure already.

    • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

      I still think the best solution would be not to use computerized voting machines at all, but if we must have them, it’s hard to beat open source for security, transparency, and affordability.

      I totally agree with Tim, and I find that Luis’s arguments, even if they were entirely true, do not address the root problem of evoting, which to me is this:

      Even suppose that all technical, security, lack of reliability problems could go away (and they won’t but let’s just suppose this for the sake of argument)

      You are still left with the lack of transparency, that is a recount can only be made by those specially skilled in computer science. It becomes, essentially, a priesthood that is telling the rest of society: “Trust us, we’ll be fair.” Gone are the independent observers from each party, who through their presence during each step of the vote, ensure that fraud, although not completely eliminated, is kept within certain bounds, so that even in the case of Florida in 2000, which was I believe stolen, it was a close election that was stolen.

      In 2008 we have a case in which those who lose feel that the election wasn’t even close, and I think we all should take a look at the situation in Mexico to see what our world could look like when both sides feel they won (yes, it could happen here in USA)

      I would also strongly suggest that those interested in election fraud take a hard look at Greg Palast’s excellent book Armed Madhouse, or his website, Armed Madhouse.

    • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

      I still think the best solution would be not to use computerized voting machines at all, but if we must have them, it’s hard to beat open source for security, transparency, and affordability.

      I totally agree with Tim, and I find that Luis’s arguments, even if they were entirely true, do not address the root problem of evoting, which to me is this:

      Even suppose that all technical, security, lack of reliability problems could go away (and they won’t but let’s just suppose this for the sake of argument)

      You are still left with the lack of transparency, that is a recount can only be made by those specially skilled in computer science. It becomes, essentially, a priesthood that is telling the rest of society: “Trust us, we’ll be fair.” Gone are the independent observers from each party, who through their presence during each step of the vote, ensure that fraud, although not completely eliminated, is kept within certain bounds, so that even in the case of Florida in 2000, which was I believe stolen, it was a close election that was stolen.

      In 2008 we have a case in which those who lose feel that the election wasn’t even close, and I think we all should take a look at the situation in Mexico to see what our world could look like when both sides feel they won (yes, it could happen here in USA)

      I would also strongly suggest that those interested in election fraud take a hard look at Greg Palast’s excellent book Armed Madhouse, or his website, Armed Madhouse.

    • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

      Enigma: go read Felten’s repeated writings on this subject. As he mentioned virtually every time he writes about e-voting, if every e-vote machine has an associated printer, which allows voters to validate their vote, you *can* do recounts the old-fashioned way. It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is reliable.

    • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

      Enigma: go read Felten’s repeated writings on this subject. As he mentioned virtually every time he writes about e-voting, if every e-vote machine has an associated printer, which allows voters to validate their vote, you *can* do recounts the old-fashioned way. It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is reliable.

    • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

      Luis, if the official ballot is the paper printout, what’s the point of the voting machine? Wouldn’t it be easier just to have the voters put their votes on paper in the first place and save the expense of the computer?

    • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

      Enigma: go read Felten’s repeated writings on this subject. As he mentioned virtually every time he writes about e-voting, if every e-vote machine has an associated printer, which allows voters to validate their vote, you *can* do recounts the old-fashioned way. It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is reliable.

      I have read nearly everything Ed Felten has written on the subject.

      My point would then be, as Tim noted above and as Ed had also noted, there is very little point to having the electronic system, if the system is essentially a printer.

      In Greg Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse, he discusses this as well, and comes down in favor of a ballot that would be marked on paper, verified as correctly filled out at the polling station (if it doesn’t register, the voter gets a new ballot after discarding the one that didn’t register) This seems the best solution to me.

      Electronic voting is a huge accident waiting to happen. I would suggest, Luis, that you read some of Paul Virilio’s books.

    • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

      Luis, if the official ballot is the paper printout, what’s the point of the voting machine? Wouldn’t it be easier just to have the voters put their votes on paper in the first place and save the expense of the computer?

    • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

      Enigma: go read Felten’s repeated writings on this subject. As he mentioned virtually every time he writes about e-voting, if every e-vote machine has an associated printer, which allows voters to validate their vote, you *can* do recounts the old-fashioned way. It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is reliable.

      I have read nearly everything Ed Felten has written on the subject.

      My point would then be, as Tim noted above and as Ed had also noted, there is very little point to having the electronic system, if the system is essentially a printer.

      In Greg Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse, he discusses this as well, and comes down in favor of a ballot that would be marked on paper, verified as correctly filled out at the polling station (if it doesn’t register, the voter gets a new ballot after discarding the one that didn’t register) This seems the best solution to me.

      Electronic voting is a huge accident waiting to happen. I would suggest, Luis, that you read some of Paul Virilio’s books.

    • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

      Two databases (one on the computer, one on paper) are better than one (either paper or digital)- more difficult to attack and manipulate. Pretty much end of story there.

      Tangentially, I’m really shocked at how foolproof you guys seem to think that paper ballots are.

    • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

      Two databases (one on the computer, one on paper) are better than one (either paper or digital)- more difficult to attack and manipulate. Pretty much end of story there.

      Tangentially, I’m really shocked at how foolproof you guys seem to think that paper ballots are.

    • Steve R.

      I agree with Luis Villa.

      Also the Washington Post ran a voting story today.
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/16/AR2006091600885.html
      ———————————————

      “An overhaul in how states and localities record votes and administer elections since the Florida recount battle six years ago has created conditions that could trigger a repeat — this time on a national scale — of last week’s Election Day debacle in the Maryland suburbs, election experts said.

      In the Nov. 7 election, more than 80 percent of voters will use electronic voting machines, and a third of all precincts this year are using the technology for the first time. The changes are part of a national wave, prompted by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 and numerous revisions of state laws, that led to the replacement of outdated voting machines with computer-based electronic machines, along with centralized databases of registered voters and other steps to refine the administration of elections.”

    • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

      I agree with Luis Villa.

      Also the Washington Post ran a voting story today.
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ar
      ———————————————

      “An overhaul in how states and localities record votes and administer elections since the Florida recount battle six years ago has created conditions that could trigger a repeat — this time on a national scale — of last week’s Election Day debacle in the Maryland suburbs, election experts said.

      In the Nov. 7 election, more than 80 percent of voters will use electronic voting machines, and a third of all precincts this year are using the technology for the first time. The changes are part of a national wave, prompted by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 and numerous revisions of state laws, that led to the replacement of outdated voting machines with computer-based electronic machines, along with centralized databases of registered voters and other steps to refine the administration of elections.”

    • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

      Two databases (one on the computer, one on paper) are better than one (either paper or digital)- more difficult to attack and manipulate. Pretty much end of story there.

      Most definately not. Having two databases leaves open the possibility of two results, but an election can only have one winner. Again, this is a giant accident waitng to happen.

      Tangentially, I’m really shocked at how foolproof you guys seem to think that paper ballots are.

      No, we said nothing of the sort. I believe that paper ballots, using the verification scheme described above, are better than any evoting system yet developed. I am not saying, Luis, that paper voting is that good but that evoting is that bad.

    • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

      Two databases (one on the computer, one on paper) are better than one (either paper or digital)- more difficult to attack and manipulate. Pretty much end of story there.

      Most definately not. Having two databases leaves open the possibility of two results, but an election can only have one winner. Again, this is a giant accident waitng to happen.

      Tangentially, I’m really shocked at how foolproof you guys seem to think that paper ballots are.

      No, we said nothing of the sort. I believe that paper ballots, using the verification scheme described above, are better than any evoting system yet developed. I am not saying, Luis, that paper voting is that good but that evoting is that bad.

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