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BevHarris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-04 11:37 AM
Original message
BBV: If you agree with this, let me know
Edited on Thu Jun-10-04 12:28 PM by BevHarris
If we do NOT do this, watch for the next step: Privatization of poll workers. The latest theme is that we can't get enough poll workers -- but what we need to do is stop penalizing people financially for helping at the polls. We need to make working at the polls a legitimate reason to take a day off, with pay.

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I'm seeking as many groups as possible to give input and sign onto the tag line for this, which will go out in its final form to newspaper editorial pages across the country next week. We are having success in getting them to print our editorials.
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Editorial draft

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Voting on machines: It all boils down to this: Election procedures are not computer security issues -- they are transparency issues, and we must insist on policies that keep the people involved in "We, the people." Citizens must be allowed to participate in their own voting system.

- We have stripped poll workers of their power, by not allowing them to help count the vote.

- We have stripped poll watchers of their power, by not allowing them to observe the counting of the vote.

- We have stripped election judges of their power, by not allowing them to participate in the counting of the vote, or even observe the counting of the vote.

- We have stripped the central count room of its security, by not allowing citizens to observe it, forcing us to put full trust in the handful of county employees and vendor technicians with access.

- We have stripped our county supervisors of their power, by making them reliant on vendor technicians, who are often temporary workers whose names are never provided to citizens.

- We are stripping elections of their checks and balances, by putting audits into the hands of just a few people and eliminating some audit measures altogether. Touch screen machines have eliminated physical ballots; Diebold has now produced card encoders designed to eliminate the physical poll book, which gives a human-verified record of how many people signed in to vote. Do we really want invisible ballots, invisible poll books, and invisible central tallies?

- Even paper ballots (when there are any) have been stripped of a certain level of integrity, because they are no longer counted immediately, and usually are not counted at all. Instead they are put into a central location for storage, a room which is not observable by the citizenry. Counting paper ballots (when it takes place at all), is now done later, giving the ballots -- which have at that point traveled in cars, been toted around in boxes, and secreted in unobservable rooms -- less integrity than paper ballots counted immediately at the polling place.

Citizens should be allowed to participate in counting and observing the counts. We, the People, will be more interested in voting if we are allowed to participate in the process.

County supervisors lament that it is hard to find enough people to help on election days. And is it any wonder? What fun is it to sit there for 14 hours, with a computer that doesn't always work, with minimal instruction, with the "help line" to the county tied up, when you can't even count the votes at the end of the day? It will help get people involved if we restore the poll workers' right to count votes, and citizens' rights to observe the counting.

Consider getting citizen initiatives on the ballot for this: We can vastly increase the number of citizens who get involved in elections, if we require employers to give poll workers and election judges the day off, with pay. Make the day a national holiday to encourage everyone to vote, and make it a paid day off for anyone who can show that they worked in the election.

By the way, technology has its place. We should consider an inexpensive idea: Add webcams and a live Internet feed so that citizens everywhere can watch the counting of the vote. To protect voter privacy, cameras would be activated when the polling place closes. Webcams can transmit all phases of absentee ballot counting and the central count room, 24 hours a day.

When computer scientists start focusing on ways to use technology to increase citizen participation and bring full transparency to the process, instead of advocating complicated encryption schemes and finding new ways to tinker with the black box, we'll know we're getting somewhere.

We'll restore trust in our elections procedures more quickly if we identify the problem accurately: It is citizen participation and transparency, not technological security, that best defines democracy.

=============================

By the way, Black Box Voting is now a nonpartisan nonprofit, focusing in the immediate future on continuing an investigation into kickbacks and the money trail behind the procurement of electronic voting machines and, beginning in August and continuing for five months, mobilizing two thousand citizen auditors for the primaries and then the Nov. election. We'll be "coming out of the box" with announcements on those actions shortly.

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And also:

Citizen audits (email Bevharrismail@aol.com with "volunteer" in subject") for the citizen auditing. Examples of why we need to audit the core numbers --

Teller Colorado: More votes than adults in that county
Prairie County Arkansas More votes than voters (40% turnout not bad for a primary; this county had 117%)
Alabama: 300 votes showed up after the fact. The excuse: They were stuck in the modem (you heard me).

Black Box Voting's citizen auditing will compare core audit numbers and catch the machines in the act of miscounting. You can do this under your own group's name. We are coordinating with many other groups on this. We are also catching counties in the act of preventing citizen auditing.

Our immediate focus is on August and September primaries. Black Box Voting will be mobilizing over 2,000 volunteers to compare numbers and catch discrepancies. These results will be sent in immediately to the Black Box hotline, and we will push for immediate action to safeguard November elections based on proven miscounts in the primaries. The whole concept is rapid response and massive, coordinated citizen action. It's not too late to make a difference.


Bev Harris

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SharonAnn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-04 11:44 AM
Response to Original message
1. One thing I've wondered about poll workers is why does a
worker have to work the entire 12-14 hour day? Why can't they work 1/2 day?

Retired people are often available to work during election day but such a long work shift is really hard on some of them.

We don't expect a cashier to work those hours at a grocery store and we've still figured out how to close out a shift, validate the cash on hand, validate the register total, and turn over the shift to another cashier.

We could use those same principles in the poll worker scenario. count the voter register, count the number of votes on the machines, mark where the shift change occurred, and then continue with the voting.

I just never have understood this.
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BevHarris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-04 11:47 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. I totally agree. They say they have to because they can't get them
But there are simple procedures to get more people working the polls.

Think about this: Have everybody work a 6-hour shift. Make it a paid day off if people work the polls and/or help as official vote counters. That passes the burden, in a light way, to employers. Also, possibly, make it a national holiday, but not necessarily a paid day off, to encourage people to vote.

I think if the above was implemented, we'd have more people than we could even use!

There is the distinct possibility that if we don't get ourselves involved using natural incentives, that the thing will get privatized.
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BevHarris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-04 12:02 PM
Response to Original message
3. Just had an election judge sign on to citizen audits AND
just had two groups sign on. Keep this kicked, with comments.

Also got a snarky email from a computer programmer.

Bev
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BevHarris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-10-04 12:18 PM
Response to Original message
4. And here's why we need ballots not trails -- and PEOPLE counting
http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-5227789.html

High hopes for unscrambling the vote

CNET News.com

PISCATAWAY, N.J.--Computer scientists gathered here recently and bobbed their heads into an odd-looking contraption for a glimpse of emerging technology that might just help make the digital world safer for democracy. Beneath the viridian green glow of a viewfinder flowed an inch-wide strip of paper that inventor David Chaum says will prove with mathematical rigor whether a vote cast on a computer in a ballot box has been tampered with after the fact ... The technology builds on the increasingly popular notion that computerized voting machines need to leave behind a paper trail to safeguard against fraud--something that's lacking in most current models and the subject of furious debate.

Chaum has raised the concept to an entirely new level, according to electronic-voting experts, by including breakthrough cryptographic techniques that will provide instant feedback on irregularities while ensuring voter anonymity. While still a clunky prototype, the system could represent the next evolutionary step in improving the security and reliability of the voting process, some believe.

"The math is fine," said Ron Rivest, a professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the co-creator of the popular RSA encryption algorithm. "I view this as the early days of the practical applications...The paradigm is a new and interesting one. I'm optimistic."

... The leading contenders so far, independently created by Chaum and mathematician Andrew Neff (NOTE: This guy is VoteHere) represent two variants of a voting technology that uses encrypted printed receipts to solve many of the problems that have bedeviled existing hardware. These prototypes work in the lab. But one obstacle may be whether notoriously conservative voting officials can be convinced to try something new.

...Chaum's insight was to invoke the logic of cryptography ... For cryptographers, the inherent beauty of such a system is that it safeguards privacy and security--and doesn't require voters to trust the government or untested software on a voting machine. "The next real issue is, 'When can I buy it?'" said Chaum, who created a company called Votegrity to develop and sell the hardware. "That's why we have to aggressively push forward with the company at this stage to make it an option." He is looking for investors and a CEO to bring his system to market.

"It's an important step forward," Moti Young, a professor of computer science at Columbia University, said of Chaum's design. "I don't see any bugs. It's technically very sound."

Poorvi Vora, an assistant professor of computer science at George Washington University, is also enthusiastic. Vora and her graduate students wrote their own software, based on Chaum's two-strip concept, and demonstrated it at the Rutgers conference. Instead of using a custom viewfinder, they printed on transparencies that can be laid on top of each other on an overhead projector.

But not everyone in the e-voting community is so enthusiastic about the Chaum and Neff systems. Rebecca Mercuri, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on electronic vote tabulation, said she remains skeptical.

"I can read the math," Mercuri said. "I am holding the bar very very high...I will continue to serve as a skeptic. I have not been convinced yet. It does not exist in the form where people can use it yet."

VoteHere's take on encryption
Chaum isn't the only contender seeking to bring encryption to the voting verification process. A similar cryptographic system was invented by Neff, who holds a doctorate in theoretical mathematics from Princeton University and is now the chief scientist at VoteHere in Bellevue, Wash. Neff's invention also draws from mathematics but does not require a viewfinder that combines two receipts into a human-readable ballot.

Instead, VoteHere's patented system prints personalized, encrypted receipts for each voter. A vote for president could be represented as "DGA1," and governor as "3QLK." After the election, voters can confirm that their vote was counted by checking the county Web site to make sure the encrypted sequence corresponds to what's posted. Or, if they choose, they can hand their receipt to a trusted organization like the League of Women Voters and ask them to do the verification.

"It's conceptually easy," Neff said during an interview at the conference sponsored by Rutgers University's theoretical computer science center. "But it has to be plugged into the process that (voting machine) vendors use."

Concocting arcane mathematical formulae is almost trivial, compared with the arduous process of convincing vendors and state election officials to adopt verifiable, encrypted systems. Neither group is known as an aggressive early adopter of new technologies.

... So far, Neff's VoteHere company has inked a deal with Sequoia Voting Systems to license its encrypted receipt technology, though it's nonexclusive. Unlike Chaum's system that requires a special viewfinder, any electronic voting machine equipped with a printer can produce the receipts. State election officials aren't exactly biting, but Neff says "it looks very realistic that we can do a pilot in California or Maryland for the November election."

..."We've addressed 80 percent of the threats and 100 percent of the really bad threats," Neff said. "We can't (seem to) get beyond that remaining 20 percent."

But skeptic Mercuri argued that even that number is optimistic. "I don't agree you've addressed 80 percent of the threats," she said. "It depends on your threat model."
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