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EVoting

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Welcome to the EVoting mini wiki at Scratchpad!

You can use the box below to create new pages for this mini-wiki. Make sure you type [[Category:EVoting]] on the page before you save it to make it part of the EVoting wiki (preload can be enabled to automate this task, by clicking this link and saving that page. Afterwards, you may need to purge this page, if you still see this message).

Our Mission

Our mission is to inform current and future voters of the possible implications associated with using electronic voting machines as the sole means of casting a vote in any election because of possible fraud and technical gliches.

Introduction

Our political world can be confusing at times. In an attempt to find a faster and more efficient way of voting we have turned to electronic voting. In 2002 the HAVA act came along. The Help Americans to Vote Act madates electronic voting machines to be used. States vary in terms of machines used. For example, Pennsylvania can not use a machine that leaves a paper trail while others states may. In our wiki we will take a look at the different aspects of electronic voting.

What is eVoting?

Generally speaking, eVoting refers to both the electronic means of casting a vote and the electronic means of tabulating votes. For a presidential election, you would go to your local polling facility during polling hours. There a local election official or volunteer would verify that you are a registered voter and you would vote. Once the polls close, an election official would gather the ballots and transport them to a centralized tabulation site. Here, officials would count the votes and then report the results.

History of eVoting

Online voting can be described as the definition, collection and dissemination of people's opinions, with the help of computer-like machinery. The systems reflect those of general communication systems, voting being one of many functions.

The concept of electronic voting debuted in 1955 when Erich Froom described a situation "where members of groups at distributed face-to-face meetings would communicate with the help of technical devices." These devices would be used to summarize the opinions of the group. This concept came to be known as computer conferencing.

In 1970, computer conferencing was used by a panel at Delphi. That same year, Hazel Henderson wrote about "new ways of improving commuication channels to inform the voter, and machinery to channel his or her participation."

In 1971, R. Buckminster Fuller discussed the same concept in a "theoretical, ideally democratic world." These visions were just the beginning.

Delphi's system allowed uses to:

  • view all new discussion items entered by users
  • vote on any or all discussion items
  • view all types of voting results

In 1972, Delphi's system was generalized and further developed into a computer conferencing system called EMISARI (Emergency Management Information and Reference Index). This system used a human coordinator and was much simpler. Among early applications were regional policy making and service planning. EMISARI paved the way for the EIES (Electronic Information Exchange System) which was used from 1975 through the 1990s.

In October, 2000, ICANN used this technology in a world-wide election. A month later, three counties in California and Arizona were given the opportunity to cast ballots in the Presidnetial Election. In the 2006 Congressional Election, nearly all counties in the United States cast their ballots electronically.

Technology

The electronic voting system use a type of computer coding that is referred to as black box coding. This is like starting up your car by turning the key, but you do not know the internal operation of how everything works. The computer code can not be examined by experts to identify any internal errors that might occur. Security is always a big question when it comes to computers. Physical security of the voting machine deals with the hacker gaining access to the computer, and attaching software to alter the performance of the machine. Many machines had the same DES encryption key hard coded into their software for authentication. A better way to accomplish this task is to allow an external observer to examine the contents of the memory and independently compute the authentication code.

Pros of eVoting

  • Increased Usage Nationwide in each federal election.
  • Capable of Preventing residual votes.
  • Accessible to Disabled, Illiterate, and non-English speakers.
  • Saves cost of paper ballots.
  • Faster Results.

Cons of eVoting

  • Gives too much control over public elections to private manufacturers.
  • Vulnerable to hackers and tampering.
  • Does not allow for audits or recounts.
  • Does not allow for voters to verify their votes were recorded correctly.
  • Some find it hard to use the technology.
  • Some poll workers can not properly set up voting machines.

Prior Incidents

  • Evoting machines caused a loss of 18,000 votes during the November 7th elections in Florida's 13th Congressional District. The losing candidiate, Christine Jennings, lost the race by 369 votes. She was denied the right to inspect the ES&S voting machines by Judge William Gray because it would compromise the trade secrets of ES&S. The results in this race may have been different if the voting machines were working properly.
  • In a separate incident, a professor at Princeton University conducted a study with a couple colleagues demonstrating how such machines can fail. In this study software was used to change votes without actually having any evidence of foul play. This supports tampering being a con of electronic voting machines.
  • Another faulty incident concerning electronic voting machines took place in Montgomery County, Maryland. Since November 2004, electronic voting machines have been on "lockdown" in the state of Maryland. This is because during a recent election 12% of the machines in this area malfuntioned and lost a large number of votes. These systematic problems were so serious that Diebold (electronic voting machine producer) and SBE (State Board of Elections) were unable to pinpoint what happened to these votes and are having trouble determining how to prevent something like this is future elections.
  • On Oct. 28, 2006, only 10 days before the Congressional Election, WorldNetDaily published an article that reported that the federal government was investigating whether "anti-American Veneguelan President Hugo Chavez may control the company that operates electronic voting machines in 17 states." This company, Smartmatic, owner of Sequoia Voting Systems, is secretly controlled by the Castroite revolutionary leader of Venezuela. The investigators said they are concerned because under the right circumstanes, eVoting machines could be tampered with and deliver fradulent results.
  • As a registered voter in Butler County’s Franklin Twp. I noticed several voters leaving the voting parlor with out submitting their vote. They went through all the steps of deciding who they wanted as their elected officials, but they did not complete the final step. The next voters who went to use the electronic voting machine could have changed the vote, but they notified the people in charge and they submitted the vote.

Ethical Concerns associated with eVoting

As with any new technology,ethical concerns are raised. As far as the concerns relating to electroninc voting there are many. For one, there is a question of who should be handling and operating theses machines? Mistakes can be made that can cost an election. Are poll workers being trained to use this equipment?

A second concern is the security of these machines. Are there people on hand to keep an eye that there is no foul play going on? Not only once the machines have arrived for duty but the credibility of the sources from which the machines come from. It is important to have the most reliable sources for voting purposes and these are just a couple ethical concerns surrounding electronic voting machines.

Expert Opinions

Experts in the area of electronic voting have a variety of opinons concerning this topic, however, there is one thing that they all agree on. They agree that these machines have the potential to make election process easier but right now they are vulenrable and in need of tighter security. According to The Brennan Center Task Force on Voting System Security the United States is "vulenrable to software attacks that could ruin elections." Experts have come to the conclusion that risks involving e-voting machines come from poor design and software, weak protective measures, and insufficient testing and evaluation before machines are released into the market. In order to correct these problems the following guidelines have been suggested; producing a physical (paper) record to verifiy that a vote have been accurately cast (This also allows voters to make sure their vote was cast for the correct delegate and can be stored in case there needs to be a recount.), making records permanment, and making sure voters understand the machines they are using. Barbara Simmions, former President of the Association for Computing Machinery is quoted as saying, "It is crucial that any computerized voting system provide a voter-verified audit trail that can be checked for accuracy by the voter when the vote is cast, and cannot be altered after the vote is cast." Despite all of the current issues concerning electronic voting, with more understanding and knowledge this is something that will someday be very beneficial to everyone.

References

Assoication for Computing Machinery - Advancing Computing as a Science and Profession (2007, April 5).ACM Recommends Integrity, Security, Usability in E-voting. <http://www.acm.org/usacm/weblog/index.php?p=73>.

Citizens for Election Integretity (2007,Feb 27). <http://www.ceimn.org/audits_drdill>.

Computer World Security (2007, March 1). Expert Calls for Increased E-voting Security. <http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.>.

Songini,Mark.(2007,January 8) Losing Candidate Appeals Florida E-Voting Decision. Computer World Magazine, 111,p8.

Strickland, Jonathan and Bosner, Kevin. "How EVoting Works." How Stuff Works. 10 April 2007. <http://www.howstuffworks.com/e-voting.htm>

The American Street (2007, April 5). E-Voting in the News!. <http://www/reachm.com/amstreet/archives/2006/06/28/evoting-in-the-news/>.

"The History of Electronic Voting." Cybervote. 3 April 2007. <http://www.eucybervote.org/Reports/KUL-WP2-D4V1-v1.0-01.htm>

U.S. voting-machine shocker: Does Hugo Chavez own 'em?. WorldNetDaily. 28 Oct. 2006. 3 April 2007. <http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=52668>

Voting Machines ProCon.org(2007,April 3). 10-Minute Summary of the Electronic Voting Machines Debate. <http://www.votingmachinesprocon.org/summary.htm>.

Widdicombe, Lizzie. (2007, January 22) E-Vote. New Yorker, Vol.8 Issue 46, p30-31.

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