Friday, September 12, 2008

Making e-voting count

The US has had a number of voting dramas over the last ten years, probably none so well documented as that of the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential election that saw George Bush Jnr win.

As a result of the paper ballet issues uncovered by this and other elections, the US has introduced e-voting systems, but from a report in Infoworld, could have open the door to larger and more dangerous threats to the democratic process.

The article, Let's impeach e-voting, considers a recent software patching issue with e-voting machines and how simple it would be for proprietary paperless anonymous voting systems to be deliberately manipulated to provide a result.

This isn't a theoretical possibility - there have been several cases where US e-voting systems have resulted in statistically curious results and at least two elections where the outcome was changed by the application of a software patch.

As the systems in use do not retain a physical copy of a vote, being entirely paperless, there is no effective way to validate that the machines are tallying votes appropriately. All that can be determined is whether the total votes submitted is correct.

This is an election disaster waiting to happen - or perhaps it already has, how could we tell.

I hope that when Australia seriously considers electronic voting we look into systems providing some kind of guarantee that the outcome bears a striking resemblance to the votes of citizens.

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