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Linux Business Australia Red Hat Software

Linux Takes Over E-Voting In Australian State 117

Posted by kdawson
from the you-call-that-a-distro dept.
daria42 writes "The Electoral Commission in the Australian state of Victoria has made plans to expand its use of electronic voting kiosks based on Linux in the next state election in November of this year. But it appears to be a little confused: the documentation states it will be using the '2.6 kernel/Gentoo release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.' Huh?"
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Linux Takes Over E-Voting In Australian State

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  • Open, or not ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:31AM (#31424450) Homepage Journal
    If the rest of the software, i.e. the actual voting system, is not open source, the move is for the worse.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:32AM (#31424454)

    I have never seen a computer of any kind in a place where we vote. The process is obsessively manual and works very well.

    This is what surprised me. I was involved in the last election giving out the ballots and counting at the end. There were only 3 of us at our booth and we were paid something like $200 for the day. The process went very smoothly and everyone knew what to do. I think introducing computers here will be more expensive and cause more problems than it is worth.

    Hah, as a nerd I never thought I would say something like that.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:49AM (#31424524) Homepage Journal

    From the article:

    The state first started using the machines in a limited trial during the last state election in 2006. It appears as if the machines were used for voting for the vision-impaired, as well as for military personnel.

    Yeah, I'm in Victoria too and I've never seen an electronic voting machine. Maybe next election...

    A woman I work with works for the AEC on election day. Its pretty interesting how they run the polling places. All the votes you see on the night are counted by the same people who run the polling place, right after they close up.

  • Get off my lawn! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ajv (4061) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @07:07AM (#31424576) Homepage

    Converting to Linux for voting machines is a big shift from the VEC of old. Color me impressed.

    I remember many years ago (1998-1999) working at the VEC. I was a system admin in my first security consultant job.

    DEC/Microsoft was helping the VEC create a Microsoft-only COM+ based voting system called EMS 2000. Previously, it had taken 3+ months to organize an election, despite laws allowing the Premier to call an election within a month at any time. So they had to be prepared a long way out, which was costly. EMS 2000 was essentially a way to roll out an election within three weeks. I believe it was used in at least a few elections. I wouldn't be surprised if EMS 2000 has been maintained and is still in use - it was a lot of $$$$$$ to spend on a project.

    EMS 2000 used every single part of the Microsoft stack. One thing I remember was how slowly Outlook 98 opened when it had 4000 tasks. EMS 2000 created Outlook tasks using COM+ custom queuing components over very slow modem and ISDN lines to all parts of the state. Surprisingly, this was still better than the previous system, which was primarily a manual system.

    It was a full MS stack with basically every single possible MS product at the time (NT, COM+, Exchange, SQL, queuing components using pre-release NT 5.0 / Win2K, and lots of custom VB code), it hung together well and ran fairly reliably considering the shaky comms at the time.

  • by jgreco (1542031) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @08:43AM (#31424918)

    Yes, after all, desktop deployments are not really the sort of thing you trumpet about with press releases, etc. Who knows how many large-scale Linux desktop deployments there are.

    I'm more curious about what's running on top of Linux, though. Any free software OS (Linux, FreeBSD, etc.) is going to be great simply because it'll save the taxpayers licensing fees. However, as we've discovered here in the US, it is usually the voting software itself that is problematic.

    The Linux thing is nice, but it'd be more meaningful to me to say "We've deployed new e-voting machines. They're Linux based devices running verifiable voting software, which we gave sample units of to each of our top tech schools, and none of them were successfully subverted." Or something line that.

  • by jgreco (1542031) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @09:25AM (#31425120)

    If there was a secure way to make that happen, I'd agree. However, how do you determine who is trustworthy enough to supervise the process? Do they supervise the entire process (empty box -> add votes -> count votes -> report votes) or just a part of it? If you have two, three, four political parties, do you have observers from each party? What happens when votes from a precinct just "disappear" on the way to whereever they're counted (or stored)? How many people need to be subverted in order to corrupt the vote?

    The potential for electronic voting is that there are clever ways to avoid lots of problems. Lost votes? Submit them in realtime over the network, and keep an electronic copy and paper copy at the precinct for security. With copies held in more than one place, loss becomes much more difficult. Verifiability? There's been a lot of work done on that as well, but a bit more complex than I can summarize in a sentence. There are also lots of new possibilities for fraud; anyone reading Slashdot knows that, but these can (and should) be addressed.

    I wish that "e-voting" meant "working towards a technologically superior method for ensuring the integrity of a vote", but it mostly seems to mean "a way to replace the behemoth mechanical voting machines with 10 columns of 40 levers each" that some of us grew up with. To that end, I don't really care if the platform is XP or Linux, most deployed electronic voting systems are probably just about as corruptible - maybe just in different ways.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @10:03AM (#31425542)

    The Australian state of Victoria is home to some of the worst IT-related projects in the history of IT.

    Victoria Police Business Information Technology Services: fraud, kickbacks, blowouts, leaks... the list is long

    myki: most expensive ticketing system in the world, years behind schedule, too complex, doesn't work... the list is also long

    And now they want to fail spectacularly - again - with the introduction of e-voting?

    I've got a special slot reserved in my "top IT project disasters" list for any e-voting system that has anything to do with the state of Victoria.

  • Re:Get off my lawn! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @10:05AM (#31425566)

    Switzerland ... has a manual voting system, holds elections at very short notice and announces the complete result usually within 5 hours of the polls closing

    Why do we need electronic voting again?

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