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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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  • Is the software open source and based on verifiable voting, too?

    • Its a bit of a stupid article:

      One of the last stand-out Linux desktop deployments in Australia was that found at Kennards Hire.

      Can't be much going on at Kennards. Where I work we've got maybe 200 linux desktops and thousands of linux systems which run our product. Maybe I should tell this Delimiter thing about it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jgreco (1542031)

        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 mo

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by erroneus (253617)

      Are you seriously asking someone to RTFA for you and tell you what it says?

      Seriously, I think some people are seriously confused about Linux and programming. The problem with voting machines isn't whether they run Linux or Windows (though it is a problem of cost of the OS) it's whether or not the source code to the processes is open and available and the ability to verify that the binary running is in fact compiled from that same source. If this happened in a Windows based machine, there would be fewer co

      • by jibjibjib (889679) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @08:02AM (#31425000) Journal
        The problem is that very few people, if any, have the time and expertise to verify every part of an e-voting system, and it's impossible for a person to see exactly what a chip is doing in real time to make sure the production system is behaving the same way the source says it should.

        With paper-based voting, someone can look in the ballot box at the start of the day and see that it's empty. They can then watch each person put one ballot paper in, and they can watch them get taken out and counted. It is, and always will be, much more easily verifiable than any form of electronic voting.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jgreco (1542031)

          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

          • by deniable (76198)

            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?

            You count the votes in place. No transport. Boxes are supervised at all times. You have a committee with representatives of each candidate present. Anyone want to give me odds on a committee rigging an election? I doubt it would get past the first meeting. :)

        • by profplump (309017)

          It's not impossible to see what the computer is doing, and done correctly, electronic voting is both a superior input interface AND can provide faster counts AND can provide better audit trails. I agree this isn't what we see done with typical voting machines, but it's hardly impossible task you make it out to be.

          You could in make the computer output a human-readable receipt. That could be on paper, it could be emailed, it could be laser-cut into a hunk of steel -- the output mode doesn't really matter. And

      • by jgreco (1542031)

        No, I already *read* the article and I was commenting on what was *missing* from the article.

        Perhaps *you* should have read the article before making yourself look foolish. Had you actually read the article, then my comment, then you would have known that I, too, was essentially saying that the Linux thing is only one small part of the bigger picture.

        Oops.

  • A couple of things (Score:4, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:24AM (#31424402) Homepage Journal

    I live in Victoria and as far a I know there is only one electoral commission in Australia and that is the national one. Maybe the AEC [aec.gov.au] is trialing something in Victoria?

    Voting here has always been manual. You write a number in the box. I write it backwards. Gun nuts get the highest number, the greens get the lowest (which is 1), but I accept that other people go about it their own ways.

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

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:32AM (#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 houghi (78078)

        As a nerd you are interested in solutions. If you were interested in (only) computers you would be a fanboy, not a nerd.

    • by SJ2000 (1128057)

      I live in Victoria and as far a I know there is only one electoral commission in Australia and that is the national one

      http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/ [vic.gov.au]

      • Oh okay so we are talking about local elections. Last time I checked they were all done by post. I still have (unopened) voting slips addressed to:

        Brett A Needham

        Martin J Spratt (twice)

        Marlene J Valentine

        Catherine A Spratt

        Ian J Valentine

        Venessa Sayers
         
        ...at my former address in South Croydon. I imagine they were test data inside the former voting system. I am holding on to those letters, just in case.

        • by deniable (76198)

          Some of it depends on the state, WA local elections can be run by the WAEC [wa.gov.au] or they can be run by the council itself. It's usually a cost issue. Local councils can run them in different ways. Most are now postal elections. Turnout is pretty poor.

          As for odd letters, some political party programmer needs a course in logic. Just because my brother and sister live at the same address and share a last name, they are not Mr and Mrs.

          • by GigaplexNZ (1233886) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:29AM (#31424656)

            As for odd letters, some political party programmer needs a course in logic. Just because my brother and sister live at the same address and share a last name, they are not Mr and Mrs.

            Had you replaced WA with Tasmania, I would have disagreed with you right there.

            • by deniable (76198)
              I saw that one coming, but the informative mod is a little frightening.
            • by Cimexus (1355033)

              Haha ... you got an informative mod for this :D

            • How come this inflammatory, bigoted remark is modded as informative?
            • by Macfox (50100)

              Obviously the mods are from TAS and think it's normal. :-)

            • Years ago I tried to hitch hike up the east coast of Tas from Hobart to Devonport. I camped in Bicheno and looked for a lift to Launceston. Nothing. I was there for hours. This was in the days of the Franklin river controversy and people with back packs were unpopular.

              So I got out of Bicheno but I got stuck in the next town and I thought this is really bad when along came this old VW van. They stopped for me and I jumped in.

              Inside the van were six people with quite amazing facial deformities. They looked li

    • by deniable (76198)
      Well, you should know about the VEC. [vic.gov.au] The WAEC [wa.gov.au] site appears to be down right now. I'm sure other states have similar agencies.
    • 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...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        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.

    • I live in Victoria and as far a I know there is only one electoral commission in Australia and that is the national one.

      Article say in Victoria, not of.

    • by ajv (4061)

      Every state has its own Electoral Commission. ECs are a retirement grounds for out to pasture politicians who want / still need a salary - but not much work - and very hard working and independent minded public servants. I was fascinated by the process that creates new electoral boundaries and trust it a lot more now.

      The AEC and the state ECs compete to run the local council elections. Local councils run elections not for democracy (for which most don't care about), but instead as a method of making quite a

      • by bug1 (96678)

        There is precisely one correct answer to getting out of the fine, but don't use it too often as you won't be believed on your second or third attempt.

        Oh great, a riddler...

        FINE, ill ask, what is the word ?

      • by deniable (76198)

        The AEC and the state ECs compete to run the local council elections. Local councils run elections not for democracy (for which most don't care about), but instead as a method of making quite a lot money, as most folks don't bother to vote and thus get a fine.

        The AEC doesn't do local elections. Local government elections aren't compulsory. Anything else you need corrected?

    • You write a number in the box. I write it backwards. Gun nuts get the highest number, the greens get the lowest (which is 1)

      Oh, I get it. I was wondering why you wanted people to have to hold your ballot up to a mirror to find out what you wrote.

      The counting down technique is exactly how I do it too. I call it the "who do I hate the most" principle. And never vote above the line for the senate, always fill in every single box. It is the same principle as wanting to see the source code. If the parties don't publicise how your vote will count if you give them a tick above the line then they don't deserve the vote.

      Finally, I don't

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      Don't know about Victoria, but we've had a electronic voting option here in the ACT for both the last Federal election and the last Territory election. Having said that, most people still prefer the paper ballot because it's what they are used to, I suppose.

    • um. Did you try google? http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/ [vic.gov.au]
  • Mwahahaha! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ndogg (158021) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nrohr.eht]> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:27AM (#31424410) Homepage Journal

    Now we get to control the Oz elections, and install Linus Torvalds as dictator (benevolent, that is) for life!!!

    Mwahahahaha!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ndogg (158021)

      Oh, crap, I just got a message saying I wasn't actually supposed to leak that to world.

      Well, maybe we can install RMS as dictator.

      Now I'm giggling at the thought of a country run by RMS.

      "That's GNU/Australia to you!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oztiks (921504)

      static char shellcode[]=
      "\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90"
      "\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90\0x90PaulineHanson++"

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      I was more concerned that CowboyNeal would win in a landslide, due to it being the none-of-the-above option. Of course, this whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.

    • I misread the title as following

      Linus Takes Over E-Voting In Australian State

      That's should give Steve Ballmer something to think about.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Now we get to control the Oz elections, and install Linus Torvalds as dictator (benevolent, that is) for life!!! Mwahahahaha!!

      As an Australian I welcome our new OSS overload, as a sysadmin of some influence I may be useful in gathering developers to toil in his underground coding caves.

  • Pah (Score:5, Funny)

    by somersault (912633) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:28AM (#31424414) Homepage Journal

    2.6/Gentoo RHEL is nothing compared to my Damn Small Yellow Dog DebuntuSE with FutureKernel 6.4

  • I think... (Score:3, Funny)

    by AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:29AM (#31424426)
    that's an Ubuntu BSD release!
  • Open, or not ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vikingpower (768921)
    If the rest of the software, i.e. the actual voting system, is not open source, the move is for the worse.
  • Still wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @05:53AM (#31424532) Journal
    Linux doesn't make electronic voting a good idea though. How can we check the published program is the one running ? It is akin to use opaque voting boxes without showing they are empty first.

    Spread the word to fellow voters : if YOU can't understand how the vote is secured, refuse the voting system !
    • by mangu (126918)

      How can we check the published program is the one running ?

      How can we check paper votes are counted right? How can we check the ballot results are added correctly? Have you ever tried to track how your paper vote is counted?

      Any voting system is subject to fraud. It's only the way of committing the fraud that changes. Political parties and organizations who are concerned with elections must evolve with the times and develop new ways of checking election results in an electronic world.

      Those concerns about ele

      • Re:Still wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:28AM (#31424644)

        It's difficult to stuff a paper ballot box (which in most systems is never to be left unattended from when it's sealed to when the votes get counted) without it being fairly obvious.

        OTOH, there are plenty of places to hide an electronic vote stuffer on most electronic systems and it's a often a lot harder to verify that nobody's tampered with them.

      • Re:Still wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:29AM (#31424652)
        paper votes can all be pyshically accounted for, and counted by a machine and then checked by multiple hand counters. thats the problem with electronic votes. how do you KNOW the button you pressed turned into the vote you asked for and can't be tampered with after the fact? while i'm sure there may be a solution like taking a hash of the vote based on it's time and result and storing it seperately to the vote itself, then checking these later to confirm they match. i'm not sure the public will be very comfortable with this concept for some time.

        you can't track or verify your vote after you've cast it obviously - to suggest any voting system is flawed due to a lack of tracking flys in the face of the secret ballot and is for retards.

      • Re:Still wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:34AM (#31424672) Journal

        Have you ever tried to track how your paper vote is counted?

        Yes I did. I am not sure of the US system but here (France) any citizen is welcome to participate or oversee the public counting of ballots. We use transparent ballot boxes so you are free to stay in the voting office from the opening to the counting. There are always several people there including opponents.

        Any voting system is subject to fraud. It's only the way of committing the fraud that changes.

        It is also the scale. Electronic voting makes nation-wide fraud possible. Electronic voting gives a single point of failure for fraud : the machine manufacturer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mornedhel (961946)

          here (France) any citizen is welcome to participate or oversee the public counting of ballots. We use transparent ballot boxes so you are free to stay in the voting office from the opening to the counting. There are always several people there including opponents.

          I can attest to that. Every time I go to vote I'm asked if I would like to help with the counting, despite the fact that I don't vote for the usual majority in my arrondissement, and that the old guy asking me does. I usually can't help, though, because of other time constraints.

          I also personally know several people who regularly help with the counting. Some of them are involved in their local politics, and some of them aren't.

          So basically, every time we get the election results, I am highly confident tha

          • by c++0xFF (1758032)

            So basically, every time we get the election results, I am highly confident that they do in fact represent the wish of the majority of my fellow citizens. They usually elect the wrong guy.

            That's how I verify voting results too: if the wrong guy is voted in, I know that no significant tampering occurred.

            The day an intelligent, honest, moral politician (I know, oxymoron) wins an election is the day we need to rethink our voting system!

        • The old fashioned manual voting and manual or semi manual voting system have had many attempts at subverting them and all are now protected against

          You cannot swing an election (unless it is a very narrow margin) when a properly run manual count election is in place

          With electronic voting of any kind it is not as transparent as it could be and it is possible to influence the outcome

        • Any voting system is subject to fraud. It's only the way of committing the fraud that changes.

          It is also the scale. Electronic voting makes nation-wide fraud possible. Electronic voting gives a single point of failure for fraud : the machine manufacturer.

          Bingo!

          But it introduces not one but several single points of failure, of which the manufacturer is just the most obvious. In addition there are, at least:

          - The distribution channel for software updates (OS, voting app, ballot configuration entry, .

      • "How can we check paper votes are counted right? How can we check the ballot results are added correctly? Have you ever tried to track how your paper vote is counted?"

        Paper ballots are put on a table and representatives from all the political parties start sorting them into stacks. When they are all sorted the reps swap stacks with each other to check and throw out those which they think are incorrectly sorted or unreadable. Rinse and repeat until all reps have inspected all stacks. The discarded ballots
      • by shermozle (126249)

        How can we check the published program is the one running ?

        How can we check paper votes are counted right? How can we check the ballot results are added correctly? Have you ever tried to track how your paper vote is counted?

        In Australia, and I'm sure most other democracies, we have a position known as a "scrutineer", appointed by the candidates who are allowed appoint one per polling place. The scrutineer watches the voting process and watches the counting process after the polls close.

        I've been a scrutineer, so yes I have tracked the paper votes and how they are counted.

    • by geschild (43455)

      "if YOU can't understand how the vote is secured, refuse the voting system !"

      Now that's an acurate description of how best to look at it.

      Thing is, there's nothing inherently wrong with electronically supported counting of votes, as long as the votes themselves are each seperately available in physical form.

      Here in the Netherlands we've recently switched back wholesale to voting with a red pencil instead of voting computers precisely because it's the only way to have those votes available for a true recount. Funny thing is, right after the most recent election officials started compl

    • This is NOT a diebold type system which the AEC has repeatedly stated will not be introduced into Australia. It's the same system they used for blind people at the last election. The machine simply prints the ballot, if you're NOT blind you can check it, if you are blind you're truted companion can do that. The printed ballot still goes into a ballot box. The supposed purpose is to eliminate unreadable ballots and donkey votes, personally I think it's a waste of money but it's not a threat to democracy.
  • Get off my lawn! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ajv (4061) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @06:07AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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?

  • the documentation states it will be using the '2.6 kernel/Gentoo release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

    How tragic - another case of Mad Penguin Disease.

    Will nobody think of the children?

  • I wonder if they plan to pick GNU Free up , seeing as it's something that already, you know, exists. Otherwise I would suspect them to just use some proprietary program.
  • does it matter ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I have to be honest. In the end I don't care one bit about what operating system the voting machine is on. Not at all. What I do care about is that it works and works well. Prove that to me and I would be fine with it running on OS/2

  • S/he who controls the database, controls the outcome. E-voting should not be allowed for anything more important than vacuous tv talent shows - and even those outcomes are corrupt.
    • Actuallly the OS & voting program and databse does not matter that much. What is important is that there is a verifiable paper trail. The voter should be able to check what he voted (on a paper). A manual recount should be possible. And remember a vote should be secret (not to be traced back to who voted what). You cannot trust that the (open) source code of the program is the same that is actually running on the voting kiosk. (And i probably am forgetting some important specs here)
      Y
      A open source system

  • Anyone noticed how the australian icon and the redhat one look so close to each other?

    • hard to know which iconic australian hat you are thinking of, maybe the akubra that the prime minister loves to wear, proving his australianness? i'd be impressed if he wore a traditional hate with corks on string to the keep the flies away. none of them however are fedoras of redhat fame.
  • I don't know why everyone has such a problem with this - the act of voting, manually or electronically is rather simple and not an overly difficult task.

    Have a touch screen/keyboard overlay that displays the candidates and the computer records the order you tick the boxes.

    Then prints on paper in fixed locations to match the screen overlay numbers that represent the order a box was chosen (Look at a lottery quick pick, or a machine readable ticket) print a barcode at the bottom that encodes the time, date, l

    • by fremean (1189177)

      An alternative, have the whole lot done by a couple of programmable microcontroller - in this day and age there's no need to build a whole software system to do this.

      The week before polling a manufacturer can burn verified programs to microcontrollers, these can then be run through second and third parties to test the code burnt for verification, drop them into chip mounts inside the booths and again test by second and third partys - build the booths in such away as you need 3 keys to open it one share them

  • Good God...

    I see that Linus wasn't kidding when he was talking about world domination!

  • I would think that slashdotters would be largely against evoting simply because we have all seen how computers are routinely mauled by bad people. The stakes are way too high if bad people are the only ones who would hack themselves a win does this not almost make it certain that bad people will win. The only computerized voting I would accept would be one where the vote is taken by computer but then it prints a bit of paper that becomes the final say. This way you avoid hanging chads yet you give the voter
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 s

  • 2010 is the year of Linux e-voting.
  • Give a receipt to all voters with: voterID random-challenge hash(voterID, random-challenge, vote option) Then create a online list with all the population hashs ordered by vote option. Only who knows the random-challenge can check that the vote was indeed accouted for that "vote option". Should I start run to go patent this? :P
    • Any system that allows you to show your vote outside the voting-booth runs the risk of vote-buying. "I'll give anyone $20 each if they show me they voted for the FLM Party."

  • No surprise here. *NIX is deliberately confusing. Understanding the nuances of it are what seperates "us" from the hoi polloi.

    At least they weren't confused enough NOT to choose some version of FOSS.

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