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Debian GNU/Linux Used in Electronic Voting Trials 162

RoweM writes "The Australian Capital Terrority will use a Debian-based, GPL'd electronic voting system in elections this October. See this article, and the vendor's press release. Note, this is not Internet voting, but an electronic vote registration and counting system--you still have to go to the polling booth :)."
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Debian GNU/Linux Used in Electronic Voting Trials

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    GNU/Debian is by far one of the most stable of the Linux distribution. By using software that is often over a year out of date, they'll ensure that no cutting edge software will get in the way of their slow but menial tasks using the 2.2 Linux kernel.
  • And what if you can't go to vote on a Saturday, for example because you are an Observant Jew and its the Sabbath? (I assume there is a work around for this) or if you work on a Saturday?
  • Hopefully, it implements post office voting. That means, you can vote two weeks ahead of the real voting day just by stepping into a post office.
  • Actually, both examples you gave can be attributed to the Democrats. It was Gore's campaign that was distributing the cigarettes. (story from the station who caught them [themilwaukeechannel.com]). With Motor Voter, it's not any harder to register to vote than it is to get a drivers license. Even before that, it wasn't that difficult. Heck, depending on your ethnic background, there are groups that will seek you out and help you become a registered voter. Given the little time that it requires, I am surprised that anyone finds it to be a hard process.

  • It appears that your definition of art is whatever the "artist" thinks it is. By that reasoning, the guy who crapped his pants [goupstate.com] while waiting in line at the DMV, could claim it was an artistic performance. IMHO, this "art" is just a way to get attention by doing something as disgusting as possible and the people doing it probably belong in a mental institution.

    I'm also sure there are many people that would like to use your individual/municipality logic applied to zoning, regulations, taxes, etc.

  • only 44%? Huh? I thought it was much much much higher! Anyway, guess you are correct then ...

    Indeed, the resolution and refresh rate was bad, but that was mostly because they used some stupid dos program to do it. The userinterface was not bad: didn't have anything that shouldn't be there, and everybody could practise for weeks on it.
  • I don't quite get it: al you .AU and .US people are so wrapped up about the NEW idea of electronic voting? Here in Belgium, 90% of the people voted electronicly the last elections, and some villages (eg where I live) started with electronic voting some 8 years ago or so.

    Here, the system is as follows: you get your voting card by mail a few weeks before the election-day (as usual), you go with your voting-card and ID to the guy that sits there, you give him your voting-card and ID, and he gives you a card with a magnetic strip (in stead of the paper with all the candidates on). You go to the computer - running DOS, slide the card in, take the laserpen and click on your candidate. The magnetic cards comes out, you go back to the guy, put your card in a cardreader, take your ID and go home...

    The only problem we've had so far is with the laserpens: they aren't always accurate ...
  • by Malachite ( 8328 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:56AM (#64707) Homepage
    booth:~# apt-get install harrybrowne
    Reading Politician Lists... Done
    Building Dependency Tree... Done
    The following politicians will be REMOVED:
    georgewbush dickcheney
    The following NEW politiciams will be installed:
    harrybrowne artolivier
    0 politicians upgraded, 2 newly installed, 2 to remove and 538 not upgraded.
    Need to get 2/2 politicians. After unpacking 0 will be used.
    Do you want to continue? [Y/n]y
    Get:1 http://http.us.debian.org stable/libertarian harrybrowne 3.04-6.1 [520kB]
    Fetched 520kB in 4m26s (1953B/s)
    Get:2 http://http.us.debian.org stable/libertarian artolivier 2.43-5.2 [450kB]
    Fetched 450 kB in 3m52s (1985B/s)
    (Reading database ... 539 politicians currently installed.)
    Impeaching georgewbush ...
    Impeaching dickcheney ...
    Selecting previously deselected package harrybrowne.
    Unpacking harrybrowne (from .../harrybrowne_3.04-6.1_i386.deb) ...
    Selecting previously deselected package artolivier.
    Unpacking artolivier (from .../artolivier_2.53-5.2_i386.deb) ...
    (Reading database ... 538 politicians currently installed.)
    Inaugurating harrybrowne (3.04-6.1) ...
    Inaugurating artolivier (2.53-5.2) ...
  • by stevenj ( 9583 ) <stevenj.alum@mit@edu> on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:49AM (#64708) Homepage
    Before everyone celebrates, I should point out that the articles and press release give no firm indication that the actual voting software will be free software.

    There are lots of warm and fuzzy words about open source, but the only thing the article says explicitly will be GPL'ed is the OS ("platform"):

    The only platform that provided robustness and voter confidence was GNU Debian Linux, with all source code released under the General Public License (GPL).

    The press release refers to "ACT's Hare-Clark electoral system" and says only:

    The need for high voter confidence in the system is clear. In responding to the tender Software Improvements and its subcontractors were able to cite extensive experience in the field of high integrity software. The Software Improvements solution detailed an innovative approach to meeting the many expectations the community has of this type of system.

    Thanks as usual to Slashdot's editors for their insightful commentary.

  • Now, if you have a low-end job, your day begins before most of the polls open. If you work a 12-hour day, like most minimum-wage people do to have a chance at survival, you have no chance to get to the polls.
    Unless polling places are open more than 12 hours. Or your work hours are offset from when the polling places are open. Or you work the night shift. Or you get an absentee ballot. Or ...

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...
  • So now this article called it "GNU Debian Linux". I suppose RMS would consider that a improvement over just Debian Linux, but it has a certains Cats feel to it. All your vote belong to Debian.

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...
  • .. someone screams "it's been fixed!!"

    The only issue I have with electronic voting is that it seems like it would be just as susceptable to being rigged as lets say.. chads... While it could be more accurate, it depends on how the austrailians are about implementation.

    Implementation->If they do it right then they will be in good shape. If they do it like Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) then I think it would work. Bart uses linux in its system and I think Bart is pretty reliable, except for the occasionaly train failure. Bart is a metro transit system. Most of there issues are bad equipment or old equipment. (good implementation) (search google on bart) If they do it like Caltrans (California Transportation) and their implementation of the FastTrak then they are really screwed. FastTrak is a toll booth system that allows you to be auto billed instead of paying at the gate by an electronic reader. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. They only implemented it in a few lanes instead of all. (poor implementation).

    In any case I am not familiar with how the austrailians are in their impementation of ideas, but if it is anything like the olympics I think they will be in good shape.

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • for those dumies out there .. first hit http://www.bart.org/

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

    • That's an illegal and disgusting practice if I've ever heard one. Perhaps an anonymous tip to the FEC?
    • You could still vote absentee beforehand since you'll be occupied with something that would prevent you from voting at the correct time.
  • Yep. Look for the "raise_dead-0.91.4.deb" package. Make sure to use the "--political-affiliation=" option.

  • If you are poor, you can go to a library. If you are poor, you are MUCH less likely to have access to ANY form of local gov't, including information on the process for absentee ballots, most of which are never counted to begin with.

    And BTW, check out the census information on the percentage of low-income homes with computers.
  • That's right, I couldn't agree more. If you're handicapped and homebound, sick, or just can't afford time away from your hourly minimum wage job that supplements your foodstamps, you'll just have to trust those of us with the time/money/ability to take care of things for you.

    Serves you right for being poor/handicapped in the first place.

    (Damn, I could have sworn I left a /sarcasm tag around here somewhere!)

  • The suggestion of that is just a form of only elites could make the decision.

    Not everybody is resourceful enough to go voting. Say if Joe is so poor and he works in a 24-hours shop, with long shift that overlap the voting time, he doesn't have the chance at all. On the other hand, this is not much a problem for middle class workers.

    To put those people that can't afford to vote into the class that can't make informed decision is irresponsible. I think, if we can, we should reduce this voting cost as much as possible. And how uninformed decisions could affect the results, if it's really random? It affects the results when it's not random.

    The only concern that I have, for voting online, is the difficulty of cheating prevention. Voting in person and registration at the booth is an efficient way to detect where you're the person you are. But how do you check a vote's validity online as easy as checking your driver's license against their records by the officials?
  • And Bush can filter by race! If he can figure out regexp, that is...
  • As Micro$oft has told us, since Debian is GPL, Aussies will only be able to vote COMMUNIST!!!!
  • In Oregon, we have had low voter turnout in recent years simply because we've had this odd phenomenon of having major storms too dangerous to go out for anything not critical to survival in. We had a lot of really bad laws because the far right wing seems to to put voting over thier lives a bit and take advantage of low turnout. So, to even the playing field a bit, Oregon did one thing that no state had thought to do before: We abolished the voting booth. I can't remember if it's just a law or unconstitutional in Oregon, but the polling place is a thing of the past. All elections are by mail. You have no option to walk to a polling place.

    Vote Socialist [votesocialist.org] or quit whining!

  • No shit, open source products rip all their idea from the closed source, proprietary products.

    I'd have to disagree with that, in the same way I'd have to disagree if you said 'closed source products rip all their ideas from other closed source products'.

    Every products gets new ideas from competing products, Open Source is no different. Open Source software can (and does) have some features that proprietary software does not yet have. Notice the word 'yet'. Proprietary software will copy features that work as well.

  • Although I believe in Open Source, I don't think they make a valid point about its use.

    Both a proprietary and an Open Source system can be code audited by outside people, if the proprietary company allows it. I think that any government should make that a stipulation before using anybodies code.

    I prefer the Open Source solution, but if a proprietary solution comes along that performs the job better (and can be code audited) then use it. Better yet, wait two weeks and the Open Source product will have all of the same features!
  • Since voting in ACT elections is compulsory for residents anyway, this isn't terribly relevant.

    Well, sort of compulsory, anyway - the fine for failing to vote is not large.
  • I've looked at this. It's not really suitalbe for this application though.

    First, FREE is heavily geared towards internet voting - the only interesting parts of the implementation are involved in this. Here the voting is happening in ordinary polling places so the problems are quite different.

    Secondly, FREE pretty much assumes first-past-the-post non-preferential voting. That makes it useless for the ACT both in terms of the front end used interface (it has no facility for listing preferences) and in terms of the tally system (it doesn't implement the Hare-Clark counting algorithm).
  • Um, no.

    Voting is compulsory in Australia, but failing to vote won't land you in prison any more than a parking ticket would. There is a fairly nominal fine for failing to vote.
  • It's all open source, both the voting booth front end and the back end counting and data entry systems. See http://evacs.samba.org/ for *prototype* code.
  • If normal people can't count it, it's too complex and too easily corrupted. If only .01 of 1% of the people can count the ballots and assure the quality, they can easily create a conspiracy(like Bush's luck that his brother was gov. of Florida.)

    The original statement was misleading. With half an hour's work or so anyone can understand how to count votes using Hare-Clark. The paper counting process has always been observed by scrutineers from all parties who know how to apply the system. The idea of an open source electronic system is that party scrutineers can now check the code to ensure that it correctly applies the system. Understanding why it gives sensible results is a bit harder (for some of the edge cases) but still well within the reach of most people with a bit of thought and some worked examples.

  • And God Save us if Nader had won.
    He had -no- stance on any of the issues debated, etc, and was only on the Green ticket because he was high profile, and agreed with their anti-corporate mindset. He had 0 chance of winning, and will -always- have 0 chance of winning.
    Exactly the same reason that Buchanan went and destroyed the RP, BTW: neither of these men can stand not having their names in lights.

    Incidentally, I'd rather the uneducated masses stay home and not vote, since odds are, they are going to vote for the people who are willing to ignore the Constitution.
  • They could always request an absentee ballot and mail it in... one phone call is all it takes.

  • Voter registration isn't all that tough... I showed up at the poll, told them I had moved into the state a year prior, showed my new Driver's license, signed a book... and voted. My new voter reg card came in the mail a few weeks later. Not too tough.

    Voting isn't just a right, it is a duty (well-informed voting, that is - abstaining from voting due to ignorance is also a duty).
  • Use the Slash polling module!

    • Don't complain about lack of options- You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
    • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
    • 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.

    It's probably just as good, or maybe even better than what we have now.
  • The problem with that method of voting is that you ALWAYS get the compromise candidate.

    So, for example, if half the people [loved Bush & hated Gore] and half the people [loved Gore & hated Bush], but everone kinda liked McCain - we'd always have the McCains.

    How is this a bad thing? You think it's better to have a president that half the country hates than one whom everyone kinda likes?

  • by CoughDropAddict ( 40792 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @09:08AM (#64733) Homepage
    What they really ought to use is Debian's method of vote counting, called concorde vote counting. A complete description can be found in The Debian Constitution [debian.org], all the way at the bottom, but in a nutshell:
    1. You vote not just for one person, but you rank the candidates in order of preference. ie. Ralph Nader first, Al Gore second, dubya third (see where I'm going with this?)
    2. a candidate wins by being preferred to the others the most often, as opposed to having the most votes.

    Imagine how much easier it would be for third parties to actually have a chance in elections! There would be no allegations of "throwing your vote away" or picking the lesser of two evils, and a candidate couldn't win by dividing the opposition, because everyone in the opposition would prefer BOTH of their candidates to the guy on the other side. (ie. Nader wouldn't have "stolen" the election from Al Gore, because anyone voting for Nader would prefer Al Gore to dubya.)

  • Two things:

    i) Voting in Australia is compulsory. If you don't vote you can go to prison.
    ii) Voting is always on a Saturday, not a weekday.
  • Well given that Buchannen's preferences would probably have gone to Bush it works out. What's more interesting is that with this method, a party could field two candidtates against each other and STILL have a chance of one of them winning. Think about this situation:

    Candidate A gets 40% of the vote but doesn't prefer B or C.
    Candidate B gets 35% of the vote and directs all preferences to C
    Candidate C gets 25% of the vote and directs all preferences to B

    In a US system, A would win even though 60% of the people would have preferred B or C. In a preferential system, B would win as he is the one most people prefer in power over all the others even though A got more of the primary vote. B was the least disliked of all the candidates.
  • Well, that's stupid. People who don't have an opinion shouldn't have to vote.

    I should have said - nothing stops you voting for no one (ie don't write on the card at all, or write crap on it). The point is you have to vote, even if it is not for anyone. As for people that don't have an opinion shouldn't be voting, it is interesting that the percentage of people who don't vote for anyone is less than 1% for most electorates in Australia. I'd say there is significant evidence that almost everyone has an opinion.

    This is also stupid. I hated Al Gore and Bush(the Environmentalist vs. the Asshole) but I really didn't want Nader in Power. Who am I going to choose. Probably the one who would do the least damage and I wouldn't even touch the one who would do the most damage or had an ideal against mine.

    So that's what you do. You give preferences in the order that you like the person. If you don't like any of them at all, just leave the card blank.

    If normal people can't count it, it's too complex and too easily corrupted. If only .01 of 1% of the people can count the ballots and assure the quality, they can easily create a conspiracy(like Bush's luck that his brother was gov. of Florida.)

    Unlike the rest of Australia, the ACT system is strange because of the extremely low population. The system is designed to give fair preferential voting with multiple candidates in each electorate. Just about everyone in the ACT understands it because of the media blitz - corrupting it is impossible given the media has access to the raw numbers.

    On the whole, computer voting is the way that things almost certainly must develop. However with large countries (ie USA or Australia) you have problems with time zones. It would make more sense to stagger the voting so that the polls close at the same time GMT across the whole nation - thus avoiding the problem of Californians (or West Australians) knowing the results before they vote.
  • Sorry, but we don't have prisons to "accommodate" 50% of the population.

    Sure, but you've got a government that will happily take the fines from 50% of the population.
  • by throx ( 42621 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @09:06AM (#64738) Homepage
    For those in the US who are used to the idea of voting for just one person, and not even having to vote - this is a very different situation:

    First, all Australians MUST vote in an election. If you do not vote then you will be fined, or put in prison. This means the voter turnout and load on the system tends to be much higher.

    Second, ACT elections allow you to vote preferentially. This means you not only select the first person you want, but order all the candidates in the order you'd prefer them in power. This prevents the problem in the US of Nader stealing votes from Gore (all Nader's preferences would go to Gore) and so instead of the most popular person winning, the LEAST UNPOPULAR one wins. This is a significant improvement.

    Third, the system used to actually count the votes in the ACT is hellishly complex and only really understood by statisticians. I find it quite bizzare, but it seems to work.

    Fourth, the ACT tends to have dozens of candidates for the positions. Partys with names like "Surprise Party" and "Party Party Party" are running and even get quite a few votes.

    Fifth, less than half a million people live in the ACT so the system can really be quite inexpensive and small. The ACT itself is only a few dozen miles across so the whole logistics are incredibly differnt to the USA.

    So, to summarize, the ACT elections are very different from US elections. Consider all the facts before you make a generalization about whether this would be good for all of Australia, or even the USA.

  • A quick eye scan spotted 4 or 5 people from internet voting startups, one venture capitalist, and couple of reps from big software companies.

    Yep, nice and unbiased.

  • So you're saying if somebody is so dirt poor that they can't afford to leave their job for an hour (which i think there's a law that forces employers to allow for time off in this instance) they should be able to vote from their home Compaq which they happen to have gotten from the nearest salvation army center, by connecting to their AOL account that their wealthy aunt is paying for. Or should they just go to a nearest public terminal at a library or something? In which case why not go to the voting booth to begin with?

    Face it, online voting would only simplify things for lazy middle class people, and possibly the handicapped. While the latter is quite important, I believe that there are already allowances made for them as it stands. As far as the those who don't really feel like getting to the physical voting center, I don't think they should be voting to begin with.

  • Europe has mandatory voting? So does Australia (as the person in a reply below informs me), and look at their state of speech protection. I really doubt that the policy differences in these regions are shaped by the voting laws. I believe that they are more impacted by the social and economic developments that took place in the countries over the last few decades.

    You are also making the assumption that all the liberals who have not voted in the last election would if they were forced to vote, take the time to familiarize themselves with the candidates and their agendas. I doubt that this will be the case. I cannot say that everybody will just go and punch a random hole in the ballot on the election day, but can you really expect a lot of these people who have made a choice to not vote, to suddenly go and educate themselves as to the candidates beliefs and proposals? I consider that unlikely.

  • by levik ( 52444 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:26AM (#64742) Homepage
    I know people are going to complain about this system not being an online voting system and therefore not a far enough step towards "openness" of the vote.

    But as a person who was the only one of all my friends to vote in the last presidential elections, because noone else could be bothered to go and pull a bunch of levers, I think that restricting voting to offline only is a good idea. It serves to give the control of the government to those people who care enough to get their ass out of a chair and walk to the voting center. I honestly don't think that I would like all the people who didn't vote out of lazyness to be able to do so online with a few mouse clicks, because they are probably just not interested enough to make an informed decision, and might just randomly click on the boxes that they're not sure what they mean.

    Something so serious as selecting your government should require the small barrier of entry that getting to the physical voting booth represents.

  • It doesn't matter how good the system is, I can still see people claiming that they cannot figure it out. Look at what happened in Florida.

    Maybe they should put up a screen at the end of all the questions showing the their votes and asking the voter if they are correct. Maybe then people will be able to vote the way they want, or at least not be able to claim they made a mistake.
  • You can actually grab the docs/code/prototypes at http://evacs.samba.org/ [samba.org].
  • How convenient. Now failed candidates will have the scary linux hackers to blame for failing to win the elections...
  • by VFVTHUNTER ( 66253 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:16AM (#64746) Homepage
    apt-get new_candidates
  • Can't wait for some Microsoftian to claim the GPL requires the voting district to open source the ballots... and suggest CE as an alternative?

    "Invalid Page Fault: Microsoft certified candidate not found on ballot, please reboot the booth and vote again"
  • well, it's about time there was an open source alternative to the previously announced systems by at&t [att.com], dell [e-businessworld.com] and compaq [votehere.net].

    the best part about an open source system is that by definition, it'll have an open architecture that lets it interoperate with other systems...not to toe the slashdot line, but the last thing we need is a proprietary voting protocol run by a big company.

    last i heard as well, california and arizona were implementing this the way it sounds, i.e. voters can actually vote over the internet...i think it was using some sort of shared public-key security to encrypt the ballots, and the key for decrypting the ballots is shared among election officials, so that no one party can view the actual ballot.
  • fine...make me do a google search...

    California Internet Voting Task Force [ca.gov]
  • That is funny. Dude, don't watch so much TV.

    More than 50% of people in the ACT have a computer.
    The ACT at some stage in the last few (5)years, had more ISPs per capita than anywhere else in the world.
    Australians familes are more likely to have a computer than American families. (Smaller population, more spread out.)

    Paul "TBBle" Hampson
  • Firstly.... Australian Capital _Territory_ [act.gov.au]. :-)

    Secondly, and this one's good: The actual project site. [samba.org] GPL requirements mean code's open source. And it is!

    Software Improvements is a key player in a very good spot here. One of the principals of SI, Clive Boughton, is an associate Lecturer (or visiting lecturer) at the ANU, where he currently convenes the Software Engineering course. Last year, as well as teaching Software Analysis and Design and Project Management to the 3rd year cohort, he was strongly connected with the 3rd year Software Engineering Group Project.

    The group project was to produce an online, web-based voting system. The project was targeted at Federal elections, but apart from the preference counting system, the principle holds.

    Out of the project (after 1 academic year) came 12 seperate online voting systems. One of these systems was apparently pitched to the ACT government in response to the Request For Tender they released near the end of the year, which looked an awful lot like the Request For Proposal the teams were given at the beginning of the year.

    Amongst the requirements for the project, was that the system be utterly open source (except for the RDBMS) and be delivered as a set of RPMs and SRPMS against Redhat 6.1.

    Another important requirement of both projects (and the Australian electoral system) is that a person be able to vote just once, and that once a vote is recorded, it must not be able to be linked to a specific person.

    The group project had tougher requirements than the ACT's project, in that the group project was for use in Internet voting, not just computerising polling booths.

    Software Improvements can (and in fact has, I am given to understand) draw upon this unique pool of experience to produce what I confidently expect will be a successful product which I look forward to using come the election.

    Some trivia:

    • Although the ANU group project required RedHat 6.1, the two spare machines in the room ran Debian Linux up until the last month or so of the project where they went from spare to testing-platform.
    • The ANU's past lecturer list includes Andrew Tridgewell [anu.edu.au], Paul Mackerras [anu.edu.au] and Paul "Rusty" Russell [samba.org]. If you don't recognise the names, think linux-pmac, Samba [anu.edu.au], Netfilter [samba.org], rsync [samba.org], Tivo ethernet card, Tivo in Pal [anu.edu.au], pppd [samba.org], just to name a few.

    How do I know all this?

    I was one of the group leaders for the 3rd year group project. I hold the distinction of having the only RedHat 6.1 computer in the project room which the system testers could not break into without getting a screwdriver from upstairs to clear the bios.

    Mind you, that wasn't part of the testing. They just wanted to see our developement machine and figured it would be easier than calling me. Fooled 'em good!

    Paul "TBBle" Hampson
  • It's a Teritory election....

    The ACT is not technically a State...I'm not sure what the difference is though.....
  • You mean those masses of Floridans who emigrated to Australia out of shame?
  • Actually, the Hare-Clark electoral system [act.gov.au] is nothing to do with a computer program. It's the voting system that is used in the ACT (and Tasmania, for that matter).

    I would have thought that the sentence you quote, "with all source code released un the [...] GPL" would have been a bit of a tip off.


  • 1.You vote not just for one person, but you rank the candidates in order of preference. ie. Ralph Nader first, Al Gore second, dubya third (see where I'm going with this?) 2.a candidate wins by being preferred to the others the most often, as opposed to having the most votes.

    Its fine to read stories glazing your eyes over, but dont post anything unless you actually read carefully, this is from the furst article:

    [the A.C.T] uses the complex Hare-Clark preferential voting system
    A quick search on google shows what it is:

    Hare-Clark is a 'quota-preferential' system which attempts to elect MPs to represent parties in Parliament in proportion to the vote achieved. To be elected, a candidate must achieve a quota of votes, which can be achieved either with primary votes or after the complex distribution of preferences.

    Source [abc.net.au]
  • "Both candidates"? Funny, I was sure there were more than two. In fact, I voted for one [phillips2000.com].

    I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

  • That's why they have absentee voting. I've voted up to two months (IIRC) ahead of time in years past. There's really nothing holding you back from voting if you care to do so.

    I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

  • Elections are not a horse race. You don't put a bet on which one you think will win, hoping for a big pay off when he does. Your "bet" is what determines the winner of the race! Buck the trend, don't be a sheep, vote third party. If you don't vote for what you believe, you'll never get what you want.

    I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

  • I know California did electronic (i.e., touchscreen) voting in several voting districts last year, but I'm fairly sure it was a closed-source project.

    The only problem is... I do support. User support. Luser support, in fact. I have users who can't double-click because their reflexes, numbed by years of sitting in front of the television eating Sara Lee cheesecake, have slowed down to the point where inertia takes all their strength to overcome. These users are NOT computer literate. Yet they're supposed to be able to figure it out? Florida elections will become the low bar for new heights of stupidity.

    Wait, let me be original! I'll make a joke about using apt-get during the vote!

    Zaphod B
  • I don't know about Arizona, though I doubt it, but I know California was doing touch-screen voting at the registrar of voters' offices and some other random places (Riverside, Beverly Hills, etc.). Certainly not Internet voting.

    Besides, don't you think you would have read about Internet voting in the U.S. on /.?

    Zaphod B
  • Simple!
    The first and foremost human right, the right to live. No man has the right to judge another to die. There's much more on right to a fair trial. Treatment in prison, etc... The US has never signed the human rights convention and is not even close to living up to it..
  • stable/libertarian

    Am I the only one that found that extra funny?
  • by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:16AM (#64764) Homepage
    If Floridans can't figure out paper ballots, how are they supposed to figure out how to vote with GNU/Linux??
  • The entire system is Free Software. Check out http://evacs.samba.org/ [samba.org], check it out of cvs, and go nuts.

    I didn't want to be a karma whore, but nobody else seems to have posted that link... and there's not much point talking about a wonderful, new, GPL'd program without also telling people where to get it from.

  • fraudian slip by the poster?
  • Crocodiles, snakes, no speed limits on the highway and guys in unusual utes? No, no fruedian slip :-)
  • Internet voting has *much* more serious flaws than that.

    Main Flaw #1: DOS attacks.
    Rigging an election is as simple as DOSing servers in counties that tend to vote for your opponent.

    Main Flaw #2: Virii.
    While encryption can ensure a secure channel, there is nothing to prevent something at an up-front level like key filtering. A virus could easily propogate that would ensure only a certain candidate gets voted for (or another candidate doesn't get voted for).

    For remote digital voting to be feasible, a) it can't run over the net, and b)it can't involve a modifyable system. You'd need a fixed-hardware platform with hardware-level encryption, which establishes a secure PPP link straight to the voting server. Sure, phone lines could be cut or whatnot, but that's on the level of complexity of blocking roads to polling places, and isn't self-propagating.

    Everything else is a social nightmare that would make the last US election look like it ran smoothly.

    -= rei =-
  • (btw, this refers to internet voting, not the systems they are talking about here, which are just local booths)

    -= rei =-
  • Although I prefer the BSD-style license for most things, I think voting systems are the perfect application to be licensed under GPL...

    It's this type of situation that code should unarguably be forevermore open and available for study.

  • Because we all know what would happen with Internet Voting - as outlined by a classic comedy central book called "Byte Me" - "Voter turnout will approach 90%, and Alicia Silverstone will be elected President".
  • There was some internet voting done in AZ ... for the democratic primary, if I remember correctly. (I was not a participant, and only heard of it by the thousands of idiots who claim that "internet voting oppresses the minorities.") Not in the general election, though.
  • It's a preferential quota based system.

    In short, the Territory is divided into 3 districts, each with around six seats in the assembly available.

    As 100/6 is 16.666% thats how much of the vote you need to win a seat in the Assembly. It means strong voices like the greens aren't excluded and tends to produce minority government's that have to gather broad support for their policies.

    The preferential stuff cascades votes for candidates that already have their "quota". The math is a little complex but the system gives solid results and responsible governments.

    The downside in the past has been it takes a couple of weeks to figure out the bottom of the piles where preferences are all over the shop (I for instance start by numbering those i hate most last and work my way up the ballot to gove a "1" to my least hated candidate, or a fruitloop want to encourage, safe in the knowledge that my real vote will end up going to someone else.)

  • I enjoyed reading your conclusion. It was well stated, and had some valid points... I'll drink to your opinion if you drink to mine. (although I'll note we're both forceful people, as shown by our initial replies.) Just thought I'd let you know... its not often that people here concede that both points are good, valid, and are, in the end, just opinion, but respectably someones opinion.

    Well done on a very well thought out post.

    one small reply though. I do find that when you force a vote, there is a better quality of vote generally than a no-vote. I find that a lot more people "give a damn" (for want of a better expression to show the emotion). I was of the same opinion as you until I moved here to the USA (that voting should actually not be compulsory). But when I saw how many people voted here (or didnt, rather), and how many people just *didnt* care... it kind of hit home to me that if that is the only way you can get people to care, then it really is worth it... Its kind of commi in a way, but ... I think it really is worth it.



  • Let me pick apart your (uninformed and unresearched) reply. Let me first state my qualifications. I lived in australia till I was just over 18. Thus, I voted there. I live in the USA, and pay a great deal of attention during the elections and voting periods.

    Let me also start off by saying I have NEVER seen a more unorganised election than the last presidential election, where people waited so long to find out who their new leader was. So you just arguing that the USA system is superior is not going to cut it with me. So lets start this, shall we?

    Well, that's stupid. People who don't have an opinion shouldn't have to vote. If you are just going to pick one because you don't have an opinion, you are helping no one. Those who have a strong opinion one way or another are going to vote and those who don't, well they'll just let things go.
    Let me clarify (having lived there). You CAN "donkey" vote. Its still anonymous, and entries incorrectly marked (all ones), or using ticks and crosses etc etc will invalidate your vote. You *can* (in essence) vote for "nobody". HOWEVER, given that everyone HAS to vote, you have a whole lot more people who actually CARE about what it is they are voting about. Vastly more people have informed opinions, and smarter decsions (on the whole) are made.

    This is also stupid. I hated Al Gore and Bush(the Environmentalist vs. the Asshole) but I really didn't want Nader in Power. Who am I going to choose. Probably the one who would do the least damage and I wouldn't even touch the one who would do the most damage or had an ideal against mine.
    This is *not* a two party system, as such. There are MUCH more than two candidates! Stop thinking so US-Centric when you are talking about another countries voting system!!!

    If normal people can't count it, it's too complex and too easily corrupted.
    Bullshit. In 90% of situations, only number 1 and 2 votes are counted. The average of the populace can understand it, and even if they cant, there is STILL the news. Remember Decision2000? Why in the hell would you assume there wasnt soemthing like that there?

    No system is perfect. I firmly believe that; so I am not saying the system in australia is better. But aimlessly saying "That's stupid" is HARDLY going to convince anyone. Not having researched your point of view or your source of information, or even the persons you were replying to is a bad move. I lived there for 18 years. I know quite a bit about the system used there, and personally, I never had a problem understanding it. I always thought the outcome was fair in most cases. In a lot of ways, it quite similarly represents the model used in the USA, but in quite substantial ways, it differs. I like those differences. You might not. But that doesnt give me the right to call your system stupid, or you the right to call mine stupid.

    Please sit in the corner and catch your breath before posting about subjects you dont anything about...


  • Bah! I'm waiting for the day when I can actually vote online. Bruce Schneier outlines a good protocol for this in Applied Cryptography. Is it just me or is this not going to happen because the average person doesn't realize how secure it is?
  • by cbowland ( 205263 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:48AM (#64794)
    Checkout Free Project [free-project.org] for a GNU Internet Voting System.

    From their homepage:
    Welcome to the FREE e-democracy project's website. We are a project dedicated to creating the GNU.FREE Internet Voting system and also advocating Free Software in e-democracy. To understand why we think it's important for e-democracy software to be Free Software which is non-partisan and non-commercial in origin see our Writings Section. GNU.FREE software is written in Java and is available from the Download Section. There is more information in the Users' Section and considerable technical detail in the Developers' Section. The GNU.FREE software suite is an official package of the Free Software Foundation's GNU project and is supported by FreeDevelopers.net and OpenElection.org. More affiliates, related sites and people are available from the Connections Section.

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.

  • ... can you do an apt-get to upgrade the results ?
  • in the Florida election, and most elections overall, I've wondered why there's a complete lack of confirmation in your votes. My own feeling is: if I can't close a document on my computer without a message asking for confirmation, why should I be able to vote without a confirmation?
  • The most important part of the article is that voters will be able to choose one or the other...in some senses voters will also be voting for paper vs. electronic votes.

    I've never had a huge aversion to paper ballots, and in fact prefer something that has a tactile presence that can be recounted later.
  • Acceptance of security has nothing to do with how secure something is, but instead the perception of security. And the perception of security is mighty easy to break -- it doesn't even take an actual breech to occur, but the rumor of a breech, which any losing politician will be quick to exploit.
  • I have to respectfully disagree with that assertion. Yes, the barrier to entry in suffrage has shaped the United States greatly. I would, however, argue that we are worse off for it. There is absolutely no reason for having voter registration as a barrier. At the least we should have same-day registration. Look at European nations with mandantory voter registration (and sometimes, penalties for not voting - though not at all serious ones). They have a far better human rights record than the US in addition to a host of other social reforms. In the US, it is undeniable fact that conservatives tend to vote more often than liberals (yeah, I'm tagging people, sorry). With a decreased barrier to entry, this would change. Of course, those currently in power don't want it to change - Democratics and Republicans are perfectly happy with the near 50/50 split they have amongst the voting public. If everyone came out and voted, maybe Michael Moore would be right [michaelmoore.com] and Nader would have won :)
  • So you're saying it's a good thing that those currently in power are attempting (and succeeding) at permanently entrenching the two current parties by refusing to expand suffrage and through other means (refusing to end soft money, etc). By institutionalizing the current campaign funding system, the government is ensuring that no third party candidate without a tremendous bankroll will stand a chance (ie: not Perot, Nader, or someone funded by Perot - Buchanan). Not that I'd personally want Buchanan to stand a chance (did you ever HEAR the meatball commercial?), but he should still have a right to. It seems like McCain is positioning himself to run as an independent, but if he fails expect it to be the last serious attempt for a long time - that is until people realize that their government is run by those who make their oil, bombs, and drugs.

    As for Nader having no stance, check this [votenader.org] out.

    And here's a serious example of how our voting system hurts America. I had just turned 18, and wanted to vote for a fellow high school senior for city council. About a week before the election, I looked and found that I had to register TWO WEEKS before the election to vote. That's rediculous. I hadn't even been given any information regarding voter registration despite the fact that I payed state property and income taxes. This is quite simply the disenfranchisement of the youth vote. I live in a borderline conservative area (usually votes republican, but last election voted in a democratic rep because the republican was essentially a nazi :) - it's easy to see why the board of elections would refrain from allowing easy registration given the fact that conservatives tend to register and vote on their own at FAR higher levels than liberals. At the least, the voting board should have, say, set up a table at lunch for registration or announced opportunities for registration the same way they announce that I must sign up for the Selective Service. As it was, I had to do all the research myself, download the form, mail it in (using my own stamp), wait for the card, and only then was I allowed to vote. Now, forcing someone to get to the polls or vote absently is one thing, but having this rediculous barrier to mere registration is assinine. Registration should be automatic if you pay taxes. Maybe you can request a card if you want, but I should be able to show up to my polling place and vote.
  • How so ? Give me any examples of that (human rights). It is a serious question.

    The death penalty. Easy enough.

    I could also go into better standards on freedom of speech, assembly, etc. As an example, look at the Guerrila Drive-In [carschoolfilms.com] event in Minneapolis. This has been a successful event for two years and this year, because a movie entitled "Vampire Hookers" was to be shown, the city stepped in claiming a lack of proper permits, etc, when the organizers had made sure to get the proper paperwork completed just as in the two years prior. Now, in Berlin, some guy just dropped a headless cow from a helicopter [canoe.ca]. Another guy is displaying dead bodies that have been sealed in plastic and set dancing around a float in the love parade. Would these acts of speech be allowed in America?

    I could go into the various social reforms - better education, universal health care, public transportation, environmental protection (actually living up to the Kyoto treaty), etc. And, more on topic, isn't voting one of the most basic rights in a democracy? America's high barriers to voting (registration is enough of a hassel) compared to mandantory registration in many European nations would be a good example there.

    Of course, I haven't even touched on the human rights violations of American corporations, but since these are largely aimed at non-Americans, I'll leave them for another discussion. The fact that businesses, thanks to the 14th amendment, have the exact same rights as individuals, is proof enough that the United States has some problems with its human rights policies. For further review, I would direct you to Amnesty International [amnesty.org]'s page on US human rights violations, but it seems to be down at the moment.
  • Next time? This is a one time shot. A rule that causes a majority of people just reaching voting age to miss their first election is a rediculous rule. I did look into it ahead of time. One week ahead of time in fact. I was even planning on recruiting others to go vote as well. Why should I even have the opportunity of making that mistake? Name a single reason for the voluntary voter registration system. No, combatting fraud doesn't count as it can be done just as easily with a mandantory registration system, or by using technology (such as in this article) to better check the votes. The days of ballot box stuffing are more or less over (obviously, fraud still exists in getting people to the polls such as with the 'we'll buy you cigarrettes if you vote for bush' deal in wisconsin - and to be fair, democrats shuttling old folks from retirement homes as well). The fact is that the registration system serves only to be a barrier to voting. Somehow, I doubt that it is in the interest of the constitution, human rights, et al to inhibit people from voting. Read any government textbook and you'll find that the main reason cited for the low voter turnout in the US is the difficult registration process. I even found it a nuisance and I absolutely want to vote in every election/referendum/whatever possible. Imagine how much it effects the outcome. At the least, all states should be mandated to offer same-day registration along with voting. Many forward thinking states have this in place already, but in conservative areas like mine (kansas), there is pressure against this - for the obvious reason that it would undoubtedly lead to having a more liberal median voter. Futhermore, requiring registration keeps out independent voters and further entrenches the two-party system. This is why democrats stand by and are hesitant to protest.
  • Well, according to my knowledge most of the innovation in just about every field happens in US.

    *Cough*Stem-cell research and cryptography*Cough* - not to mention that innovation by a multi-national corporation that fields its talent from around the world can hardly be claimed domestic.

    You simply asked how the US can be seen as lacking in human rights compared to Europe. Our declaration of independence said we all had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or property). Well, the death penalty certainly disbars the first. Europe is certainly far ahead as far as freedom of speech, and thus, liberty. Note that you don't have to watch Vampire Hookers or the headless cow being dropped from above, just because you disagree with assembly doesn't mean the first amendment goes away. I doubt San Fransicans wanted protests at Berkeley in the 60s, but that didn't stop them.
  • That's a very good point. Obviously the Holocause/WWII are sore spots for Germany (obviously) and France (blasted French pride). I would, however, say that the institutionalized censorship in the US (FCC regulations) combined with the seemingly wanton attacks against artistic expression (Guiliani, congressional threat to end arts funding because of content, etc) in the US are more severe than the actions of those two embarassed nations on a single point.

    And you're absoultely right about the dillema. I would claim that you have no obligation to watch the cow falling from the helicopter. Many also have the same dismay for simply consuming cows as dropping them from helicopters (indeed, judging by stories like the Seattle meat processing one, the helicopter drop was probably more humane). If you read the article about the cow, you'll find that many who viewed the event saw definite artistic merit. Clearly, the artist did. Free speech, in art, science, politics, etc, should not be restrained by popular thought. If that were the case, there would be no hard feelings against the Inquisition for essentially condeming Gallileo to death. Now if free speech causes direct, unavoidable harm to others (threats, the fire rule, etc) that is a different story. Unless you happen to be hit by the falling cow, splattered by its blood upon impact, or held with your eyes pried open "Clockwork Orange" style, I'd like to think that the artist has the right to the performance. I'm sure we'll have to agree to disagree on all of this, but that's just my opinion. As far as claiming "not in my town" regarding cow dropping, vampire hookers, or whatever, I'd like to think that the rights of an individual trump those of a municipality. Just like the rights of an individual should be greater than those of a corporation - but unfortunately, in the United States, aren't.
  • So you're saying that if you aren't smart, you don't get to vote? What if I say that anyone who would stoop to actually spending time watching Jay Walking shouldn't vote? Sorry, you don't get to vote. Perhaps we should go back to closed caucous primaries.
  • The difference, again in my view, being that zoning/regulations/taxes are not basic human rights while speech is. Everyone is free to speak out against zoning, regulations, and taxes, but not to not submit to them. The US government should not be allowed to make law that limits non-destructive speech unless they amend the first amendment, but they do (DMCA as a most recent example). And again, art can only be disgusting if you view it and are disgusted by it. Read the article I linked to and you'll see that many found it provocative rather than purely destructive. Perhaps the fact that something that disgusting gets that much attention IS part of the artistic message of the performance.
  • But as a person who was the only one of all my friends to vote in the last presidential elections, because noone else could be bothered to go and pull a bunch of levers, I think that restricting voting to offline only is a good idea. It serves to give the control of the government to those people who care enough to get their ass out of a chair and walk to the voting center. I honestly don't think that I would like all the people who didn't vote out of lazyness to be able to do so online with a few mouse clicks, because they are probably just not interested enough to make an informed decision, and might just randomly click on the boxes that they're not sure what they mean.

    Do you really think that your frineds would have voted if they could do it on line? I really doubt it. Things like voting seem to take on less meaning for people when they are less difficult to do. After all, what can be worth taking 5 minutes out of your day for?

    Sig: Tell all your friends NOT to download the Advanced Ebook Processor:

  • You vote not just for one person, but you rank the candidates in order of preference. ie. Ralph Nader first, Al Gore second, dubya third (see where I'm going with this?)

    A candidate wins by being preferred to the others the most often, as opposed to having the most votes

    The problem with that method of voting is that you ALWAYS get the compromise candidate.

    So, for example, if half the people [loved Bush & hated Gore] and half the people [loved Gore & hated Bush], but everone kinda liked McCain - we'd always have the McCains.

    Note: I'm not making a political statement here, I'm just using examples.

  • How is this a bad thing? You think it's better to have a president that half the country hates than one whom everyone kinda likes?

    A good point, and I've wondered before if we would be better off with the compromise candidate. However, we'd probably get what we saw with McCain, which was NO support from the right or the left, and therefore a lame duck president.

    Of course, since there is essentially no chance of a major overhaul to the voting system - the whole thing is a moot point.

  • You introduce a printer into the system. Every IT guy/gal/ knows that printers are the source of all evil in the Universe.

    Adding a printer adds a magnitude of complexity, nuless it's a high-end printer like those used in manufacturing houses. But then, you add a magnitude of cost.

    No argument about the benefits of your suggestion, but I pity the fool that has to support it.

  • by pgpckt ( 312866 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:19AM (#64824) Homepage Journal
    Of course it does, and that is what our Australian friends have understood. They were thinking to themselves one day "Hmmm. I need a computer tool to count votes, and I need to make sure that no vendor biases the code to favor a given party. So I need to see the code. What vendor will let me see the code to insure the voting is fair, and how can I insure the public that there isn't a RNG in the code affecting their vote?" Why, use the GPL, of course! You can publish the code to the public to insure accuracy. Maybe someone will see a small flaw and fix it for you too. People can be assured their vote is being counter fairly.

    Perhaps the States of the US will go this route too to help count our ballots. I never got a look at the machine code that counted those Florida ballots after all. I know there are plenty in the GPL community that would love to have a shot at the code, and to submit suggestions to the state equivalent of the NIST for enchantments of the code. Its nice to see a national government recognize the GPL can be a great asset to their problems, and they get all that code for free to boot! Save a dime and get better software! Perhaps Australia will donate a little cash to a GPL project to give back to the community as well? I am happy Australia has picked up on the GPL solution.
  • I got the technical part of the article just fine - sounds like it's about time to move beyond paper ballots, but I'm confused about what thing. WTF is the Hare-Clark preferential voting system, and why does it take so long to see who actually won an election. Is this one of those kinds of systems where you are voting more for a party to represent you than an individual congressman?
    THX in advance

    D - M - C - A

  • Maybe they should put up a screen at the end of all the questions, showing the their votes and asking the voter if they are correct. Maybe then people will be able to vote the way they want, or at least not be able to claim they made a mistake.
    Er ... maybe they have done this. I've attended Canberra Linux User Group meetings where the project was discussed and debated. I have been impressed by the level of detail, thoughtfulness, and care that has gone into every facet of this project - every objection that was raised had already been addressed; the electronic voting system is as good as or better than paper voting in every respect. And if you don't like it, you can still vote on paper; an option that isn't likely to disappear any time soon.

    Seems to me the American system could do with being easier to vote in. I'm used to it being easy to vote; elections on saturdays, every primary school a polling place, pre-polling centres in all city centres for if you're going to be busy on the day, and postal voting for when even pre-polling isn't practical. When it's compulsory to vote, the constitution makes sure it is easy to vote; no four hour queues for me!


  • I don't honestly think this will happen, but something to think about...

    I agree - this is something that needs to be thought about. I'm confident in Australia's electoral methods (as a whole) because issues like this form the core of our electoral system.

    In Australia, all elections are run by the Australian Electoral Commission - a completely apolitical, independent body. I believe (though IANAP, I'm not sure about this) that party representatives are at every count, and have the right to query any vote as it goes through. And I reckon that no-one with active membership of a political party would be allowed to work in the Australian Electoral Commission.

    As far as I know, America has no independent apolitical body responsible for the standard running of elections - hence the ludicrous situation where affirmed members of political parties (let alone the BROTHER of one of the candidates) have a say in how and why votes count.

    So while this situation is possible, I would hope that this is one area where Australia can't screw things up. (Now digital copyright law, that's a whole different kettle of prawns)

    This post is about truth, beauty, freedom, and above all things, Karma
  • by Hostile17 ( 415334 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2001 @08:45AM (#64836) Journal

    Bah! I'm waiting for the day when I can actually vote online.

    This is a bad idea, people need to goto a voting station where the can be have some security and privacy. If voting is moved to the internet, security becomes a major issue, it has been proven many times now, when Hackers decide to break something, it ususally breaks. Also if everyone is voting online, how many people will have their spouses looking over their shoulders, or Bosses or Union Thugs ?? I don't even like the idea of electionic voting systems, because there is no paper trail, just because I click on Nader, does not mean the program will register Nader and I will have no way to prove it later.. I say go back to the printed ballot and a ink pen.

  • Correction: only 44% voted without the usual red pencil in Belgium (08/10/1999).
    It didn't go that smoothly. There were numerous delays because of hardware problems, software errors, power surges,... Especially elderly people ran into trouble, despite the fact most cities and villages organized a few courses to teach them how to use the computer. And you have to admit, navigating around was time-consuming. The software was crap. The screen resolution was so poor (640x480 I guess) only 10 candidates could be listed on each page. On several computers, the "nationalists" (some people prefer to call them fascists) were not listed. However, I have to admit it wasn't that bad after all. The first results came in really fast (3 hours after closing time).
    I hope they get it right down under. Learn from the mistakes made over here. Here are my thoughts on how to improve on our system:
    1) Konqueror (or any other user-friendly browser) would do very nicely as a browser to navigate through all candidates. A Java-based program would benefit those who are already comfortable with a PC.
    2) Use a screen resolution which is easy on the eyes, with smooth large fonts.
    3) 3 words: uninterruptable power supply.
    4) The voting-training was a very good idea to get everyone comfortable with electronic voting.
    5) append "goatse.cx" to /etc/hosts ;)

    I'm not flaming my government, it's a great system which needs some minor tweaking. Now, if the AU government uses GPL-ed code, will they publish their voting software under the GPL so we can use (and improve on) it here too?

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault