Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Electronic Elections

We Vote Electronically Everyday
As a technologist, I am astonished by the issues raised about electronic voting systems. We vote (purchase) many times a day, every day, from a plethora of candidates (products and services) from numerous parties (businesses) using electronic voting systems (registers). The system processes hundreds of millions of transactions and tens of trillions of dollars in tangible assets daily with an efficiency and accuracy that is astounding. Yet we trust the abacus (punch-card) more?

I will demonstrate that such an attitude is unfounded. I do not intend this to be technologically exhaustive.

Opponents assert that a hacker could compromise an elections system with ease. This assertion seems plausible enough on the surface with all the precautions that we have to take at work and at home to protect our systems from intruders. However, let me remind you that the main reason precautions are necessary is the Internet.

A system can only be compromised from an access point. To access the system, the proper equipment, protocols, and authentication are needed. Barriers to fraudulently accessing the system are an isolated network, strong authentication standards, encryption, access point preregistration, etc.

Presuming access is accomplished, an understanding of the system is required. Data will have to be changed in all areas where it is used and stored to prevent the raising of self-auditing exceptions within the system.

It is my understanding that on the most popular systems, there is no network. The system's electronic ballots begin blank and are created by the elections officials, making them different from precinct to precinct. The voting stations are standalone. The voting stations store the accumulated ballots in an encrypted table on the voting station and on a removable storage device (RSD), like a jumpdrive. When voting is completed, the RSD is removed and plugged into the tallying system for precinct-level tallying. When all RSDs have been tallied, the results are sent by the elections officials to the county by whatever process they use.

Opponents assert that seniors are able to use punch-card systems that they may have used at most 20-30 times in their lifetime, depending on when the system was introduced, but are befuddled by systems that are like the ones that they have used hundreds of thousands of times in their lifetime. I don't buy it!



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home