Post by BTR1701 Post by moviePig Post by David Johnston Post by RichA
Yes, software is unreliable in implementation, but very reliable in
1. You vote and get a "receipt" (...a big random-looking number)
2. At any time, you can submit your receipt to see your vote.
3. Votes are tallied by redundant, separately-built systems.
I see neither holes nor technical challenges in such a proposal...
If you assume someone might be programming the system to cheat, why
wouldn't they program your hypothetical system so that a vote for Candidate
A generates a receipt for Candidate A but really adds one to the tally for
Candidate B? And further coding provides that should you look up your vote
online using your code, it displays your vote for Candidate A, even though
the system logged your vote to Candidate B.
I remember reading a novel once in which there was a contentious issue
that had to be decided by all citizens in the EU via a yes/no
referendum. The election organizers really wanted it to go one way but
it was clear that public sentiment was leaning strongly the other day.
The election organizers tabulated millions of votes exactly accurately
and then simply flipped the result that they found. For instance if 60%
voted no and 40% voted yes, they simply inverted the result and
announced that 60% voted yes and only 40% were opposed. They got their
unpopular measure approved with that one simple trick.
The code is simplicity itself:
if (total_yes > total_no) report actual results
else report inverted results
Either way, the organizers had things their way regardless of voter
The stakes from most major elections are so big that there is tremendous
incentive to cheat. Motivated people will find any number of ingenious
ways to skew the results in their favour. Protecting the election
against that kind of thing is always going to be a game of catch-up
where every counter-measure just inspires further ingenuity on the part
of the cheats to come up with ever cleverer methods of cheating.
The sheer number of ways you could cheat is so staggering it might
require huge expenditures to give most people reasonable confidence that
the result was honest.
It's essentially the same problem the Olympics has with preventing
performance-enhancing drugs. For every test they come up with to detect
one drug, the bad guys develop two or three new drugs that aren't
detected in that test. Or mess with the test results. Or bribe officials
to mis-report results in their favour. Etc. etc.
The problem here is that if there is significant distrust of the
election result, the entire system starts to unravel as more and more
people believe that the results don't mirror what people actually voted
and suspect others - sometimes rightfully, sometimes not - of cheating.
That's a formula for eventual civil war or maybe discarding democracy
This is a huge problem and calls for everyone who buys into the concept
of genuine democracy to pull together and find ways to cast votes that
the vast majority of people agree honestly reports the results. And then
whoever loses has to abide by the result if they can't prove any
malfeasance in determining the result. Then we all abide by the result
until the next election.
I know there will also be some conspiracy theorists that think a result
that went against them was obtained crookedly so we can't set the
standard at absolutely everyone believing the result but we should set
it pretty high despite that. Basically, if most of the skeptics
grudgingly admit that they can't figure out how someone could have
cheated in arriving at the official result, then we have a valid
election that everyone needs to abide by.
It also means we need to look as thoroughly as we can at every aspect of
the election we can to ensure that opportunities for cheating are as few
as they possibly can be. And maybe we need really harsh penalties
against anyone who cheated - and the party on whose behalf they cheated.
If someone added code of the kind I mentioned above in an election
tabulation program to the benefit of Party A, the individuals who
slipped the crooked code into the program need to know they're facing 30
years in the slam and the party that put them up to it need to know that
their vote totals will be adjusted to zero in any district where they
cheated. That MIGHT encourage everyone involved to behave.