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Canada To Adopt On-Line Voting? 405

Posted by samzenpus
from the click-on-democracy dept.
belmolis writes "Here in Canada we have an old-fashioned paper ballot voting system that by all accounts works very well. We get results quickly and without fraud. Nonetheless, Elections Canada wants to test on-line voting. From the article: 'The head of the agency in charge of federal elections says it's time to modernize Canada's elections, including testing online voting and ending a ban on publishing early election results.' Is it worth trying to fix a system that isn't broken?"
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Canada To Adopt On-Line Voting?

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  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:09AM (#37127978)
    Online voting will be conducted through Warcraft's Arathi Basin battleground. Users must authenticate through battle.net and choose horde or alliance. Whichever team holds the Blacksmith point will be able to vote once per minute until 9 PM. Live results will be posted in Ironforge and Orgrimmar as voting happens.
    Please note there is a limit of 3.78x10^19 voters allowed in each instance.
    • Online voting will be conducted through Warcraft's Arathi Basin battleground.

      Assuming that by Warcraft you mean World of Warcraft: The price per seat of a proprietary commercial video game in which elections are held is effectively a poll tax, and I don't see a poll tax taking off at least in my home country.

      • The price per seat of a proprietary commercial video game in which elections are held is effectively a poll tax, and I don't see a poll tax taking off at least in my home country.

        Good lord, you're right. Additional stipulation: all particpants must play free accounts. There. Now it's reasonable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have worked on the software including in depth code reviews for 7 makers of the voting machine software. It stinks to the high heavens of means and methods to provide vote fraud. Canada should retain a paper ballot. It is OK to count them electronically but the count should be validated and it should be recounted by independent agency of the original count. It should be electronically transmitted to 3 different locations for totalling at the same time. It should be locally counted as well. Clearly th

    • by elsurexiste (1758620) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:37AM (#37128774) Journal

      There were primaries in Argentina last week, and I checked the count telegrams (one per booth) that someone from the gov', incredibly and marvelously, published to the public. It was a complete disaster, around 60% of the ones I checked have numbers that didn't match. Errors ranged from 1% to 12% of the total people who used that booth. I hadn't expected humans to be so failure-prone/corruptible.

      The main argument against e-voting is the trust ladder. Conversations are usually like this: How can you trust X (e.g. the code is the same in all booths)? Because of Y. But how do you trust Y? Because of Z. And how..., endlessly. Now, instead, I'll just respond with "How can you trust people to count correctly?" or, better yet, "How can you trust people??". That's also the problem of having validation through both electronic and human means: there will be a *lot* of differences, who are you going to trust, the machine or the human? As soon as you pick a favorite, the other one is unnecessary. Clue: you can't trust people over machines on counting.

      To go electronic or mixed, we just need full transparency and verification. Access to the source code for everyone. A VM to test the source code for ourselves. The SHA-1 of everything. During the election, the motherboard must be in an acrylic case. The ROMs/PICs must have a display that shows the SHA-1 of the current binary content. The candidates must be randomly distributed. Related to that, the vote and the issuer must be unmarried. Post-election verification of the vote. These are a few things that makes the process transparent. They'll leave out all the corporations, and it's a good thing: we wouldn't want to privatize an activity so vital for democracies.

  • Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the Pope, and the President of the US are the survivors of a shipwreck in a life boat, but the supplies are limited: there's enough for one to last until rescue. After the Pope and the President lay out their opinions as to why they should be the one to remain with the boat while the others take their chances in the open ocean, Daley suggests a vote, to which the others agree.

    Richard Daley is elected to remain with the life boat by 13,392 votes.

    The politicians have learned how

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:14AM (#37128014)

    Is it worth trying to fix a system that isn't broken?"

    If it means less transparency for the system, then I say yes, lets fix the system. Because more transparency [thestar.com] generally means that corporations make less money, and the less money corporations make the less well off society is in general.

  • by Gallenod (84385) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:18AM (#37128036)

    "Is it worth trying to fix a system that isn't broken?"

    It is to the people who sell electronic voting systems. And they apparently have better lobbyists than the average voter.

  • by Syberz (1170343) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:20AM (#37128052) Homepage

    The real problem with elections is voter turnout.

    There are 2 reasons why people don't go vote:
    1- The parties all suck and the voter doesn't feel that one winning over another would make any difference, and;
    2- People are too lazy to drive down to the polls and wait in line to vote.

    For problem 1, not much we can do except start a new party. For problem 2 however, a system where you can vote online might be able to help. For identification, perhaps combining your SIN number and passport number or last year's taxable income would be sufficient.

    • by Dr Fro (169927)

      Re #2 - Do you want people to vote who can't bother to invest half an hour of their time in the process?

      • by Syberz (1170343)
        If they have an opinion, yes. With today's busy schedules (work, kids, etc), 30 minutes is a lot of time for some families.
        • There is advance polls. Vote by mail. If working schedule don't have 3 consecutive hours to vote, your employer is forced by law to allocated time. Also, he may not deduct that time off your pay or impose any penalty.

          If you can't find time to vote, you are just uninterested and rightly deserve to remain silent.

        • by green1 (322787)

          Employers legally have to give you 3 hours off work while the polls are open to vote. If you can't vote in that time... especially considering the longest it's ever taken me was still less than 10 minutes.

      • by jpapon (1877296)
        In 2008 I waited 6 hours in line to vote...
        • by green1 (322787)

          In Canada? I've never taken more than 10 minutes for the entire process. Even with 100% voter turnout (something we haven't really ever seen) I think everyone would have to show up at exactly the same time to vote for a delay anywhere near that. a polling station rarely serves an area with more than a couple thousand people.

        • by angus77 (1520151)
          That's beyond incredible. I've been a poll clerk twice (once provincial (Ontario), once federal), and I don't remember having more than half a dozen people in line at our busiest either time.
    • might solve problem 1 by cutting out the middlemen.
    • For problem #2, you are also talking about people who are too lazy to actually know what any of the people running are actually like. I'm sorry, but low voter turnout for elections is a manufactured problem. People who talk about increasing voter turnout generally mean increasing the number of easily manipulated voters so that politicians are less answerable to the voters for their actions because a larger percentage of the voters are only paying attention for, at most, a week or two before the elections. B
      • For problem #2, you are also talking about people who are too lazy to actually know what any of the people running are actually like. ... By increasing voter turnout without actually increasing the number of people who pay attention, politicians can get away with doing unpopular things by doing them early in their term.

        And you hit the nail on the head. I follow my politicians closely and when the local door to door people for the campaign come buy I bring up my beefs with them have gotten "but that was 1-5 years ago" on issues I raise. To have a functioning democracy you need an informed electorate but we seem to lack that as there is just too much apathy, or blind partisanship. If I were king for a day and could fix the system I would implement the following reforms for our election process:

        • Primaries are held in all sta
    • by kraut (2788)

      > 2- People are too lazy to drive down to the polls and wait in line to vote.
      There will also be people who are too lazy to vote electronically, or too busy because they're voting for something "important" like x-factor...

      If you don't care enough to vote, that's your choice.

      I think the problem is more with 1

    • Starting a new party doesn't necessarily solve problem #1. You just end up with one more party that sucks.

      • by Syberz (1170343)

        Lol, well it you just copy an existing one or flip flop your position to try and be more popular (ADQ, I'm looking at you) then yeah it's pretty useless.

        The big problem, is that if a new party shows up saying that they will do exactly what is needed to make this country better, they will never get elected. Why? Because they would tax the rich and large corporations more, they would gradually cut government jobs by at least 1/3 (while optimizing of course) and eliminate pension plans for new government emplo

      • It takes far more that 30 minutes of study to know enough about a candidate to make an intelligent vote regarding a race.

        If you can't be bothered to spend a 30 minutes to an hour to vote, you certainly don't know enough or care enough about the race to vote.
  • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:20AM (#37128054) Homepage

    Yes, our election system here in Canada works pretty well. No, it's not perfect. In particular the ban on publishing results is a running joke that was easily circumvented by a ton of people on election night. It's so easy to get around it these days (particularly thanks to helpful foreigners willing to lend a hand by reposting results) that even trying to enforce it just wastes time and makes the government look stupid.

    As for online voting... I'm against it. There's a number of reasons why, including that the paper ballots work really well (and are much harder to hack then a website). But I don't see a lot of harm in doing a test. That's the best way to get some real data on how it's going to work. Elections Canada is pretty good at this stuff, so I'm not surprised they want to try it out and gather some first hand data on how it works. There certainly are some cases where it would be helpful, such as far north rural areas where ridings are HUGE and it's a real burden to get to vote. We saw that turnout up north was the lowest in the country and 20% below PEI/New Brunswick (small areas with high turnout). That's worth trying to fix. It's also an option for special ballots instead of mailing out paper forms.

    • the paper ballots work really well (and are much harder to hack then a website)

      Mmm, they are so easily hacked that even an analphabet could do it. If you have to put a paper with your choice in an envelope, just take all the papers of the candidate you don't like: the next person that tries to vote for that candidate won't be able and will have to wait for more papers. Just pay a two-zero sum to the one or two verifying the counting and "miscount".

      When people started to think paper voting is incorruptible and completely verifiable, I wonder...

  • You can vote online. Direct democracy!
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:28AM (#37128114)

    Hell, didn't anyone learn anything from online banking? It can NOT be made secure. Why? Inherently. Because you would have to trust a machine that is not under your control, as the voting agency: The user's computer. And there is no way to verify that his vote is actually his decision. And I'm not even talking about the guy with the gun pointing at his head telling him how to vote.

    Here's a scenario that happened in reality a while ago with online banking. Anyone with half a brain should be easily able to tell how to apply it to online voting. We might have to get someone to explain it to a politician, though.

    A piece of malware existed (and still exists), that was developed as a reply to the one time pad banks handed out. Since intercepting and using the user's credentials was useless in such an environment, what they did was to manipulate the user's browser to make the user do the malicious transaction himself. What happened was, essentially, this: The malware manipulated (through a BHO) the input and the reply from the bank. The user entered, e.g. that he wanted to transmit 100 bucks to pay his electricity bill. The malware sent that he wants to send 1000 bucks to a mule. The bank replied that those 1000 bucks will be sent to the mule, which the browser displayed as 100 bucks to electronic provider, asking for the OTP-key. The user, thinking he's paying his bill (and everything he saw reflected this) entered the key.

    There is NO way the bank (or, in turn, the election committee) could somehow see that the input was manipulated. And in this case, at least it could be seen on the bank statement. How do you expect to at least NOTICE that your vote was altered in a secret ballot?

    • Haven't the last few elections in the U.S. have boxes of votes turn up?

      Voting is effectively like currency. Online voting would be paper currency based solely on trust. Paper voting is paper money based on a gold standard that is based solely on trust that the government isn't lying about what they have in their reserves. Paper voting just provides the illusion of being more valid. We saw already in 2000 that in a heated enough recount that anything and everything will be used to disqualify votes if it

    • ... And I'm not even talking about the guy with the gun pointing at his head telling him how to vote.

      Just this point should be enough to stop people speculating about on-line voting. The rest of your post is absolutely right, but it takes some technical understanding to see the problem and how difficult it is to solve. The guy with a gun ... everyone can understand that. What I don't understand is why this is even being discussed in the first place!

      • It's not difficult to solve, it's impossible to solve. The core problem remains that you implicitly have to trust a part of the voting system that is not under your control. That's like allowing a random citizen to collect votes and bring them in. They may be honest, or they may stuff the ballot, you couldn't tell.

        And likewise, as a voter I have to implicitly trust the voting system that no records of IP addresses or something to similar effect are kept to keep the ballot secret.

        There's way too much trust i

    • by crath (80215)

      Note: I am Canadian and live in Canada.

      Your post is 100% correct; but, that won't change the fact that our inept politicians will go ahead and enact online voting (and other forms of equally insecure electronic balloting). What's missing from your post is the fact that most voters don't have the intellectual muster to understand the risks, and those that do don't believe anyone would subvert the electoral process---after all, "We live in Canada."

      Individuals are smart; crowds are stupid. We will suffer the

  • The idea is great and is the way forward, allowing us to hold many more votes without it really costing anyone time or money (we could actually put ads on the voting site and make the country money if we needed to).

    But with the huge concerns raised over electronic voting in the US where it appears moderately possible that that it has been used for fraud over there and at the very least that it would be easy to use for fraud if someone so desired i do not feel comfortable with this development.

  • by publicworker (701313) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:30AM (#37128134)

    I cannot see how on-line voting can possibly stand up against the demand for a secret ballot.

    If everyone is allowed to vote in their own home then there is no way to guaranty that the ballot is secret. How can you make sure that no one is shoulder-surfing? Or worse, shoulder-surfing with a big stick? With home (on-line) voting bribing and/or threatening voters becomes trivial and we don't want that!

    On-line voting sounds like fun, but it doesn't work.

    • How can you make sure that no one is shoulder-surfing? Or worse, shoulder-surfing with a big stick? With home (on-line) voting bribing and/or threatening voters becomes trivial and we don't want that!

      Nobody's listening to that argument. It also applies to absentee balloting, but instead allowing (and indeed, encouraging) absentee ballots to anyone and everyone has been hailed as the great advance of democracy.

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      Stay near the vote cabinet and offer 10$ for a vote. Check the vote by providing a smart phone with camera to your client.
  • by choongiri (840652) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @08:38AM (#37128216) Homepage Journal

    For those who don't know, we just had a federal election up here in May. The conservatives, led by a radical right winger, took absolute power (a majority of seats in the house of commons) with only 39% of the vote. 61% of Canadians voted for more centrist or progressive parties that - for the most part - have a fair amount in common, but because the vote was split between the other parties, the conservatives cleaned up.

    The system is utterly broken, but the decline in voting rates over recent decades (mostly in younger voters who recognise how appallingly unjust the system is and are disenfranchised by it) won't improve much with online voting techno-fixes. If you want people to engage in their democracy, we need a proportional representation (or at a minimum a ranked-ballot) voting system that makes people feel like their vote won't be wasted because depending on which party you vote for, or chance of where you live.

    • America fixed this with the, less than ideal, 2 party system, all or nothing, and if less than 50%, you have a run off. Unless you are more European, then you can elect by % of vote per party, whereby if there are 100 seats, someone with 39% gets 39 seats. I rather like that system better, but either way, these are the only real working alternatives that I've seen.

      Maybe other's have seen other alternatives for fair elections?

  • If we transact billions of dollars a second across bank networks and never lose a cent, with audit trails and incredibly high security...we should be able to have electronic elections, across the internet. Why does this have to be so complicated?

    • Where did you get the idea that they never lose a cent?

      I have a friend in the banking industry and she once told me that if the public knew how much money the banks lost ervery day due to electronic fraud, we'd all be hiding our money under our matresses and the whole industry would collapse. Billions slip away every day world-wide, usually as small, difficult to verify transactions of under $100. The banks just consider it part of the cost of doing business and pass the added expense along to the consumer.

  • It could work, but only if there were multiple checks and balances, ways to verify things each step of the way, and have a completely audit trail at the end. That's the best way to prevent fraud, however it would also threaten the right to anonymous voting.

    At a minimum, it should be possible to print out a voting reciept with a 2d barcode that has all the relevant voting data. That way if there are questions about voting, you can bring the receipt in and officials can scan it for verification.

    There must b

  • Yes, online voting is a challenge to get right, but definitely not an impossibility and should not be written-off right away. If you showed up a the polls to find that somebody had already signed the little book and voted in your place, you'd do something about it. Wouldn't you do the same with online voting?

    There is essentially no verification that the voter is who they claim to be at physical polls - just show up and sign the little book (right next to the easily copied sample signature). I still do
  • "We get results quickly and without fraud."

    Without fraud? That's one hell of a lofty claim if I've ever seen one.

  • We don't need to follow the Americans in everything! Isn't it bad enough that we elected Harper again?

  • 'The head of the agency in charge of federal elections says it's time to modernize Canada's elections, including testing online voting and ending a ban on publishing early election results.'

    Why?

    Although it was no doubt intended as such, "modernizing" is not a reason. Quite the contrary: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

    As far as I can see, the only people who stand to gain are the manufacturers of electronic voting machines and the companies who sell, support, maintain, and otherwise profit from them.

  • Yes, I know, it can't be made secure, etc. There are many problems. If we ever make it viable, however, this could lead to the next stage of natural development in democracy: direct voting on issues. Who needs Congress when every citizen can propose legislation and vote on the propositions of others? Of course ways would need to be developed in order to control the sheer volume, but I think something not too different from /.'s own moderation/meta-moderation could be used for that. This will require a lot m
  • by inhuman_4 (1294516) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:21AM (#37128616)
    The short answer is no. E-Voting is a stupid idea. All electronic forms of voting are more open to error than traditional methods, not to mention manipulation. When it comes to elections I don't care how long it takes to count the votes. Even if it took a week, who cares? It's not like the new government will step in any faster.

    When it comes to my elections what I care about is accuracy, reliability, verifiability. The paper method works because everything is done by hand, so there a no/few glitches. It reliable because, well paper is ancient. And finally it is verifiable because there exists a paper trail, which allows recount if there is a dispute.

    The system we have right now has worked for a very long time, and it has worked quite well. We don't need anything new or fancy. I like new fancy stuff for somethings, that why I use Debian Testing on my desktop. But when I depend on something to work reliably I use Debian Stable, it may be outdated, but it has been thoroughly tested and has proven its trustworthiness.
  • There have been some forays into online voting in Ontario municipal elections in the past - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voting_in_Canada#Ontario_2 [wikipedia.org]

    I have voted online in the past and it certainly has promise compared to having to wait in line at a polling station. Since some fairly important elections are done by postal mail, (in the US Oregon and Washington do (or at least may): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postal_voting#States_with_all_vote-by-mail_elections [wikipedia.org] for example) it is at least possible

  • Such a lovely word. Means: "We really don't have any good reason to drop the old system, but we'll talk you into it by present the new system as all *modern* and stuff. You don't want to be out-of-date, do you? All the other governments will laugh at us for being unfashionable."

  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:33AM (#37130472) Journal

    The key metric in the credibility of an electoral system is what is the maximum amount of fraud that can be committed with a small number of people. The paper ballot system is a remarkable piece of engineering when you stop and think about it: you have to be physically present to vote and the physical ballot is accounted for at all times, making ballot stuffing difficult to pull off on a large scale by a small number of people. The observation and counting of votes is distributed, likewise limiting the scope of an fraud.

    In any electronic system, the vote moves through countless devices that could be corrupted internally or externally. Any attempt to identify fraud using statistical deviation from polling numbers now trusts the pollsters (whose numbers were wildly skewed in the final days of the last election) as much as the actual vote.

    In any centralized counting system, is going to be IT team that the nation has to have absolute trust in: their intregrity, their flawless execution and their ability to detect any tampering.

    Note that tampering not only covers changing the results and ballot stuffing, but also removing the veil of annonymity. In an increasingly polarized environment, being flagged in party's database as an enemy voter could easily come to affect how your career prospects in government and how you are treated by a beaurocracy

    Finally, its not enough that the election is not tampered with, it needs to be provably tamper-free. It's not enough for the chief electoral officer to be satisfied with the results, the public needs to be confident that for systematic tampering to have occurred that it required a conspiracy too large to realisticly remain secret.

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