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Government Privacy The Courts United States

Federal Judge Says No Right To Secret Ballot, OKs Barcoded Ballots 584

Posted by timothy
from the it's-the-little-things dept.
doug141 writes "A Colorado county put bar codes on printed ballots in a last minute effort to comply with a rule about eliminating identifying markings. Citizens sued, because the bar codes can still be traced back to individual voters. In a surprise ruling, Denver U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello said the U.S. Constitution did not contain a 'fundamental right' to secret ballots, and that the citizens could not show their voting rights had been violated, nor that they might suffer any specific injury from the bar codes."
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Federal Judge Says No Right To Secret Ballot, OKs Barcoded Ballots

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  • by imamac (1083405) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @10:38AM (#41420785)
    This. The last thing we need are people feeling pressured by an outside organization (looking at you Unions *and* employers). Some may already feel pressured one way or another but there is not way for an outside source to confirm a third party vote. This is terrible and had better be overturned.
  • Barcodes... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2012 @10:42AM (#41420807)

    Don't eliminate identifying marks if you can download an app to decode the mark into a number, then run an algorythm against it to transform the number into names, and figure out how that individual voted.

    Which they did.

    On a local radio station.

    With a county comissioners barcode, they told him how he voted.

    This should be interesting seeing how Colorado is voting this year to legalize marijuana...

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @10:44AM (#41420845) Journal
    You're right but the bigger threat isn't from a political player. The biggest threat is retaliation from your employer, your customers, your neighbors and maybe even your family. Imagine if your father-in-law found out you voted one way instead of another and didn't want you in the family because of it.

    So the big concern I have is how these barcodes work. Are they public? Are they encrypted? And what I mean by encrypted is if the value is scrambled to link back to the original voter.

    The reason I feel like this is unfortunately necessary is that it would be easy to sneak in votes that had just some barcode if it didn't have to be decrypted and validated. And without this 1-to-1 validation, how do we determine that the recorded votes for each person were truly and validly made? Unfortunately, if you want election boards to be perfect in their methodology, you should give them one of these to check against citizen lists or an external third party.

    My suggestion would be to give users a randomly generated number that is then one way hashed with their SSN. Then that information can be published online and anyone can take their autogenerated number and plug it into the hash with their SSN. If they fear retaliation or if they fear their boss might demand the number from them to check on them, they can merely opt for the official to destroy their number. You can also implement laws protecting those numbers although we all know a solution without regulation is the best.

    But I don't think you can get around an election official knowing who voted for what if you want accurate and secure election counts. It's a trade off but hopefully the may other laws we have protection people from politically motivated attacks remain.

    If the barcodes are done right, it might be a valid way to assure there is no voter fraud. I guess the big question is: do we have evidence for a lot of voter fraud such that we need this?
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @10:59AM (#41420935)

    So the big concern I have is how these barcodes work. Are they public? Are they encrypted? And what I mean by encrypted is if the value is scrambled to link back to the original voter.

    Merely being able to be traced back to an individual voter is bad enough. No matter whether it's encrypted, hashed, etc. No trace back of vote to voter should be possible.

    The reason I feel like this is unfortunately necessary is that it would be easy to sneak
      in votes that had just some barcode if it didn't have to be decrypted and validated.

    That can ALWAYS happen. That is why you need honest people in your election committee, and oversight. Allow before the election everyone who wants to see that a ballot box is empty, subsequently locked, and then that each voter can put one and only one paper in it. Keep on following this ballot box until it's opened and the votes are counted. Match total number of votes with total voters (knowing who voted is fine, you need to know that to prevent multiple votes by a single person). Have two opposing parties do this, add maybe an independent observer, and the risk of fraud is low without identification. That's how it's done.

    No situation is perfect, but over the years we have come up with pretty good ways of making sure elections are done fairly. Non-traceable votes are key to that.

    My suggestion would be to give users a randomly generated number that is then one way hashed with their SSN. Then that information can be published online and anyone can take their autogenerated number and plug it into the hash with their SSN. If they fear retaliation or if they fear their boss might demand the number from them to check on them, they can merely opt for the official to destroy their number.

    "So you destroyed that number and you can't show who you voted for? That must mean you did not vote for the party I told you to vote for."

    Again, NO TRACE BACK should be possible. Period.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:22AM (#41421123) Homepage Journal

    But we should not, in any way, require an identity or residency, or hell, even a citizenship check.

    ID is not mandatory for my convenience, but for that of the state. Therefore it follows that if the state wants me to have this ID, the state should pay for it. Nobody should be charged for their mandatory ID cards.

  • by funwithBSD (245349) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @01:03PM (#41421955)

    Sure there is: don't buy their products.

    But we do... bread and circus, American Style.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:4, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @02:09PM (#41422497) Homepage Journal

    I'm an ex-Brit. I remember being a little shocked on my first time voting in Britain, in the late eighties or early nineties.

    My name was looked up on a register. Then a ballot form, with a serial number was selected from a stack. The serial number was recorded by my name, ostensibly to ensure it was known I voted and that if someone came in afterwards and claimed to be me, something can be done about it, and then the ballot was handed to me.

    No idea if that's still the case, but it was obvious there that in one of the countries considered a co-birthplace of Western Democracy and a high profile advocate for Democracy at a time when we were at war to protect the very concept, I was not being given a secret ballot.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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