It’s time to vote in the Total Politics Blog awards. Go and tell them which political blogs you like here. You could vote for this humble blog whilst you’re there… or not!
Lots of good writing on the web at the moment, trying to get to grips with the turmoil in the world. Three good, different reads:
- John Naughton: “Recreational looting” in perspective
Thoughtful as ever.
- David Boyle: It’s 1931 all over again
Opens with a great quote from French economist Jacques Rueff.
- George Monbiot: Career advice
Superb, passionate and noble thoughts on how to set out in the working world.
- Some super slides (well worth reviewing in full, links below) from leading computer security experts presented at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s workshop in Washington DC on however overseas citizens should vote. Choice quotes below. (via Ian Brown and FIPR)
Prof. David Wagner (UC Berkeley):
It is not technologically feasible today to make Internet voting safe against attack.
Operating an Internet voting system safely requires expertise and money way beyond what election officials are likely to have.
There is no known way to audit Internet voting. UOCAVA votes might fall “under a cloud of suspicion.”
Prof. Ron Rivest (MIT):
Remote voting is trade-off between franchise and risk
The risks of “internet voting” more than negate any possible benefits from an increase in franchise
Unsupervised remote voting vulnerable to vote-selling, bribery, and coercion.
We may view internet voting as voting on a contraption consisting of a collection of […] puzzle boxes, all connected by untraceable wires to every possible adversary on the planet.
We do not currently have the technology to make internet voting secure (and may never).
We can’t make such technology appear by wishful thinking, just trying hard, making analogies with other fields, or running pilots.
It is imprudent (irresponsible?) to assume that determined effort by adversaries can’t defeat security objectives of internet voting.
“What are best practices for internet voting?” to me sounds like “Pleash jush help me inshert the key in the lock, (hic), and I’ll be on my way…”
- Online Consultation in a Democracy: Theory & Literature Review
I’ve just published the output from my never-completed doctorate: a review of government consultations online, models of democracy and a review of literature on researching online consultations.
- Does Birmingham need to call in independent election observers?
An interesting report by an election agent on problems with how the General Election in Birmingham was administered. Plenty of food for thought there.
- Westminster Hall debate on Electoral Administration Reform
I couldn’t resist annotating the bit about Swindon’s e-voting pilots!
- A good piece in LibDemVoice’s Election Law channel reviewing the above debate
- Lord Puttnam’s Speech: Parliament and Young People – bringing the two together in a digital world
Really a very good read…
A few links I’d like to push your way:
- “Disappointed, but hopeful”
Rupert and my response to the result of the Green Party executive elections.
- Stop Disconnection Without Trial
Support the Open Rights Group’s campaign to stop Lord Mandelson’s barmy plan to disconnect suspected file-sharers.
- Reheat Britain
A much better idea than the car scrappage scheme — a boiler scrappage scheme. Of course upgrading boilers alone isn’t the answer, but it’s a start and while they’re there I’m sure the fitters will be keen to offer insulation and other energy efficiency services.
- In Parliament – Prentice challenged on vote security
Again and again MPs ask questions about electoral integrity only to be rebuffed by Bridget Prentice.
- AEA Chief Exec expresses fears over signature checks
John Turner, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, seems like a very sensible guy when we’ve spoken briefly in the past. In this Kable article his quotes are spot-on about the rushed signature checking system for May 3rd’s postal votes.
- Software project aims to erase e-voting fog
An article on Joe Kiniry’s work with open source e-voting systems. As Joe said at ORG’s February e-voting events, he’d rather vote with pencil and paper, but e-voting is a juicy problem worth working on and open source is the best way for academia to do it.
- Doubts raised over e-count system
BBC Newsnight Scotland and News Online have provided the BBC’s best ever coverage of e-counting including interviews with Prof Doug Jones and Dr Rebecca Mercuri. See link in top-right of page for video. The piece includes the revelation that Neil Kinnock (the former Labour Party leader) is a non-exec director of DRS, the key e-counting supplier in Scotland. Furthermore David Cairns MP, a minister for the Scotland Office, said that the UK was not ready for voting without paper citing Ireland as an example of the problems that could bring.
- SMS Texts to help citizens monitor Nigerian elections
Factored in with a more conventional EU election observation mission, this is a great way to boost the amount of data collected concerning election irregulatories.
- ORG Election Observer Handbook published
I’m sure it’s not perfect yet but we’re still very happy to share our Election Observer Handbook which will guide the Open Rights Group observer teams watching this May’s elections.
- Hackers Invited to Break Into Philippine Internet Voting System
Scytl are busy not only running e-voting in upcoming UK pilots but in the Philippines come July 10th. The report is a bit tragic as an election commissioner is obviously impressed by Scytl’s holding a patent – if only they knew the problems with software patents. Inviting hackers to attack a system proves very little indeed: Smart hackers wouldn’t be detected or even attempt penetration during a test, also how do we know Scytl would admit being hacked even if they did detect it? And so on…
- Sarasota County, Florida e-voting results still seriously in doubt
The credible concerns that continue to be raised about the congressional race with 18,000 undervotes is creating a stink and undermining voter confidence. Wired News has more on bugs that may have played a role whilst David Dill and Dan Wallach have published a paper online which convincingly argues that the reports so far in no way extensively show what really happened.
- Canada drops licences and adopts free model for map data
This kind of thing makes me so proud to be Canadian.
- Electoral Commission Pilot Evaluation Frameworks published
The Commission has, highly commendably, published the frameworks it will use for evaluating the May 2007 pilots and invited comment. Not much time to do so but the fundamental problems are the Commission’s limited remit and powers, not so much the specifics of the frameworks.
- Court recognises Pennsylvania Voter’s rights to secure and reliable voting systems
A great victory for local activists. The detail is very state and US-specific but the principles are key – voters need to know that their votes have been accurately recorded as intended.
- Hacking Democracy now out on DVD
It’s a US release but you can get it through links on the film producers’ site. Some bonus material is also included, not seen it yet but I’m told it’s good!
- French e-voting activists have gathered more than 30,000 signatures against e-voting
Citoyens et informaticiens pour un vote verifier par l’electeur are having quite a bit of success in gathering opposition to e-voting in the imminent French presidential elections.
- ES&S knew of serious flaws and tried to cover them up
These flaws weren’t just serious but were the very same ones that Diebold had been publicly humiliated over. For example hard coding important passwords into the source code so that every single machine would have the same password. ES&S and Diebold Election Systems share a common corporate and technical heritage including the Urosevich brothers behind the companies which merged into each group. These flaws have emerged as part of the ongoing missing 18,000 vote saga in Florida. I try to not cover too much U.S. e-voting as it gets so much coverage elsewhere but here’s some more on this story:
1. An ES&S memo shows they were aware of a problem with the Florida touchscreens which could have led to votes not being recorded, and the memo was ‘misfiled’ when it could have helped give activists access to the machines for analysis of what happened.
2. The Florida State University team state they didn’t know of ES&S’ terms that would have led to cover up and I believe them as they did reveal some serious problems with ES&S’ code. More on who knew what, when.
3. Jo Hall has the low down on how the report published compares with ES&S’ terms highlighting the password issue – the passage Jo quotes on password implementation is just utterly devastating.
- AP: Ohio Election Workers Sentenced
Other than the ‘Hursti Hack’, one of the other main stories in Hacking Democracy was the manipulation of the recount in Ohio in a populous swing county, Cuyahoga county, which could have actually changed the result of the 2004 presidential election. Two of the workers shown in the film were found guilty of rigging the recount by handpicking the 3% sample so that it would match the overall result certified. They’ve been sentenced to 18 months in prison each. Why they rigged the recount and for who still hasn’t emerged, the judge said that “I can’t help but feel there’s more to this story.” This case (where investigations are continuing) shows that just requiring a recount isn’t enough, how it is conducted is vitally important.
- BBC: ITV’s Ice final hit by vote fault
In the continuing controversy over TV phone-in votes, Vodafone have announced that 11,500 text message votes were not delivered until Monday morning (the show was Saturday evening). ITV claim that this represented less than 1% of votes cast and would not have changed the result whilst Vodafone will be issuing a 50p refund for each text sent. SMS text is such an unreliable platform for communications, I’m glad the pilots are not trialling its use again this year. These stories also highlight the lack of scrutiny over the results counts for these shows, something that Avi Rubin touched upon on his blog recently with a shocking admission of reality TV viewing!
- BBC: 10,000 passports go to fraudsters in 12 months
This is astonishing. The UK Identity & Passport Service, the Home Office agency who will be responsible for issuing and administering identity cards, have wrongly issued 10,000 passports in response to fraudulent applications. How they know this number or can be sure it’s not more or less is an interesting question. The Home Office cite the figures as further justification for their plan to interview passport applicants. I think interviews, done properly, would be a useful but expensive measure. However one must wonder about the agency’s competence if this really is the level of fraud that they allowed under the existing system.
- The Times: Drafting error scuppers move to beat election fraud
It’s been known for a while but The Times chose yesterday to report on the flaw in the Electoral Administration Act which prevents electoral officers withholding ballots from electors whose signatures don’t match their council-held sample.
- Heise Online: ES&S demos the wide-screen e-voting they want to sell in Germany (in German)
Due to legal requirements over the effects of candidates not all being displayed on the screen at one time ES&S have shown a wide-screen system for use in Germany. It’s a shame they are flawed single-use systems because I’m sure schools could benefit from big touch-screens like that.