TCS Daily


No More Minnesotas - Part 1

By Jon N. Hall - June 1, 2009 12:00 AM

About 8 years elapsed from John F. Kennedy's proposal to put a man on the Moon to the Apollo 11 mission. And on July 20, 1969, Man set foot on another world. Setting that foot involved an enormous amount of engineering and technology, much of which didn't exist when the project began.

About 8 years have elapsed since the debacle of the 2000 election. But can we really have confidence in our elections? Can the government actually prove what the correct lawful vote counts were in Decision 2008? More to the point, can the state of Minnesota demonstrate what the correct vote counts are in its on-going U.S. Senate contest?

Since CHANGE is in the air, what's changed in 8 years?

What's inexcusable is that our uncertainty is all so unnecessary. The solutions are simple; nothing new need be invented. Whereas the Moon Shot involved attempting something that had never been done with technology that hadn't been invented, America has been conducting elections for 220 years and the technology to fix the problems has existed for decades. But America's elections are still suspect.

Convenience, Flexibility and Cost
American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE) estimates that voter turnout in 2008 (PDF) will prove to be between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent. The CSAE pegs the number of eligible voters at 208,323,000 and estimates this year's turnout at 127,500,000.

Despite early voting, absentee voting, mail-in voting, and lower-than-expected turnout, we still saw long lines at the polls this year. What would the lines have been like if all eligible voters had voted? Well, there would have been 80+ million more folks in line. How many voters dutifully came to the polls, saw the long lines, and then turned right around and left?

The solution is the Internet. Internet voting would allow voting from anywhere at anytime--from your bedroom in the wee hours of the morning, from Wi-Fi hotspots, from public computers in libraries, even from abroad. How convenient is that?

Internet voting requires no special equipment, such as touch-screen voting machines and card-reading machines. Instead of countless polling stations, you'd have a single computer server in each state capital to collect votes. Indeed, it would be possible to do away with polling stations. You wouldn't need to manufacture ballots, signature rosters, and such. Internet voting would be far cheaper. What's not to love?

Unlike ballots that must be printed and then transported to polling stations, you have the flexibility with the Internet to change ballots right up to the moment voting begins. If, say, a candidate were to die right before an election, a new candidate could have his name actually on the ballot. If the wording of a ballot proposition or initiative must be changed, perhaps by court order, it can be done easily with an Internet system at the last minute. It's the same flexibility you have with online journals: If something needs changing, you change it in one place and it's good for everybody. But with printed journals that have gone to press, the deed is done, and all you can do is print an erratum in a future issue.

I've always regretted that I don't have records of my votes. But with Internet voting, you could print off the final feedback screen that shows how you voted, or save that screen to your hard-drive. Call it a "voting receipt".

Employers who allow their employees to use company computers to vote from work wouldn't have to pay for time-off on Election Day. And rather than an Election Day, the Internet makes it easy to allow folks to vote for an entire week--24/7.

Security
Without computers, life as we know it would come to a screeching halt. If an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) fried the nation's electronics, America would be thrown back into the mid-1800s. We depend on computers for just about everything. We trust computers with our very lives.

But many folks are still wary of computers. And when it comes to the vote, the basis of Democracy, they're right to be concerned. When they think of Internet voting, they might have visions of some scoundrel using someone else's ID to vote, or voting repeatedly.

When you vote by Internet, you will not encounter a kindly retiree asking for your name to match against the voter registry. Instead, you'll have to type in your ID. In an article urging "automatic registration", I recommended that this ID should be the Social Security Number. This means that a computer handling an election would carry the voter registry, including the SSN. But that wouldn't be enough; the voter would also need to enter additional information, such as a PIN (personal identification number), which would be listed in his voter registry entry as well.

As for "repeat voting", before a voter is allowed entry into the system, the computer would reference a "switch" on the voter's registration that will be set when the voter finalizes his vote. If the switch is on, the voter won't be allowed in, as he's already voted. Additional steps could make repeat voting impossible. One would be to make electronic ballots "key-sequenced", with the voter's ID as the key--it's impossible to write a record that already exists.

What I envision is that all 50 states would use identical software, and each state would have a single computer server dedicated to elections. During the election, the server would conduct no other business but the election, and would carry no software but the election software, and no data but election data, such as the voter registry and the electronic ballots the software will produce. Because the servers would be dedicated to one activity, elections, they should be less susceptible to hacking, viruses and malware.

Internet voting presents no problems that haven't been dealt with in countless other computer applications. Indeed, it seems a piece of cake, not very complicated at all. For years now, America has used the Internet for commerce, banking and to trade securities. If we can trust the Internet with our money, can't we trust it with our votes?

Election law is left to the states (Article I, Section 4.1). And just in time for this article, Hawaii conducted the nation's first all-digital election. However, before all 50 states adopt a full-blown Internet voting system, prudence might demand that one state serve as a pilot project to demonstrate how well it works. Perhaps that state should be Minnesota.

The real snag in migrating to Internet elections is the government--incumbents like things just the way they are.

Continued in Part 2...
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.
Categories:

18 Comments

To Error is human
To truly F*** things up requires a Computer.

I think we should move to computer voting. I will say that caution is prudent. The source code for the voting software MUST be public and viewable. That way any attempt to hide back doors or other hacks are not present. The source code can be designed in such a way that seeing the software with out a encryption key would be impossible to hack.

There would also have to be way to fix voters who's ballets have been cast before they vote. You could go to the voter registrar office, supply appropriate ID, and then be able to vote and replace the erroneous vote placed before the actual voter.

What difference does it make, if the counting of the ballots is corrupted?
Minnesota and Washington has shown the way to go. Use your parties control of the counting aparatus to ensure that one standard for counting votes is used in your districts and a different, much tougher standard is used in your opponents districts.

Use your control of the election machinery to ensure that millions of new voters are enrolled and make it illegal for anyone to check to see if any of these new voters actually exist.

Use your control of the political machine to ensure that it is illegal to ask a voter to identify himself before voting. That way the new, non-existent voters will be able to vote as many times as they want.

I greatly fear that we have seen the last, honest election in this country.

Voter intimidation
Last fall, in Philedelphia, a group of Black Panthers gathered outside a voting place. All voters had to walk past them before entering. They dressed in military style garments, visibly carried clubs, and challenged anyone who they didn't like the looks of.

After the election these Black Panthers were identified, charged, and eventually convicted of voter intimidation.

This past week, with the trial the penalty phase, new orders came down from Washington.

Drop all charges.

And the case was sumarily dismissed. The convicted are now walking free. Hero's to those who don't want the wrong people to vote.

And, and Roy denied Obamacrats were involved, too
Here's the video that busted them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFpfQpuuVzI

Oh, and if you look back at previous postings in TCS on this topic, you'll see Roy denying Obama & Thugs had anything to do with it.

Well, with AG Holder dropping the charges to save their Black Panther thugs, I think Roy's position on that doesn't hold up much.

Show us your hooters
This sort of slander is very much in keeping with all your posts now:

"Oh, and if you look back at previous postings in TCS on this topic, you'll see Roy denying Obama & Thugs had anything to do with it."

Odd. This is the first I've heard of the incident. And you say I've commented on it? Then you won't mind finding my comment and showing it to us.

Looking the incident up on the web, I'd like to see whether the person wielding the stick was really convicted. And if he was, I'd like to see whether the conviction was then vacated for any reason. I haven't found anything yet offering those details.

The facts seem to be that two guys, one with a night stick, were hanging around a polling station. And there were white voters who said they felt intimidated. The proper disposition would seem to be for the local authorities to find them guilty of a violation.. and for the JD to get involved if there was any evidence of a wider pattern.

Was there such evidence? First, this New Black Panthers Party is not affiliated with any other party, including the original Black Panthers. Second, they've disavowed the incident thoroughly. Witness this statement:

"Public Notice Regarding Philadelphia Chapter Suspension 1/7/09 NBPP Official Statement

"Philadelphia Chapter of the New Black Panther Party is suspended from operations and is not recognized by the New Black Panther Party until further notice.

"The New Black Panther Party has never, and never will, condone or promote the carrying of nightsticks or any kind of weapon at any polling place. Such actions that were taken were purely the individual actions of Samir Shabazz and not in any way representative or connected to the New Black Panther Party. On that day November 4th, Samir Shabazz acted purely on his own will and in complete contradiction to the code and conduct of a member of our organization. We don't believe in what he did and did not tell him to do what he did, he moved on his own instructions.

"It is true that volunteers in the New Black Panther Party successfully served as poll watchers all over the country and helped get the Black vote out. We were incident free. We are intelligent enough to understand that a polling place is a sensitive site and all actions must be carried out in a civilized and lawful manner.

"Certainly no advice from the leadership of the New Black Panther Party was given to Samir Shabazz to do what he did, he acted on his own. This will be the New Black Panther Party's Only Statement on the matter."

http://www.newblackpanther.com/statement-voterintimidation_phillychapter.html

So is there material here worth making a "federal case" out of it? There certainly would be if Eric Holder's JD had applied any pressure on local prosecutors or courts to vacate a conviction. And I'd be very open to evidence that that was the case. In fact I'd be properly appalled.

If not, and no one can find such evidence, I'd say there was nothing more to be done. A wild hair was arrested, tried and convicted. The party disavowed any affiliation with the incident. Case closed.

Meanwhile don't forget my other request.. you were going to give us evidence I'd commented on this incident before.

roy has a history of only remembering what is convenient
so I'm not surprised that he doesn't remember what others do.

A trick memory
"so I'm not surprised that he doesn't remember what others do."

Really?

My memory must be playing tricks on me. I can't even remember what you had for breakfast this morning.

Roy is a civil rights violator apologist even now
Sure they denied any involvement. They didn't want a RICO prosecution, I bet....Oh wait! Here's why: the DOJ sued to have an injunction placed on them: http://www.netnewspublisher.com/injunction-sought-against-new-black-panther-party-over-voter-rights/

"you were going to give us evidence I'd commented on this incident before."

No, I am not going to be your personal 'Google B*tch'.

Especially since I've provided such evidence regarding past issues, and you denied those or twisted things around to avoid having to do so.

Like the Stimulus Checks of Early 2008.

And everyone who regularly reads these posts know I've repeatedly shown the Youttube video of the Black Panther civil rights violators, in which you commented 'prove how they have anything to do with Obama!".

"Looking the incident up on the web, I'd like to see whether the person wielding the stick was really convicted. And if he was, I'd like to see whether the conviction was then vacated for any reason. I haven't found anything yet offering those details."

There was no 'vacating'. See, you don't even know what you are talking about -- Obama's sh*t is so good you blind yourself to the basic facts of anything that might prove otherwise.

The Voting Rights Act is a federal law, prosecuted by federal prosecutors in federal courts, Roy.

DOJ career lawyers got a default judgement and then Obama's appointees told them to drop the charges.

Hans Von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation and a former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, tells us, "In my experience, I have never heard of the department refusing to take a default judgment... . If a Republican administration had done this, it would be front-page news and every civil rights group in the country would be screaming about it."

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/29/protecting-black-panthers/

I guess Obama doesn't give a flying damn about the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, either.

I know that you don't, Roy. Not with any credibility, that is.

No where to go but up
If I had faith in the current voting system, then all these questions about security, etc, might carry more weight. But as it is, the current system is so rife with corruption (and temptation for further corruption) that any security risks involved with internet voting seem more than mitigated by the potential payoff - a simple system where voters can verify that their vote was counted, and that votes for imaginary citizens do not pollute the system.

With the likes of ACORN, and other political machines who's primary purpose is to generate votes, via any and all methods, ethical or not, I simply cannot trust that the vote counts are accurate.

Which brings up another question: Why do we require voters to register, anyway? Every citizen is issued a social security number, and a file is maintained on that person. Clearly the government knows (or should know!) who is and is not a citizen of voting age. They also know where you live. What would be so mind bogglingly difficult about one vote per SSN? We do banking and all kinds of other important business on the internet. This shouldn't be so hard.

We can worry all day long about security risks to an internet based voting system. And we can declare that such a system is too risky. But if we apply the same reasoning to the current system, we must quickly come to the conclusion that the current system is even worse.

It doesn't matter how much data you present
or how many studies you link to, roy will continue to scream that his opponents never present any data.

He is simply incapable of seeing anything that doesn't agree with his personal religion.

Ignorant, malicious slander
So you accuse me of saying things I've never said,, about a subject of which I was not aware, and when I challenge you to produce evidence you just say "No, I am not going to be your personal 'Google B*tch'."

You are a cheap, worthless piece of scum. There is no truth in you.

Justice was done
According to everything I've been able to find, the guy performed an act of voter intimidation, he was arrested, tried and convicted. Z himself says that the administration didn't apply any pressure to have the judgment vacated (above). And the NBPP has disavowed his actions.

What is there left to be done? Justice was performed. The incident is now over and done with.

They just applied pressure to have the charges dismissed.
As usual, roy believes what he wants, to heck with reality.

to really mess up requires roy.
...

But the charges were not dismissed!
Does reality not even matter to you? The guy was convicted. Charges were not dismissed.

The issue was that there could have been a further inquiry, into the parent organization. But they quickly disavwed the individual and his action. So there was no scope for any justice department investigation.

Let me put it another way. Millions of Americans call themselves Republicans. Let's imagine that in our next election, one of them is a poll watcher. And somehow he gets into an argument with a voter at the polling place, pulls out a revolver and shoots him dead.

Is it your position that then the entire Republican Party should be put on trial as an accessory to the crime?

It's not mine. I'll be happy if that shadowy "they" you refer to, moves to quash the link between a lone nutcase and a party that clearly would not have been neither the author nor the instigator of the crime.

Same with the NBPP.

he was convicted, but no penalty is applied
as usual, roy goes out of his way to defend any and all corruption that benefits his candidates.

A pattern of misrepresentation
" as usual, roy goes out of his way to defend any and all corruption that benefits his candidates."

Actually no. Corruption carries the meaning of money changing hands under the table. The word is out of place in this discussion, which has to do with the actions of a lone yahoo that found himself representing a small splinter group of activists.. and embarrassing them by his actions. The initial offense was not a big deal.

Nor was it performed at the behest of the Democrats. That kind of innuendo is ridiculous, and doesn't make you look that smart. Particularly when you can't let go of the point.

So you've misrepresented, in a single sentence, not only the facts of the case but my motives in discussing this. Let's take a look at all the other things you've misrepresented, just in this thread.

Your first post is titled "What difference does it make, if the counting of the ballots is corrupted?" But there are no credible allegations that ballots have been miscounted in Minnesota.

I can ask you to back up your empty claim, and you will fire back that you already have, and we can go round and round on this one. Just like always. It doesn't add to the discussion to just dance around jabbering like that.

You make three very specific accusations against the Democrats, without specifically naming them:

"Use your parties control of the counting aparatus to ensure that one standard for counting votes is used in your districts and a different, much tougher standard is used in your opponents districts.

"Use your control of the election machinery to ensure that millions of new voters are enrolled and make it illegal for anyone to check to see if any of these new voters actually exist.

"Use your control of the political machine to ensure that it is illegal to ask a voter to identify himself before voting. That way the new, non-existent voters will be able to vote as many times as they want."

This prompted me to bring up a bunch of articles on the events surrounding the Minnesota election. And I find no substance in any of the three charges. None.

And if I challenge you to find something to back your charges up you won't. Maybe you'll say I won't believe you anyway. But you know I'll read whatever you give me. I've already read quite a lot on this election, and I haven't yet found anything credibly alleging vote fraud.

So we're up to five misrepresentations now, in only two of your comments. Why don't we go on?

"It doesn't matter how much data you present, or how many studies you link to, roy will continue to scream that his opponents never present any data.

"He is simply incapable of seeing anything that doesn't agree with his personal religion."

Could you at least admit that you've presented nothing, and that repeatedly I've asked to see it? Coleman-Franken was a clean election, by all accounts I've seen. Show me one that credibly disagrees.

How can you prove your case without doing that?

Then there's this: "They just applied pressure to have the charges dismissed". Which, of course, they were not.

You're not even half trying, Mark. We need better stuff from you. If you can't come up with more pertinent material, please just go away.

I blame our leaders
"..I simply cannot trust that the vote counts are accurate."

You said a mouthful. When the wise and charismatic individuals who lead us can't even keep themselves from the temptation to commit vote fraud, what hope is there for the rest of us?

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/02/08/ann-coulter-under-investigation-for-voter-fraud/

And as a direct consequence, the incidence of voter fraud has been skyrocketing in this country! Just look at this report:

"..The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%."

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/

It's a tidal wave of deception!

TCS Daily Archives