Computers in Election Vigils - take two

Jecel Assumpcao Jr. jecel at
Mon Oct 12 13:51:14 CDT 2015

Paul Koning wrote on Sat, 10 Oct 2015 11:44:58 -0400:
> > On Oct 9, 2015, at 5:39 PM, Jecel Assumpcao Jr. wrote:
> > [noticed voter ID terminal had cable to voting machines!]
> That's not the real problem. 

Indeed, not *the* problem but just *a* problem I noticed while still in
line to get into the voting station.

> The real problem is that you had no way to be sure, no way to verify,
> that the machine was recording your vote and would accurately report
> it later.  It might just as easily report numbers that someone had told
> it to report, not connected to any reality.  How would you know?  If
> anyone were to question this, how would you prove that the count is
> honest?

This issue was raised, so the third time these machines were used in a
national election there was a pilot with modified machines that printed
their results so that the voter could see (but not touch) and then
dropped the paper version into an urn. Observers from all the different
parties could use the paper trail to verify the numbers presented
electronically by the machines. After that single trial, TSE declared
that the result was that a paper trail was proved to be unnecessary and
caused delays and added expense, so those machines were never seen again
and elections in Brazil have been paper free ever since.

There are several aspects of voting culture in Brazil that are quite
different than in many other countries and any proposals have to take
that into account. Voting is mandatory, for example. If you can't prove
that you voted in the last two elections (or were officially excused due
to travel or something like that) then you can't get a passport and
suffer a few other restrictions. There are a lot of people who would
like to buy people's votes and, historically, many powerful people would
force all their employees to vote for their own candidates. This means
that any scheme that would allow somebody to prove how they voted would
be completely rejected, here. Even doing stuff like taking a picture of
the machine's screen with your cell phone to show how you voted is one
of the few things that can land you in jail on election day.

Here is an example of a scheme that would work in some countries, but
would not be an option in Brazil: just generate a random number and
store it with the vote. You print out the random number and give it to
the voter to take him. Then you make the final contents of the machine
available online. The voter can go through that at home and check that
their random number is paired with their actual vote. They have to
suppose that will also be the case for everyone else. They can manually
add all the votes for that machine (or any other they are interested in)
and compare with the final report for that machine. This protects
against fraud, but not against being forced to prove to somebody (other
than yourself) how you voted.

-- Jecel

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