entp2007: (clm)
In February of 2007 I attended my second Pycon, a conference devoted to the open source programming language Python. One of the coolest system of presentations I saw were the lightning talks. Each presenter gets only 5 minutes to give his spiel. The one that made the biggest impression on me was by Ka-Ping Yee. He demonstrated how using less than 300 lines of code could make electronic voting much more secure. Consider this. A voting machine made by Diebold (now Premier Election Solutions) has over 31,000 lines of code. Some machines have over 100,000 lines of code. Which do you think would be easier to audit and certify?

As we get closer to the election, voting security becomes more important. Ka-Ping Yee is getting some news coverage. Since that talk his pvote code has ballooned to just under 500 lines of python code, still somewhat under that 100K mark.

No matter what system is used, transparency and the ability to audit the system and the votes is of paramount importance. No one should trust any system to work. Proper checks and balances need to be in place, so that should questions arise, people can see what happened.

Yee was interviewed during Pycon 2008 in Chicago: In Voting Software We Trust? (video) http://www.sciencefriday.com/videos/watch/10157/

Ira Flatow also interviews Ka-Ping Yee in this recent segment of Science Friday. Comes in at 13:30.
E-Voting Update (broadcast Friday, October 24th, 2008) http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200810241

One thing to note about the electronic voting systems mentioned in the podcast was calibration. They use touch screens. If they are not calibrated properly, voters thinking they selected their candidate of choice may show they've selected a different candidate. The co-ordinates of the selections you see on the screen should be synced up with the co-ordinates of the touch display. This is a separate issue that needs to be addressed, but as long as it can be calibrated visually and on the spot this should not be a serious technical issue. The only downside is that voters may not be paying attention to their choices or summary.

Yee didn't mention anything about a paper audit, but it would be trivial to add a few lines of code to print out the cast ballot. Not only does this make it possible to vote more securely—by an order of magnitude—his system makes it easier for the voter to cast a vote, including those requiring accessibility.

You can also view his Pycon slide show. It will walk you through the steps, and you'll see how it is possible to make electronic voting far more secure than it is now. With the proper checks and balances people can be sure their vote is counted. These checks are sadly lacking in Diebold's and others voting machine technology.
entp2007: (Default)
November 5th will be a day to remember. It'll be the day after the election and if we are very lucky we'll know who won the presidential election. I knew that the campaign would get uglier the closer it gets to the election. And it has. An actress who played Ann Coulter in a bit part in the movie W died after after a severe beating. Was the attack politically motivated? I don't know. It could have been a random coincidence. A woman faked an attack by an Obama supporter. She has confessed.

If Obama wins, Republicans will be crying voter fraud. If McCain wins, Democrats will be crying voter suppression. The difference is that voter fraud is done by individuals and voter suppression is an organized effort to prevent large numbers of voters from casting ballots, usually minorities. The voter fraud that the Republicans are crying about now is actually registration fraud, but they are being disingenuous about it. ACORN hires people to register voters. They are required to turn in all registration forms even if they are considered suspect.

Remember the attorney firing scandal? Well the Republicans made the same charges of "voter fraud" and when those attorneys appointed by George W. Bush couldn't or wouldn't find this alleged voter fraud, they were fired.

I will not be surprised to hear more reports of racially motivated attacks over the next nine days. I will not be surprised at conservative and "independent" pundits making claims that the Democrats have become unhinged.

There is nothing I can say to my friends and family who plan to vote for McCain, that will convince them Obama will be better for America. Some of them think he will be a disaster. They don't believe the last eight years have been disastrous with Bush & Cheney. There have been willing Democrats who have enabled them. Rightly or wrongly the only the only thing that can prove the Republicans in charge aren't totally evil is if Obama wins, is inaugurated and serves most of his first term as president.

Update
Well, that didn't take long. AP is reporting that the: ATF disrupts skinhead plot to assassinate Obama (and 102 other people who just happened to be black). This is not the first foiled plot.
entp2007: (clm)
Since I will be out of town on Nov 4. I requested an absentee ballot. I did receive my ballot, and I read those instructions carefully. As instructed, I had the affidavit notarized. I was a little alarmed that the instructions told me to use a No. 2 pencil. I did so. I put my marked ballots in the envelope marked BALLOTS, and put that envelope in the envelope bearing the Affidavit, and then I put that envelope inside the envelope marked Outer Envelope. After sealing it all up I walked over to the campus post office. It cost me 59 cents to mail.

I won't say how I voted, but if you've read my posts and comments, you can probably guess who I voted for for president. I will say this: when I saw Sarah Palin's name on the ballot it was only then that it really sunk in that she was the VP nominee for the Republicans. I had a similar but lesser reaction when I learned that Ahnold became the governator of California. Then I actually visited some friends in the Bay Area, and I realized looking around OMG he's the governor of this state. I knew intellectually what a disaster she'd be for the country when I learned enough about her, but seeing her name in black and white on the actual ballot I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.

This is an historic election and for many of us will be the most important vote we will ever cast. Regardless of who wins, we Americans have huge challenges ahead of us. With the right leadership we can take on those challenges. With the wrong leadership, we'll fail. Only you can decide what choice to make.

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