Where's the Candle and Where's my Crayon?

Avi Rubin provided a detailed account of his experience as an elections judge in the Maryland primary last Tuesday. His polling place used systems provided by Diebold, and although they managed to keep the precinct open through the entire election, it wasn't due to high reliability or ease of use of the voting systems.

He provides the whole account in his blog.

Thanks to Dr. Rubin's blog, I can also note that a reasearch group at Princeton has had a chance to examine the Diebold "AccuVote" system in detail. Their abstract reads in part:

"Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab."

Hardly something you could call "AccuVote".

I renew my earlier call for it to be possible for the polling place itself to be operable with no technology more advanced than a candle and a crayon. I'll allow an umbrella or tent if its raining, and a lantern after dark. Sure, a climate controlled comfortable room with working lights, safe parking, and easy access for all voters is the goal, but the voting itself should not depend on any utility, and the whole process must be transparent and verifiable to any observer.

A paper ballot with marks made directly by the voter is transparent and verifiable by each voter. When dropped in a locked and numbered box, it is easy to rest assured that those boxes of votes can be observed in their progress to a central counting facility. An observer (from any party or even interested citizens or the press) could easily understand that the physical ballots are controlled and tracked from the polling places to the counting facility. And the whole process is subject to audit, review, and recount all without needing to trust anything that cannot be seen and understood by people of ordinary intelligence and education.

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