Catching up on piles of reading, I noticed a respectable digital journal—Springer Link recently (in June) published an article by Antonio Mugica of Smartmatic in London, UK, titled “The Case for Election Technology.” I am going be bold here: IMHO, it is unfortunate to see a respectable journal publish this paper, or any that claims to describe a system that is “un-hackable”, completely secure, impenetrable, and/or impossible to compromise. It’s the computer systems equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. Impossible. Bear in mind, I think Smartmatic has some fine technology. I know folks there, and I am confident that if they had been aware of this article going to press before it did, they would have done everything they could to put the brakes on it, until some revisions were made for basic credibility. But that cat is out of the bag, so to speak. And the article is being widely circulated. I also disagree with most of Mugica’s comparisons between eVoting and paper voting because from a U.S. perspective (and I admit this review is all from a U.S.-centric viewpoint) it’s comparing the wrong two things: paperless eVoting vs. hand-marked hand-counted paper ballots. It ignores the actual systems that are the most widely used for election integrity in the U.S.
Now, perhaps Mugica’s argument is for eVoting more broadly, without insisting on the paperless part. But in that case, most of America already has some form of eVoting, using voting machines and paper ballots or records, coupled with some form of paper ballot audit to detect malfunctioning machines. In that case, you don’t need to claim mythical security properties along with implied mythical perfect performance. If some equipment doesn’t work right – whether from hacks or good old fashioned software bugs – the audit can detect and correct the results.
That’s why I’d like to think that our entire TrustTheVote Project makes a better case for innovation in election technology—with plenty of appropriate focus on software quality and system integrity, but certainly without attempting sensational claims of a system being “un-hackable.” Since paper ballots and risk limiting audits are core part of the accepted approach to election integrity, part of the innovation is in excellence in enabling auditing, and getting full transparency on every aspect of elections operations.
That’s the gist of my differences with this article, but I’ve also spent some more cycles getting to specifics – itemized below for those with a wide election-geek streak. But first, I want to explain why – why it is important to shoot for a high degree of accuracy in discussions of election technology in the U.S. at present. That’s because right now election technology in this country needs to start what will be a 4-6 year forklift upgrade (assuming new alternative solutions arrive in time).
Full Article: A Hacked Case For Election Technology — OSET Foundation.