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[P]
New from the DoD and Accenture: "eDemocracy"

By cce in Technology
Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 01:41:23 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Think web elections are a long way off? Think again. A lucky few American citizens will be able to vote online in the upcoming 2004 presidential elections, thanks to a Department of Defense project called SERVE.


My concerns with black-box voting machines made Kuro5hin in February, but now there's a new voting method to worry about: the Department of Defense's Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE), a web-based Internet voting service which will be used in the upcoming presidential election.

Along with many other potential participants, I first heard about SERVE in notices like last month's American Consulate Hong Kong email newsletter:

Voting Information News
Voting goes "Internet" for Uniformed Services personnel and overseas citizens. Congress has mandated the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) project be conducted to gather data and make recommendations regarding the use of the Internet for registration and voting by Uniformed Services personnel and overseas citizens. SERVE is an alternative to the by-mail process. The SERVE system will be available on January 1, 2004, for Uniformed Services personnel and overseas citizens to submit voter registration applications and absentee ballot requests for the 2004 primaries in the participating States and for the November 2 Presidential election. The participating States are Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington.

This leads the reader to SERVE's official site at serveusa.gov, which promises:

"In 2004, you can take part in an exciting new initiative called SERVE (Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment), which will let eligible U.S. citizens vote from any Windows-based computer with Internet access, anywhere in the world!"

"Voters can register and vote from anywhere in the world using any Windows-based PC that has either Internet Explorer 5.x and above or Netscape 6.x and above browser software. This can be from home, work, an Internet cafe, or wherever they are comfortable voting. Citizens will receive a SERVE digital certificate as their identification and authentication credential."

Interesting, but what's this about the Department of Defense? They're mandated by law to run the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which helps overseas military personnel and expats vote. But if this Windows-based solution (apparently combining Versign certificates, public-key cryptography, DoD webservers, and local county election officials) is judged successful in 2004, could more states would feel compelled to sign on, leading perhaps to SERVE technology being used domestically some day?

That's what Accenture seems to be betting on, in creating its new "eDemocracy Services" business unit (and acquiring "election.com"):

"To serve DoD clients and others in the government, Accenture launched a new business called eDemocracy Services that is focused on delivering services to election agencies around the world.

... 'We created our elections practice in response to the market need that emerged following the 2000 elections, and we continue to see tremendous global business opportunities in the election industry,' said Steven J. Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture's Government operating group."

What a great, global business opportunity for Accenture! Finally, private companies are helping the US to "export democracy." Personally, I find the idea of the DoD overseeing elections a bit creepy, and also don't know what to think about them choosing Arthur Andersen's surviving sibling to make online voting a reality. But Accenture does have experience: it developed Florida's new central voter registration database for 2002, and is also working on e-voting in the UK.

Sure, it's perfectly natural for companies to pony up to meet demand from election officials for new technology. But hiring private companies to develop the infrastructure for our democracy will certainly frighten the conspiracy-minded among us. Bev Harris at Black Box Voting paints a picture of touchscreen voting machine makers as secretive, corrupt, not particularly concerned with security, and too politically connected. SERVE, however, is a federal program headed by Accenture, with subcontractors Hart InterCivic, VeriSign, Avanade and AFFINA, all companies with hopefully better business standards (and not dependent on greasing county officials' palms). But beyond conspiracy theories, the question remains: can we trust the technology to be tamper-proof?

SERVE's FAQ provides many technical details intended to assuage security concerns. But many, like Stanford professor David Dill of VerifiedVoting.org, believe that Internet voting simply cannot be made secure with current technology. "It is worse than DREs [the touch-screen black-box machines Dill campaigns against] ... This program must be modified somehow to use paper ballots," he wrote to me by email. "Otherwise, it is going to be a disaster."

Unfortunately, I'm no longer living abroad, so I won't be able to click-n-vote for the president next year. However, if opportunities in the election industry are as "tremendous" as Accenture believes, perhaps I won't have to wait too long.

Related links:
Federal Computer Week article
National Journal's Technology Daily article
SERVE official site
InternetNews.com: DoD Votes for Accenture's eDemocracy
Federal Voter Assistance Program (DoD-run)
Election.com

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
SERVE...
o is the best thing ever, I'm overseas and already signed up 0%
o is a useful service I can't wait to use 2%
o needs to be implemented very carefully, but can work fine 30%
o isn't such a big deal, you're making too much fuss over it 5%
o will never be secure enough, at least not anytime soon 27%
o is Donald Rumsfeld & Arthur Anderson's pet project to subvert democracy! 34%

Votes: 79
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o black-box voting machines
o Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE)
o last month's American Consulate Hong Kong email newsletter
o serveusa.g ov
o Federal Voting Assistance Program
o Accenture
o creating its new "eDemocracy Services" business unit
o developed Florida's new central voter registration database
o working on e-voting in the UK
o Black Box Voting
o corrupt
o Hart InterCivic
o VeriSign
o Avanade
o AFFINA
o SERVE
o VerifiedVo ting.org
o Federal Computer Week article
o National Journal's Technology Daily article
o SERVE official site
o InternetNe ws.com: DoD Votes for Accenture's eDemocracy
o Federal Voter Assistance Program (DoD-run)
o Election.c om
o Also by cce


Display: Sort:
New from the DoD and Accenture: "eDemocracy" | 66 comments (61 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Why bother? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by epcraig on Wed Jul 16, 2003 at 05:38:52 PM EST

The anarchists are winning. Half the population refuse the opportunity to vote because they believe their votes shall be ignored.

Obscuring the voting process behind Intellectual Property will enhance that perception nicely.


There is no EugeneFreeNet.org, there is an efn.org

People who don't vote let the corporations win (4.80 / 5) (#7)
by arthurpsmith on Wed Jul 16, 2003 at 06:24:07 PM EST

You want fascism, you'll get it. Not voting is a stupid way to express your opinions. It's got nothing to do with anarchy.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
so the anarchists should run candidates? (nt) (none / 0) (#13)
by Laiquendi on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 12:08:14 PM EST



[ Parent ]
maybe they should picket the polls. (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by ethereal on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 05:48:41 PM EST

That would be a more clear way to express a political will for lack of hierarchy, rather than just generalized apathy.

Trust me - the vast majority of nonvoters are not practicing anarchists. They're just lazy, forgetful, or find themselves to be "too busy".

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

I was mocking him. (none / 0) (#35)
by Laiquendi on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 06:04:26 PM EST

This statement specifically: "Not voting... has got nothing to do with anarchy."



[ Parent ]

I'm aware of that, but it still doesn't make sense (none / 0) (#66)
by ethereal on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 01:43:06 PM EST

I guess it's because I agree that voter apathy has almost nothing to do with anarchy. The two issues are almost entirely orthogonal. I don't see how the original statement is particularly mockable; you can disagree with the opinion but it's not really a logical fallacy or anything.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

actually, (none / 0) (#30)
by pb on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 03:53:18 PM EST

I didn't vote for precisely this reason. And if I had voted, my vote would have been ignored. No, I'm not kidding at all, so don't give me any of that "every vote counts" bullshit; some votes don't even get counted, period.

In hindsight, however, I should have voted for Gore. Who knew, back in Election 2000, what a huge mistake we were making to pick one identical-sounding candidate who doesn't represent my interests whatsoever over another? Not me.

But even that vote wouldn't have changed anything. Well, it would have added a '1' somewhere in NC's election statistics. Maybe. Well below the margin of error, in any case.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

I doubt it (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by TheModerate on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 05:10:54 PM EST

"Half the population refuse the opportunity to vote because they believe their votes shall be ignored."

While it is probably fun to blame the system or the government for every vice, I suspect that people don't vote because they don't care and are completely uninterested in politics.

"What a man has in himself is, then, the chief element in his happiness." -- Schopenhauer
[ Parent ]

Everyone should read the RISKS forum (5.00 / 7) (#8)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Jul 16, 2003 at 06:32:47 PM EST

Everyone who has a computer involved in their life in some way needs to read The Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems.

They've been discussing voting machines and online voting in an informed and authoritative way for over a decade.

Try entering the word "voting" in the search form. Typical of what you'll find is Computerized Voting -- No Standards and a Lot of Questions.

The moderator, Peter G. Neumann, is a researcher at the SRI International Computer Science Laboratory and frequent consultant to the government, military and industry on computer security, reliability and safety.

He is the author of the book Computer Related Risks, which draws on material from RISKS but discusses it in a more detailed way. It is also available in Japanese translation.

Do you depend on the correct performance of either computer hardware or software to go about your daily life? Does your health and safety depend on a programmer doing his job right? Think not? Every fly in an airplane, or drive a modern car? You need to read RISKS so you can make informed decisions.

Thank you for your attention.


--

Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy


Furthermore (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by Perpetual Newbie on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 01:59:13 PM EST

Scoop Media has reviewed one of the voting systems (Diebold) and found its security to be utter crap. It literally runs on Microsoft Access with no protection and is accessible by modem. this zIwethey forum post contains the appropriate links and backstory.

[ Parent ]
Clarification... (none / 0) (#18)
by Perpetual Newbie on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:03:02 PM EST

That's a review of an existing voting system that's been in use for years. I don't know whether eDemocracy will use similar systems for the backend or not. Sorry for bringing the thread off topic.

[ Parent ]
Well first of the US isn't even a democracy (3.16 / 6) (#9)
by tofubar on Wed Jul 16, 2003 at 07:04:36 PM EST

It's a democratic republic.

LOL Democracy? (3.66 / 3) (#10)
by simul on Wed Jul 16, 2003 at 07:15:22 PM EST

As if you're vote really counts. Most politicians are 0wn3d by corporations these days. Plus we lost all state and local rights over the years, so you are represented even more poorly. We're one of the worst, outdated so-called democracies in the world... you know why? We're too damn old and we never got a systems upgrade. It's embarrassing. 200+ years after electorates rode horses into Washington and were sometimes bought along the way, we *still* do it. Except now buying politicians is cheaper and more efficient.

IRV Voting is proven fairer... we're not going to do it. Federalism better represents the people... we don't care. And Internet voting *could* be secure, open source, with multiple, verifiable audit servers...but it isn't.

"No taxation without representation". Maybe I'll stop paying taxes

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]

Misuse (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Jul 16, 2003 at 07:33:48 PM EST

I believe Accenture was using the word democracy to describe our political process in a general way - which is true, we elect our officials in a democratic manner. Plus, eDemocraticRepublic just doesn't have the same ring to it.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Whats wrong with companies? (2.66 / 3) (#12)
by megid on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 11:56:03 AM EST

I would prefer an open source solution, but hey... I dont think anybody is developing it soon.

Anyway, in a dictatorship *cough* splendid democracy with slight twitches in presidential votings I'd be concerned too -- especially as those who forged the last election are the ones now installing the system.

Oh and I think that "Windows-only" and "Microsoft and DoD agreements" as well as "TCPA and backdoors" have nothing to do with each other.

--
"think first, write second, speak third."

Open Source Solution (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by lunatic on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 12:26:15 PM EST

Such a solution was being developed - GNU FREE. By all accounts, the project was making excellent progress, and certainly appeared to be doing a better job than Diebold's attempts at vote tabulation. However, development was stopped.

The project coordinator does not believe that e-voting (and particularly net-voting) is safe, or can be safe. He is not alone. Take a look at his resources, or the work of Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, Bruce Schneier (everyone seems to remember Appled Cryptography, but forget Secrets & Lies with Bruce), or Peter Neumann.

Ask yourself whether you trust these schemes enough to entrust your vote to them. Ask yourself whether you trust Accenture, bastard child of Andersen Consulting to adequately protect your vote.

[ Parent ]

eDemocracy my ass. (none / 0) (#15)
by bigbtommy on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 12:30:10 PM EST

Hmm. Call me a luddite if you will (although I don't know many UNIX using luddites), but I still feel more secure going up to the local polling station and 'X'-ing a candidate and slipping it in the ballot box to be checked by a human. With the whole Florida 2000 cockup, I really don't want to see Britain mindlessly follow the US leads of flogging off the most important thing in a country (the right to chose which of a selection of idiots will rule over you).
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up
No votes from my guys on this thing (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by AtADeadRun on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 12:34:24 PM EST

Among others, one of my collateral duties is my division's Voting Assistance Petty Officer. Hence, I'm responsible for making sure that the fifty or so other folks in my division can register and vote if they so desire (for those who are now confused, I'm an engineer aboard a U.S. Navy vessel). If we happen to be at sea when the elections roll around, I'm going to strongly recommend to my guys that they not use this, and instead get regular paper absentee ballots. I just don't trust something as important as the franchise to be accurately and securely usable over the 'net.



-------
Pain heals. Glory is forever. Keep running.

We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
Welcome to Votes R' Us (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by etherhelix on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:03:46 PM EST

If they hand out certificates and what not to verify votes.. couln't there conceiveably be a market created for the certificates?

How to make electronic voting machines auditable (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by dejohn on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:33:20 PM EST

My first K5 posting!

Here's how to make an electronic voting machine completely auditable:
  1. User votes with a touch screen
  2. Machine records voting choices to database
  3. Machine prints a "receipt" with barcode and visible, human readable, voting choices
  4. User turns receipt into voting official


Votes can be tallied instantly via count of the database. After the election results are advertised, the process of tallying the receipts begins (at a more relaxed pace). A statistically significant sample group of receipts are tested for validity of barcode/text choice matching. This ensures that the barcodes are reliable. Following this, all bar codes are scanned and a second tally is created. If the electronic tally and the barcode tally don't match, the barcode tally would be deemed to be the correct version (remember, the voter actually confirmed their selection on this receipt), and the maker of the electronic voting equipment would be in big trouble.

This solution combines the benefits of fast, accurate, election results with the benefits of an auditable paper trail. Machine manufacturers would be very discouraged from attempting to tilt the results.

paper trail (none / 0) (#22)
by pb on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:41:24 PM EST

I don't know why people insist on using paper for their 'paper trails'; it seems like a very inefficient way to count things. How about something a bit more permanent, maybe even coin-like? The key here would be to get something that's quick and easy to tally when results need to be confirmed--and nothing says 'duh' like "which stack of change is bigger".
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Paper is physical (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by dejohn on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:49:03 PM EST

The audit trail would have to be physical, at least for now. Paper, etched glass, whatever. It has to be something the voter could physically verify, something that could be physically guarded, and something that could be physically counted. A box of paper guarded by guys with guns is probably a little more difficult to manupulate than a database table of votes.

[ Parent ]
yes indeedy. (none / 0) (#28)
by pb on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 03:45:29 PM EST

I agree. Or do you think that coins are somehow intangible?
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Finally a use for pennies after half a century! (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by Haelo on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 03:38:10 PM EST

Yes, but which which stack of several million coins is bigger than the other stack of several million coins?
A.
[ Parent ]
beats me... (none / 0) (#27)
by pb on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 03:44:32 PM EST

...that's why I have a machine to roll them. Maybe you could ask a casino about this?
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Mass (none / 0) (#41)
by Evil Petting Zoo on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 01:39:58 AM EST

Just get a scale and mass them. Of course, you'll have to ensure their masses are within a reasonable tollerance. For close races though, you'll have to count individual coins to be accurate (a 0.1% margin of error means +/- 1 vote per 1000 votes).

Actually, the whole suggestion reminds me of the ancient greek way of voting with stones.



[ Parent ]
Over-the-internet-voting (none / 0) (#24)
by dejohn on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:53:40 PM EST

This paradigm of electronic voting could be extended to internet voting also. Voter is issued a username and password by the local voting authority. This could be as complex as a digital certificate that is issued on a smart card, but that's a whole other discussion. The user then authenticates to the website, and makes the vote. The vote is signed in the database with a random key. The voter then prints out a "receipt" and mails it in. The receipt also contains text voting answers and a bar code with the random key. The votes in the database that originated online wouldn't be valid until the paper receipts arrive and are matched up.

[ Parent ]
Delays (none / 0) (#54)
by lunatic on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 12:52:21 PM EST

Which then makes the system slower than the completely paper systems used in (for example) Canada and much of the UK.  Moreover, it introduces the possibility of proof of vote on a large scale, which leads to vote-selling on a large scale.

Besides which, any such system is susceptible to manipulation when receipts are purposely printed that don't match actual votes.  It's just as effective to stop votes you don't want counted as it is to insert votes.

[ Parent ]

So what's the point of the electronic version? (none / 0) (#31)
by p3d0 on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 04:24:52 PM EST

If you always count the paper, and you trust it over the electronic version, then what's the electronic version for?

Why not just have a machine that prints out the barcodes? And at that point, what's so different from existing systems?
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]

Speed? (none / 0) (#39)
by dejohn on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 10:04:53 PM EST

Isn't the whole idea of an electronic machine to eliminate the amount of time it takes to get an accurate count? My solution is merely a version that can be audited effectively.

[ Parent ]
Receipts & Vote Selling (none / 0) (#44)
by hughk on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 05:00:56 AM EST

The problem with voter receipts is that they can be used by third parties to verify voting behaviour, i.e., in vote selling.

[ Parent ]
You'd think so, wouldn't you? (none / 0) (#50)
by roystgnr on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 10:40:39 AM EST

But check out the paper at vreceipt.com.  It allows the votes to be counted electronically, makes it possible for you to verify that the final tally was accurate (with a microscopic probability of any altered votes going uncaught), makes it possible for you to verify that your own vote was included in the final tally, and yet makes it impossible for anyone else to tell who you voted for.  It looks pretty sweet.

The only type of fraud I can see that these special receipts don't protect against is the addition of new votes to the count, and it should be possible for independent observers (e.g. a publically visible "how many people voted" counter at each polling place, which independent observers could make sure was accurate and make sure was accurately reported.

[ Parent ]

If the paper is the real voting artifact (none / 0) (#53)
by lunatic on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 12:48:33 PM EST

If the paper is the real voting artifact, deposited into a ballot box after the voter has verified it, then it doesn't defeat secrecy, or allow a voter to defeat secrecy, because you don't leave the polling place with it.

[ Parent ]
Belgian system (3.75 / 4) (#46)
by ggeens on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 07:23:27 AM EST

Belgium has had an electronic voting system that works similar. (It's not yet used in all cities, but it is gradually replacing paper voting.)
  1. After your ID is checked, you receive a "voting card" (like a credit card, with a magnetic strip).
  2. Inside the poll boot, you insert the card in a computer and you select the candidate(s) or party of your choice. (Using a sort of pen you push to the screen.)
  3. After confirming your vote, the system releases the voting card (which now contains your vote).
  4. You insert the card into the ballot box.
There is no visible change on the card (this helps to keep your vote secret if someone sees your card), but you can check your vote by re-inserting it in the card reader.

The election officials test the system before the voting starts by creating sample votes and checking the outcome.

If a recount is needed, one would simply read the voting cards again.

(I don't know how the system is secured apart from that. Maybe I should write to a member of parliament.)

L'enfer, c'est les huîtres.


[ Parent ]
So, essentially, (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by Ward57 on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 08:37:02 AM EST

they've replaced the write it on paper and then fold the paper in half system with another system the main advantage of which is that is that you don't know whether the machine has written the vote you wanted on the card or not. Still, corrupt untrustworthy individuals are the exception, not the rule (in most societies).

[ Parent ]
Belgian System (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by Admiral Kirk on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 09:19:18 AM EST

The problem is that is doesn't work like that, and it still can be falsified even if it did, cause the application doing the voting is closed source.

When I went to vote in May (in Belgium), we handed our cards back after voting, they put it in a computer in front of them that read it and erased it.

The card was then put on the pile they handed again.

So, afterward there is no trail.  And even if there were, a clever programmer that infiltrated the delivering company could still have rigged the vote.

[ Parent ]

Voter Verified Manual Audit Trail (none / 0) (#52)
by lunatic on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 12:45:58 PM EST

What Mercuri has been calling for is a voter-verified manual audit trail. This requires that the artifact of the vote by verifiable by the voter without tools ancillary to the artifact. Card readers, templates, hashed published registries of votes do not accomplish this task.

[ Parent ]
yes, well other than this (none / 0) (#21)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 02:34:39 PM EST

I think electronic voting machines with touch screen interfaces at the polls would aid in clarity. then before the vote is cast, it can give te voter the summary of how they clicked to double check the vote before they cast it, then as one more precaution, the machine punches holes next to names on a paper ballot giving the voter yet one more chance to see what they selected and to make sure the machine selected correctly, if there is an error, then the machine can be aken down and the voter has a chance to do it on another machine since the paper ballot is not cast yet.

Their FAQ is incomplete (5.00 / 6) (#25)
by roystgnr on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 03:17:17 PM EST

SERVE's FAQ provides many technical details intended to assuage security concerns.

I'm feeling like my concerns are insufficiently assuaged, as "What prevents a local election official or someone who hacked their computer from undetectably changing my vote?" was not on their FAQ.

hee hee (none / 0) (#49)
by cce on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 10:09:50 AM EST

then you're probably one of the unassuaged "many" ("But many ... do not believe") i wrote about in the next sentence! we report, you decide, after all. (sorry.)

[ Parent ]
Blame Canada. (3.50 / 6) (#29)
by phlux on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 03:46:20 PM EST

This is a secret Canadian Conspiracy. Just look at the Clever wording of their site:

Serveusa.gov!

can be easily translated to : "Serve Us Eh!"

obviously the mounties will be pounding across the northern threshold soon!

Arthur Anderson (2.50 / 2) (#34)
by PurpleBob on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 05:53:22 PM EST

I'm working on making a web-voting system for small organizations, and I fully agree that online voting is not at all ready for political elections. Especially not nationwide ones. Nothing like this has even been tested on a small scale.

Maybe people will be adequately wary of this system if we point out to the public that their voting system is being designed by that bastion of trust, Arthur Anderson (aka Accenture).

Accenture is not AA (none / 0) (#57)
by duckl07 on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 12:52:05 PM EST

So here's the problem with this article that makes me not want to really read it (and, BTW, the problem with your post as well). Accenture is the company formaly know as Andersen Consulting, which was part of the same umbrella corp Andersen Worldide as AA. Accenture paid 2 billion and gave up the (then) valuable Andersen name just to split from AA, as it was poaching our business (yeah, I work there, but not in the governement group).

To say that I look up to Accenture as a paragon of good citizenship would be a stretch, it is a corporation after all. However, to imply that it is an untrustworthy "surviving sister of Autherr Andersen" when a) the government has been contracting from us for a long time now, well before dubya and crew came in and b) we have fuckall to do with accounting and never have is at best misleading. Don't want to trust us? fine, I might not blame you (though we as as trustworthy as any other tech consulting/consulting firm). But to do it as we were in the 1980's a divsion of AA is a poor argument, both from the post this replies to and from the author of the article.

And no, once I read the stupid AA comparisons I didn't read the rest of the article, and have no real idea if the rest is any good.

[ Parent ]

Andersen and Accenture (none / 0) (#58)
by czolgosz on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 02:01:11 PM EST

To say that I look up to Accenture as a paragon of good citizenship would be a stretch, it is a corporation after all. However, to imply that it is an untrustworthy "surviving sister of Autherr Andersen" when a) the government has been contracting from us for a long time now, well before dubya and crew came in and b) we have fuckall to do with accounting and never have is at best misleading. Don't want to trust us? fine, I might not blame you (though we as as trustworthy as any other tech consulting/consulting firm). But to do it as we were in the 1980's a divsion of AA is a poor argument, both from the post this replies to and from the author of the article.


Well, it was only 3 years ago (August 2000) that Accenture split from Andersen, because of regulatory pressure on the Big 5 CPA firms to do something about their conflict of interest between audit and consulting. Even though there was nominal independence before that between AC and the audit business (since 1989), there were several well-publicized instances where that independence broke down, and it was well-known that the audit and consulting businesses looked after each other. Therefore the corporate cultures of Accenture and Arthur Andersen are not all that different, and their shared origins are much more recent than the 1980's.

As for the argument that "the government has been contracting with us for years," well... the same could be said for Artuhur Andersen. Or Enron. Or any of a number of companies who have committed acts of dubious morality. To paraphrase what you said, corporations are only as moral as they have to be.

All of which reinforces the argument that any change to the voting system in the US should only be undertaken if it is transparent, independently verifiable, and accountable. I wouldn't trust ANY firm to develop a system unless those conditions are met. There's very little ethics to go around nowadays either in the government or in the corporate world, and even if I had absolute confidence that Accenture were willing to walk away from a fat government contract at the first whiff of impropriety, I'd still want the system to be provably honest and tamper-proof. I don't see how proprietary solutions can be set up to allow the necessary scrutiny, nor is there any indication that the present contract has any provisions for accountability.


Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#59)
by duckl07 on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 03:06:15 PM EST

Well, it was only 3 years ago (August 2000) that Accenture split from Andersen, because of regulatory pressure on the Big 5 CPA firms to do something about their conflict of interest between audit and consulting. Even though there was nominal independence before that between AC and the audit business (since 1989), there were several well-publicized instances where that independence broke down, and it was well-known that the audit and consulting businesses looked after each other. Therefore the corporate cultures of Accenture and Arthur Andersen are not all that different, and their shared origins are much more recent than the 1980's.

This part at least of what you said is quite wrong (I concede the rest of your post. Also, please note I didn't say we should be the ones to do it). The only link between AA and AC (easier that Accenture) from the 90's on was andersen worldwide. They were to do accounting and minimal small time consulting, we were to do Fortune 500 consulting. They regularly confused clients with the Andersen name and underbid us. We regularly made loads more money and basically had to float them. Our partners each made about 150-250 grand a year less because we had to "equalize" the pay between AA and AC partners as part of our agreement to AW. We made more money, they had more voting partners. If you remember, we sued them to split, and (as I stated earlier) ended up forking over 2 Billion in cash and the Andersen name to do so. I joined the firm in '97. From the beginning nobody at AC did anything but bitch about how AA was stealing from us, both money and clients.

Having only met one AA person (who was quite snotty to me when she found out I was AC) I can't comment on the culture similarities. IMO The culture has changed quite a bit since I joined, largely due to the tech boom and bust of the past several years. However, I simply don't believe that we ever looked out for AA, at least not since 97. Given the bile I heard about AA on joining, I suspect that we stopped looking out for them even earlier, if we ever did. This was well before the regulatory pressue you speak of, and you don't usually have to sue to split a company when regulatory pressure is making business hard.

Besides, which well known instances are you talking about? I know, I could goggle for it, but since you are the one making these claims I kinda feel like you should provide the evidence.

Or not, I don't care that much except that the AA FUD detracts from this whole discussion. If you want to say the corporations shouldn't be involved in general, I'd be more sympathic. But to say that we are untrustworthy because of our roots from over a decade ago is deceptive, particularly given how different we have been from AA for quite some time now. It dilutes the argument against a proprietary system.

[ Parent ]

Independence (none / 0) (#60)
by czolgosz on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:53:38 AM EST

This part at least of what you said is quite wrong The only link between AA and AC (easier that Accenture) from the 90's on was andersen worldwide. They were to do accounting and minimal small time consulting, we were to do Fortune 500 consulting. They regularly confused clients with the Andersen name and underbid us. We regularly made loads more money and basically had to float them. Our partners each made about 150-250 grand a year less because we had to "equalize" the pay between AA and AC partners as part of our agreement to AW.
So the firms were unconnected, except that revenues were pooled among their partners? Excuse me if I mistook that for a connection.
We made more money, they had more voting partners. If you remember, we sued them to split, and (as I stated earlier) ended up forking over 2 Billion in cash and the Andersen name to do so. I joined the firm in '97. From the beginning nobody at AC did anything but bitch about how AA was stealing from us, both money and clients. Having only met one AA person (who was quite snotty to me when she found out I was AC) I can't comment on the culture similarities. IMO The culture has changed quite a bit since I joined, largely due to the tech boom and bust of the past several years. However, I simply don't believe that we ever looked out for AA, at least not since 97.
Based on the fact that AC was generating revenue that subsidized AA partners, I would expect the bias to have run more in the opposite direction: for example, by AA auditors not being sufficiently critical of the ROI of AC projects at a firm. Wouldn't want to kill the goose. Incidentally, this change in the relative profitability of the audit and consulting branches of CPA firms was happening elsewhere too, which was why the SEC started arm-twisting the Big 5 about separation back in the late 90's. And since the same C-level corporate officers on the client side were letting out the contracts for both audit and consulting work, it's disingenuous to assume that there was no coordination of marketing efforts on the part of the different branches within the CPA firms. There may have been rivalry and competition between the practice areas, but mutual backscratching could still greatly enrich everyone.

As an example of a long-running problem that preceded the lawsuit that brought Accenture into being, AC and AA billed Waste Management $50M and $10M respectively between 1991 and 1997 (I suppose this is another sign of the market changes that led to the split). The SEC probe into WM started in 1998, but it's evident that the conditions that created it started long before.

I've had fairly extensive dealings with people from both the old AA and AC branches-- there were differences, but their approach to marketing was quite similar. I'd love to be more specific, but I have some confidentiality constraints that I'm obliged to respect.

Anyway, although I still assert that the old AA and AC look a lot closer to us on the outside than they seemed to you on the inside, my central point would hold even if that were not true: it's not about Andersen. In a situation such as this one, there would be strong pressures on ANY firm to just please the client and get out of Dodge afterwards. We can't rely on them to act in the public interest out of the goodness of their hearts; firms are only as good as they have to be. That's the nature of our wonderful free-market system. And that's why transparency matters and these opaque deals start the alarm bells ringing. Especially when the DOD's involved and Rumsfeld is in the driver's seat.

So please don't view this controversy as someone just taking cheap shots at Accenture (though some who posted here did just that). There's a bigger systemic issue here.


Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
A few quickies (none / 0) (#64)
by duckl07 on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 10:14:19 PM EST

First, to clear the air, I not sure where I implied we weren't connected prior to the split. I don't really think I did, but if it was ambiguous, well, sorry, really. Also, I agree with your last two paragraphs

If you have had fairly extensive dealing with both AA and AC in marketing, by which I assume you mean they were trying to sell work and you were involved in that, then you must be a fairly important executive at a largish to large corporation/government agency, or *maybe* a dot com startup (unlikely, we never would have shared a dot com with AA). If you are not, then no offense, I doubt that you really know what goes on when partners try to sell work (same goes for me BTW).

If by marketing you mean the culture and the hype that goes along with it, well maybe we were rather similiar, who knows (did they party as much as we used to? We don't do that anymore now that we are public).

And finally, we only got 6 million (which over 5-6 years is rather smalltime for us) from WM. It was AA's consulting, which is distinct from us and always has been, that got the 50 mil (according to the WSJ at least). It was also AA that got fined 7 Million for this by SEC, not us.

But I do agree about the issue being systemic, which has alot to do with why I was annoyed that AA even came up in this debate.

[ Parent ]

Dealings (none / 0) (#65)
by czolgosz on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:29:49 PM EST

If you have had fairly extensive dealing with both AA and AC in marketing, by which I assume you mean they were trying to sell work and you were involved in that, then you must be a fairly important executive at a largish to large corporation/government agency, or *maybe* a dot com startup (unlikely, we never would have shared a dot com with AA). If you are not, then no offense, I doubt that you really know what goes on when partners try to sell work (same goes for me BTW).
Yes, I was on the client side at some large public and private concerns in a previous life, in a position to see how the game was played. Not a top-level executive, but an independent advisor/mentor to them.

You sound like someone I'd enjoy downing a few brews with, by the way. And I promise not to mention AA/AC anymore-- I agree that we've digressed far enough afield in this thread already.

Incidentally, the numbers for WM were from the WSJ. If I misread them, I apologize.


Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
Accenture and Arthur Andersen (none / 0) (#62)
by cce on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:40:33 PM EST

When I was writing the article, I was trying to think of the right word to use to describe the relationship between Accenture and AA. I knew full well that their split occurred long before the recent scandals, and was trying to look for the right phrase to use. I thought it was fair to describe them as "siblings" (I think I found a newspaper article or something in the Economist using this description), so that's what I went with.

However, I didn't think it was in the scope of the article to detail their relationship, so I mentioned it in passing -- and even tried to imply that only the most conspiracy-minded might be worried about Accenture's relationship with AA.

[ Parent ]

the poll (none / 0) (#63)
by duckl07 on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:41:45 PM EST

was what really got me. I saw that I, as an Accenturoid, was being lumped in with Rumsfield and that this selection was leading the poll. Which may mean I have a thin skin, but it still struck me that people really were linking up the AA repution and the loathsome Rumsfield with with were I work. I don't love the place, but would you feel more comfortable with IBM or PWC or whoever is still around in the consulting biz? I doubt that you would, with good reason. So why even bring AA into it? I know, I know, it a joke (the poll option that is). But it is also deceptive. There are alot of reasons to criticize us, or to not trust us (or anyone else with a profit motive) with eDemocracy. Being AA's former sibling (and most definitely not a sibling today) is not one of them.

[ Parent ]
presidential election, 2004 (4.81 / 16) (#36)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 06:19:18 PM EST

Pending Presidents
Post threshold: 95 million
Hide threshold: -20 million
Auto-presidential post is on. A US Supreme Court posting decision will be made after 36 days if no threshold is reached.

Presidents currently in voting:
Title (topic)  
1) Teh G.W. Bush
Section: MLP, Topic: Humor
2) Howard Dean, Mr. Lean and Mean
Section: Politics, Topic: Politics
3) Tired Old Green Nader
Section: Culture, Topic: Freedom

Presidents currently in editing:
Title (topic)  
1) Sad, sad Gore
Section: Fiction, Topic: Politics
2) Sharpton in the wings
Section: News, Topic: Freedom
3) Buchanan's bullshit
Section: Meta, Topic: Fiction
4) Write-in candidate smorgasbord, free the ganja!
Section: Meta, Topic: /etc
5) I/O Error in windowsvotingserver2003.dll, your vote was not recorded
Section: Internet, Topic: Internet


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

You're back! (5.00 / 2) (#51)
by lunatic on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 12:41:48 PM EST

I didn't think I'd ever rate one of your comments 5...

[ Parent ]
hey, at least your honest ;-) (nt) (none / 0) (#55)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 03:30:33 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
The real question is.. (none / 0) (#61)
by andr0meda on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 07:58:06 AM EST

.. whether overseas ballots count or not! (laugh here)

Do not be afraid of the void my friend, is it not merely the logical next step?
[ Parent ]
How Bush Won the 2004 Presidential Election (4.20 / 5) (#37)
by coffee splash on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 07:05:47 PM EST

There's a fun article about how these machines are, as the poll says, "Donald Rumsfeld & Arthur Anderson's pet project to subvert democracy" called How George W. Bush Won the 2004 Presidential Election
http://www.infernalpress.com/Columns/election.html

Choice quotes:
-------------------------------
"Given the outcome of our work in Florida and with a new president in place, we think our services will expand across the country."
-- Martin L. Fagan, ChoicePoint Vice-President

In Comal County Texas, an uncanny coincidence resulted in three Republican candidates winning by exactly 18,181 votes each. Two other Republican candidates outside Texas also won by exactly 18,181 votes.

A former news reporter in Florida discovered that votes were being tabulated in 644 Palm Beach precincts: but Palm Beach only has 643 precincts. An earlier court case in Florida found the same discrepancy. A reporter in New Jersey observed 104 precincts with votes in an area that has only 102 precincts.
-------------------------------

and then there's an update with a pointer to http://www.blackboxvoting.com/scoop/S00065.htm
with even more info.

So, I guess my point is that you USians are pretty much guaranteed FOUR MORE YEARS! The scary thing is that it's not those four years that should scare you, but rather the aftermath in your lifetime. I just can't understand how you can trumpet the US as a democracy.

Next up, DoNotVote (none / 0) (#38)
by mmsmatt on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 09:38:18 PM EST

Just surf on over to donotvote.gov and get your IP removed from all political hoopla.

update: (none / 0) (#40)
by rmg on Thu Jul 17, 2003 at 10:39:15 PM EST

we at The RMG Group would like to announce that our main system is now operating within tolerable parameters once more. we have decided to celebrate by pissing away our trusted user status.

thank you.

-The RMG Group

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

Windows, huh? (5.00 / 4) (#42)
by Quila on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 04:01:15 AM EST

I noticed that this will be Windows-only. This is not really a problem in the given environment since these military and attached civilians will be mostly using the computers they have at work or at the library, which are invariably Windows.

But as a test bed, this scares me. I can't see how it could be right to have the whole country voting electronically, but a requirement being they must make a purchase from a specific company to do so (Microsoft).

Avanade... (4.33 / 3) (#43)
by Marc in Lux on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 04:22:08 AM EST

One of Accenture's subcontractors in the deal is a company called Avanade, a JV between Accenture and Microsoft. Had to do with these folks. They have not yet noticed that computers run on different OS's than Windows.

Well, not until we mentioned we have systems with uptimes longer than the existence of their company ;-)

[ Parent ]

Mercuri has it correct.... (none / 0) (#45)
by gr00vey on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 07:05:29 AM EST

http://mainline.brynmawr.edu/%7Ermercuri/evote.html What we need is transparency and accountability, something that is diminishing, instead of increasing, regardless of technology.....

If you rearrange the letters (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by Relinquished on Fri Jul 18, 2003 at 05:57:43 PM EST

In

"An unseemly act? To be entrusting this to a *secure* OS, I reckon there's a new dilemma that voters will inevitably face."

you get

"Mainly Denial of Service attacks on Accenture's web server all the time, with those many users unable to get into it."


--------------
If you rearrange the letters in "anagram for signature" you get "famous at rearranging".


New from the DoD and Accenture: "eDemocracy" | 66 comments (61 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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