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Introduction of Electronic Voting to Ireland

By redrum in Technology
Sun Feb 08, 2004 at 05:13:10 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

European and local elections will be held in Ireland on Friday, June 11th 2004. These will be the first elections in which a system of electronic voting will be used across the whole country.

The Government has already spent 10 million on not only preparation for the deployment of this system, one to which many people are now voicing their opposition, but also on an advertising campaign aimed at calming people's worries about the proposed change.

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comments (24)
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However, I find many real dangers posed by the new system. It will be anything but transparent and, from the looks of some of the technical specifications quite insecure. The database used by the machines is MS Access 97 at best (for some reason, Ireland is deploying version 2.0 of the voting software in 2003 whereas versions as late as 2.9 were deployed in the Netherlands as early as 1997, so God knows what version of Access will be used).

Not only is the system insecure but its election results would also be unaccountable for. It leaves absolutely no paper-trail, so in the not-so-worst-case scenario of a cracker gaining access to the database, changing its contents and being noticed (worst-case scenario being if he isn't noticed), an election would need to be held again, resulting in total lack of confidence in the system and a probable overhaul of it.

Ireland is a country of only just over 4 million people. I feel the Government is implementing this new system just for the sake of upholding a reputation as a technologically advanced country (instead of putting their effort and money into developing a halfway decent communications infrastructure: broadband is only available in certain areas of big cities - not even all Dublin is broadband-enabled - and where it is available, broadband here is limited and incredibly expensive) when it is really not at all necessary. The ballot counting process adds excitement and an element of drama to the whole event. Voting using traditional ballot papers also gives the voter the extra choice, a choice which I believe is quite important, to spoil his/her vote. The electronic system will make no such allowance.

I'll only be 18 in March, and I really don't want to begin voting using an electronic system. In fact I don't particularly want to use any voting system, but especially not this one due to my concerns over its security and integrity. I haven't had a lot of time to research this topic in-depth due to exams which are looming over my head, but what I do know is that my worries are justified and not just a rash reaction to the prospect of change.

I'd like to know what other people out there think of the proposed system and indeed electronic voting in general - taking into account that being Irish, we always manage to make a mess of large scale projects especially when they are spearheaded by the Government.


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What's your take?
o Embrace change, you philistine. 0%
o The system could do with a bit of tweaking, yes.. 4%
o What need have the Irish for an electronic voting system?! 27%
o That's one insecure mofo. 43%
o #!/bin/atari-jaguar 25%

Votes: 48
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o advertisin g campaign
o technical specifications
o developing a halfway decent communications infrastructure
o limited and incredibly expensive
o make a mess
o large scale projects
o Also by redrum

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Introduction of Electronic Voting to Ireland | 26 comments (21 topical, 5 editorial, 3 hidden)
Place your bets (2.50 / 10) (#3)
by godix on Fri Feb 06, 2004 at 11:11:23 PM EST

Ireland is a country of only just over 4 million people.

I'm offering 10 to 1 that after the hackers do their thing 5 million or more of you will have voted...

I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.
- General Qaddafi
What'd be really fun (none / 1) (#9)
by ZanThrax on Sat Feb 07, 2004 at 09:22:14 PM EST

is for the Irish media to have updates on the current results that show the votes for one candidate going up and another going down. Then, once other groups start screwing with the results as well, we can watch the bars graphs and pie charts swing wildly back and forth as the various groups fight over who gets to decide the winner.

In all seriousness though, are these databases going to be externally accessible in any way? Or are the only potential manipulators the election staff? I hope that any tampering (intentionally or accidentaly) produces highly improbably results that does force the results to be thrown out.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Unlikely (none / 1) (#22)
by freestylefiend on Wed Feb 11, 2004 at 02:43:24 PM EST

It seems more likely to me that they would fake the results than allow obviously incorrect results. That's what Diebold did in tests of its voting equipement.

[ Parent ]
Not so worst case indeed (2.77 / 9) (#4)
by onallama on Sat Feb 07, 2004 at 12:51:04 AM EST

It leaves absolutely no paper-trail, so in the not-so-worst-case scenario of a cracker gaining access to the database, changing its contents and being noticed (worst-case scenario being if he isn't noticed), an election would need to be held again, resulting in total lack of confidence in the system and a probable overhaul of it.

We can only hope...

Electronic voting (3.00 / 7) (#8)
by Tyler Durden on Sat Feb 07, 2004 at 08:29:28 PM EST

I really don't understand the incredible push toward electronic voting.  Why is this such a "must do thing" all of a sudden?  I think it could be a good thing, but I haven't heard of one system that is anywhere close to being a good idea.

It has to be open, secure, and it has to produce some form of paper trail.  Until we develop such a system, no one should be trying to force this on the public.

Jesus Christ, EVERYONE is a troll here at k5, even the editors, even rusty! -- LilDebbie

don't you see (none / 1) (#23)
by auraslip on Wed Feb 11, 2004 at 05:45:37 PM EST

If we did it slow, sure, and steady then there will be no big chance of corruption.
What that means is that people will inherently trust it, and when the system has the full trust then it becomes corrupted.
The sudden rush all of a sudden is going to make sure that at some point some hacker or politician is going to do something that blows the issue of security in electronic voting in to the general populations radar.
Right now it's just a camp fire, but what it needs to be is a nuclear blast.
[ Parent ]
I worry that at least subconciously (1.75 / 4) (#10)
by tthomas48 on Sun Feb 08, 2004 at 04:49:34 AM EST

The push for electronic voting is a means to disenfranchise women. Since married women would feel much more pressure to vote with their husband (if their husband wasn't doing the voting for them). Of course this could just be me being paranoid.

You must live in the south or something.. (3.00 / 6) (#12)
by cosmokramer on Sun Feb 08, 2004 at 01:32:10 PM EST

Up here the women tell us who to vote for :)

[ Parent ]
Oi! (2.77 / 9) (#11)
by ti dave on Sun Feb 08, 2004 at 09:53:11 AM EST

Aren't you a bit angry that your tax money is being used to try to convince you to change your mind about an issue?

You should be.

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

How to slow down electronic voting (2.83 / 6) (#13)
by ZorbaTHut on Sun Feb 08, 2004 at 03:58:41 PM EST

I can think of one good way to give the world a big red flag that electronic voting is a bad idea. Someone needs to break into an electronic voting system and destroy the results so badly that it's clear they're not accurate - for example, six times the country's population voting for one candidate, precisely 12345689 votes for another candidate, 31337 votes for a third . . . that sort of thing.

They should do it as untracably as possible, and then tell nobody about it. This isn't about ego - the second they tell someone what they did, they're going to jail. The point is to say "look, we could have made these results seem right, and merely chosen which candidate we wanted to win. We didn't. Your system is broken. Fix it."

Of course this isn't going to happen, because the people with the skills, knowledge, and ethics to do that don't exist (you'd need someone who doesn't mind cracking something like that, but also doesn't want to use it for personal benefit. Gray-hat, I guess. Black-hat with a silver lining.) And if someone *did* do that, they wouldn't be able to resist telling their friends.

I can't think of any other ways to prove to the world what a bad idea this is, though.

No need to wilfully destroy results ... (none / 3) (#19)
by rpresser on Mon Feb 09, 2004 at 08:23:14 PM EST

the machines will do it themselves, they're so shitty.  In one state election, Diebold's machines recorded a negative vote for a candidate. Don't remember the details now - check the blackbox site for details.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Except (none / 1) (#25)
by ZorbaTHut on Thu Feb 12, 2004 at 12:30:13 PM EST

that doesn't help.

"Your machines are broken!"
"Yes, it's a problem. We've fixed it now. So sorry, our mistake."
"Okay, it's all good."

Yes, they could say the same thing if a breakin occured, but remember the point is to say "we could do this at any time, and next time we won't just make it return obviously wrong results".

[ Parent ]

Inform and alert (none / 3) (#15)
by lucidvein on Mon Feb 09, 2004 at 10:09:45 AM EST

It will be interesting to see how today's case against US electronic voting machine manufacturer, Diebold turns out.


Vote absentee if you are able to. At least there is some form of paper trail in that case.

Ask your local officials if they are aware of the research showing significant flaws in these electronic voting applications. If they are anything but corrupt they need to realize the risk of losing their positions to a fraudulant system.

Point to http://blackboxvoting.com/ and the investigative work of Bev Harris.

Good luck...

The problem is... (none / 3) (#17)
by redrum on Mon Feb 09, 2004 at 01:53:08 PM EST

because so much money has already been spent on the system, any TDs (politicians with seats in government) I've heard on the radio won't even listen to any suggestion that the system might even be the slightest bit insecure. They just won't listen.

Also, I live in the back of beyond, so when it comes to contacting local TDs and explaining my views on the subject, they'll give it about as much attention as they'll give a loon ringing up about Soviets invading the country. All my local politicans will listen to are gripes from farmers, and objections against certain land plans or road plans, etc.

I'm seriously thinking of mounting a nationwide movement against the introduction of electronic voting here from the broad forum of the internet, but I'm not sure whether it would get much support. People here are notoriously like drones, accepting everything uniformally, instead of standing up for things we believe to be wrong - although we aren't given much chance when the government goes and spearheads this campaign, spending over 10m without any consultation with its citizens whatsoever (or, even more importantly, computer security analysts with a bit of cop-on).

[ Parent ]

This isn't the first time... (none / 2) (#16)
by Anonymous Brave on Mon Feb 09, 2004 at 10:20:21 AM EST

This isn't the first time a system of electronic voting will be used across a whole country. Brazil has already used an electronic voting system, which led to the election of Lula.

in the future (none / 1) (#24)
by auraslip on Wed Feb 11, 2004 at 05:47:34 PM EST

hackers save you
This is how it will work... (none / 0) (#26)
by evotingireland on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 08:24:00 AM EST

It's a fix! www.1mho.com/evoting

by deadcow on Thu May 06, 2004 at 02:32:14 AM EST

Just to let you know. I mean if you're still interested, Ireland has decided to cancel the use of touch screens in its upcoming election. http://www.blackboxvoting.org/

Introduction of Electronic Voting to Ireland | 26 comments (21 topical, 5 editorial, 3 hidden)
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