Voting and Diebold

Today was one of those quiet minor voting days where only local questions are asked. so I had a good chance to look around and see where our particular system is more secure than the Diebold ‘Swiss Cheese’ electronic voting system.

My polling place has scantron style ballots that are fed into a central machine. So it is electronic voting, but there is a voter and election official verifiable paper trail.

The government knows:

  • That I voted, or rather someone showing my voter registration card and signing my name voted.
  • That I recieved a specific serial numbered ballot. The ballots are in two parts, a serial numbered tear off stub and the main portion with the choices. I did not see a serial number on the main portion. Both portions are printed iwth the precinct number. The ballot number was entered next to my signature by the poll worker.
  • Presumably that the ballot was fed into the voting machine, as far as a count of ballots distributed vs. those collected.

I know:

  • That I voted for a certain collection of candidates, and that if there should be a recount, an election official could determine who I intended to vote for.
  • That I was about the 60th person to vote in my polling place today.
  • I strongly suspect that the ballots are handed out in numerical order in any given precinct.

This system is supposed to provide an anonymous secure ballot. Strictly speaking, someone with access to the ordered stack of ballots and the precinct ballot numbers could come very close to determining whose ballot was whose. It could also be done with a surveillance camera noting the order of people exiting the building. not perfectly, but I’d bet you could get 95% confidence if the polling place wasn’t all that busy. (and they aren’t, at least in off years.)

Security seems better. I am confident that if the ballots were taken out and inspected by officals, they could arrive at an accurate total of votes in the event of a recount. This is the area where the Diebold systems fall down. There is no paper trail, so you can never objectively recount the ballots.

This system isn’t perfect, but any system that is proposed to replace it should be at least this secure against tampering. the only way to do that is to retain a voter and election official verifiable paper trail.

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