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Most information/discussions on e-Voting seems to focus on vulnerabilities and issues encountered in the US. I would like the group to consider the situation where e-Voting is applied to developing countries.

What are the costs, difficulties, requirements, benefits, advantages (etc) that would be most relevant to developing countries? Should a developing democracy consider setting up an e-Voting system over developmental projects?

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Developing democracies should consider the basic need and developments of the common people of the country by providing the basic amenities and making their life better to uphold the fundamental of the democracy. A healthy democracy where the need of the people are taken care can always take the initiative for the e-voting to make the choice of democracy in a more efficient and effective way. Any initiative towards the e-voting will help the democracy to save resources in terms of man and man hours, which will implicitely make a positive difference to the economic figures of the concerned country.
An interesting article on how EVMs ( Electronic Voting Machnies) can be tampered with, bringing attention to the fact that while developing coutries can save a lot of resources by introducing EVMs, it is also imperative to ensure the fool-proofness of the system, especially when people tend to trust EVMs much more than manual counting.

Here is the link and the article - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Man-who-stole-EVM-in...

Also - http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/08/security-researcher-released-bail


MUMBAI: A Hyderabad-based `whistle-blower' who claimed that Electronic Voting Machines used in elections are faulty and can be tampered with, was arrested by the MRA Marg police on Saturday.

The arrested accused has been identified as Hari Krishna Prasad Murli Mohan Waimuru (42), who runs a company called Netcom India Private Limited in Hyderabad, is stuck in a legal battle with the election commission over his claim. The matter is still pending in a Hyderabad court. Waimuru was arrested from Hyderabad in connection with the theft of a EMV machine that was stolen from the collector's office in Mumbai.

According to the police, in April this year, the collector's office in city had filed a complaint that EVM serial number E-131812 was stolen from Old Custom House in Fort. Investigating officer S Vani of the MRA Marg police said that on April 28 this year, a news channel telecasted a sting operation in Hyderabad wherein Waimuru had given a demonstration of the EVM machine, claiming that it can be tampered with. Foreign experts also participated in the show.

Waimuru said that votes and results can be tampered with. According to him, any political party can take advantage of this. Waimuru brought an EVM machine on the show. "The serial number of the said machine was displayed on TV. A machine with the same serial number was stolen from the Old Custom House godown,'' said an official from MRA Marg police station.

"Our team went to Hyderabad and visited the office of the said channel at Banjara Hills. On making inquiries with channel officials, we found out that Waimuru had the machine and the channel only aired his views on the show,'' said Sanjay Kokil, senior inspector of MRA Marg police.

A police team on Friday traced Waimuru to Hyderabad and arrested him. He has been remanded to police custody till August 26. "We are investigating how the machine was stolen from here and how it landed in Hyderabad. We are also probing whether Waimuru was a whistle-blower or if had any vested interest in the act,'' said Wani.

HBO aired a documentary named "Hacking Democracy". Video describes anomalies in regulations, faults in operations of e-voting machines and security concerns and tampering of digitally generated votes - all of this happening in US electoral process. As technologist that is proponent of using technology in every facet of the society with the aim of increasing efficiency (and cutting costs), I was inclined to believe in premise of benevolent nature of technology. This video changed my mind completely. It is not so good video in the technical terms but suggests that electoral process is inherently insecure being organized around human count or machine count. Furthermore it turns out that without proper audit of voting machines it is easier to tamper into digitally created results than it is possible to tamper results done on paper.

 

All in all, it is not the machines nor people, that can be held accountable, but actually electoral policies, especially policies of auditing results. 

 

I have formed a view that if machines are used for voting an independent audit shall be done apart from the official audit.

Video showed a fact that a company needs an independent company audit due the regulations and this process is done formally, in spite of fact that audit of machines shows compliancy to the regulations (and done by independent company), and furthermore this assurance is used as argument for accuracy of machines when sold to electoral districts, it is still shows that results are incorrect and results can be tampered.  Which means that formal audit from 3rd party can be circumvented.

In this light, it turns out that double audit shall be done - one at the level of the producer and one on the level of each electoral district where other forces can be involved (observers, federal monitoring, municipal monitoring) as to accuracy and independence of e-voting machines functionality. With segregation of audit it is likely possible to detect faulty system. This is no silver bullet solution as results can still be influenced by using skillful tampering by humans as much as it is possible with human/paper based model.

I am writing this out of technological concern - WE SHALL BE AWARE OF THE FACT THAT USING THE TECHNOLOGY ITSELF DOES NOT MEAN THAT VOTING COUNT WILL BE CORRECT.

Another aspect of audit shall be knowledge diversity. It is easy to convince non-tech person that counting software or system of transporting information or aggregation of counts is correct, if they do not understand possible ways of information tampering (security by obscurity). In this light audit of e-voting machines shall be done by diverse experts in various areas - for example - computer experts, information security experts, electoral procedure experts, fraud experts in order to shed a diverse view how information can be tampered.

Problem with this approach is the cost of operation - if expertise (usually costly) is involved, this may anull the cost benefit of using e-voting machines from economic point of view. 

One more aspect comes to mind - securing the software - in mentioned video software that is used in e-voting machines is trade secret. IMHO this aspect is completely wrongfully established. It is not possible to audit inner working of counting process except by testing procedures designed for so called BLACK BOX systems where inner working is tested by external methods which can only detect errors statistically or randomly which does not guarantee that functionality is not tampered in some other way (special cases, special inputs, atypical untested input). IMHO software used for e-voting shall be OPEN SOURCE available for everyone to inspect on the level of code. To illustrate this, one can see many polls online on web sites that is done in open source, tested and retested for its accuracy. I personally do not see what is so secret in function of counting, consequently I would not be supporter of having closed, protected or trademarked software when it comes to e-voting machines.

Hope that this technological insight would influence your decisions. And would like to hear feedback on these reflections.

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