The Sunday Post, XLI

And, yes I checked.

Electronic Voting Machines

I had a political post all typed up and ready to go earlier this week, but I totally wussed out on posting it. So, instead of flailing through something that I am sure would upset at least a dozen of you, I’m going to go a different route.

Driving back from the gym this morning I’m listening to Leo talk about electronic voting machines. Controversial at best, work as good as a bad toaster at worst. I don’t think it has to be that way.

The problem always comes back to security. I think it is because they are going about it the wrong way. You see, I’ve had an idea for a few years that I think is just crazy enough to work.

By now all y’all know that one of my tech specialities is Point-of-Sale systems. In it’s purest form, a POS system collects input from users (usually servers) in such a way that reports can be run against that data at a later time (usually by the managers). These systems run, usually, on a closed network with some of the more advanced systems having data collection via WAN (like the Cheesecake Factory). Even without a full blown WAN, there are ways to securly transmit the data from a site to another location (Corporate Office).

So why can’t voting be done on a modified POS system? I can see it going something like this.

  • Voter arrives at Polling place. Presents ID and all that.
  • Voter goes behind curtain. Swipes their voting card through the card reader on the voting machine
  • Voter makes their choices and finishes the transaction by printing their receipt.
  • Voter leaves
  • .

At the end of the day, each polling place would be able to run a report to tell them how many votes each entry recieved. They could also send that data, via secure VPN, to a headquarters-type location where it could be combined with similiar data from other Polling places within the district. Which could be combined with other districts throughout the State. Run a single report to see how many of each item was voted on, items with the highest numbers win.

This is, of course, extremely simplified. Things like user authentication would have to be handled, database categories and configuration as well as the secure transport part.

I think the people that are in charge of doing this now are way over thinking things. This is something that should be simple to implement, execute and use. But, it’s not and that’s too bad.

Because it would be a great system.

By Don

Lead bottle washer at donburnside.com, host at whiteroofradio.com and tech guru for the MotoringFile family of sites.

2 comments

  1. I agree with you all the way on a modified POS system. I think the real problem though is with the companies that supply the voting machines. Companies such as Diebold, that build the boxes, have a vested interest in one political party (a party that shall go unnamed in this comment), and that creates a clear conflict of interest. There have been recorded incidents where votes for one candidate was marked as a vote for another, a “bug in the system” it is claimed. They create voting machines that they claim are “unable to be tampered with”, yet that has been proven wrong multiple times.

    I think the best way to go is a completely open source voting system with 100% transparency. Any flaws in the system would be immediately apparent and fixed by relentless nerds. And by having that many diverse people working on the project it would be nearly impossible to create any possible bias in the system. OSS is the way to go for this I really think.

    </ponytail>

  2. >There have been recorded incidents where votes for one candidate was marked as a vote for another, a “bug in the system” it is claimed.

    Hence the receipt system to complete the transaction. Is the voter made a mistake, it could easily be changed if need be as well.

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