[<< | Prev | Index | Next | >>]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

E-Voting Made Simple, Take 2

A few years ago I proposed this trivial solution to e-voting woes. The main complaint people had was that it is open to coercion (vote buying, etc) because it's possible to prove to someone how you voted. See, e.g., this more recent slashdot thread. I personally don't find that a very satisfactory reason to dismiss the idea vs. what we have now since we already allow absentee ballots, but in any event it dawned on me the other day how to eliminate that problem too, and it would work like this [with optional extras in square brackets]:

- You walk into the voting booth and press Go. A unique, randomly-ordered ID is generated for you on the spot, and shows at the top of the screen.

- [The ID also prints on a separate paper-tape scroller under glass. You verify the two numbers match.]

- The voting options come up, pre-filled in with randomly recalled unique IDs of prior voters who had voted for each candidates. (The system would be primed with a known and fixed count of votes for each candidate.) You press the candidate of your choice.

- [Your candidate prints on the paper tape below your ID]

- Your ID is copied down to that slot, and a receipt is printed showing every candidate with a unique but anonymous voter ID next to it.

- [You verify one last time that your ID from the paper tape matches the id next to your candidate on your receipt. You press OK on the paper-tape machine which is a mostly-separate device, and CONFIRMED is printed on the paper tape. Or, if they do not match, you call an attendant and show them the discrepancy, or simply push CANCEL, which voids the process and starts over.]

- The next day, you can verify every vote on your sheet (including yours, but only you know which one was yours) against the list published online by ID. Ergo, you have a hard receipt to prove tampering, yet no proof of how you in particular voted (because you have proof of how many people voted and no indication of which one was you).

There is still the risk of (very rare) collisions, such as a wife coming home with her husband's ID in the slot she was supposed to vote for, but if we are concerned about that, printing three IDs for each option instead of just one may help (although the coercer can effectively defeat that with "circle your ID").

The biggest remaining problem I can think of with this is simply that it would require a lot of paper. But compared to all of the other per-voter paperwork that is generated, I don't think this is a real concern. As for why bother with e-voting if there's going to be paper involved: it allows everyone to verify that their vote was properly counted, which is not the case with paper ballots. And it does provide instant results and eliminate the cost of hand-counting.

The same thing could be done online w/home-printed receipt, but of course would be as subject to coercion and vote-buying as absentee ballots are now.

[<< | Prev | Index | Next | >>]

Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com