Submitted by Teo Graca
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Fully Auditable Voting System - The Number 1 Requirement Of Any REAL Democracy
When the fiasco of our U.S. Voting System came to light in the Gore/Bush election a dozen years ago, I came up with a simple solution to the voting issue, sent it to my congressman, senator and governor, and of course, received no response from any of them. Since then, we have the new Diebold "Black Box" fiasco - an easy to hack system that leaves absolutely no way to audit votes.
The premise to my solution was very simple - assume people will be able to hack the system, but create a system that allows anyone to audit the votes and track down, to the vote, which votes were hacked. In this way, we can hold those responsible accountable, as needed.
The system would provide everyone with a printed receipt with a date and time that the vote was cast, a UUID that allows auditors to track down the machine that generated the receipt, and detailed information about the votes cast including the names that were voted for and the location where the vote was cast. The UUID would be used to allow people to still vote anonymously.
Our receipts become the audit system. People still cast votes in the exact same way, except we all get this receipt. It doesn't take an audit of every vote to find someone tampering with the system - it takes just one discrepancy, one paper receipt not matching the database, to trigger a more comprehensive audit.
So, what is a UUID?
It is a Universally Unique IDentifier. Version 1 of this system allows auditors to track the MAC address of the machine that generated it - I recommend this version of the UUID for this voting system. It allows anyone to track down the exact machine that generated the voting receipt. Every voting machine could be assigned to an individual manager and that person could be held accountable. Also, if votes are cast from an unregistered machine, this issue could be easily identified.
Auditing Votes Cast?
Imagine 100 million votes cast nationally in a presidential election. Then imagine 100 million receipts that people can actually hold in their hands. Finally, imagine all of this data - the UUID's and the other data on the receipts going into a central database for final counting. Sure the database could be hacked, but any one of 100 million people would be able to match their UUID against the vote count report on a website somewhere. This is almost perfect, but let's take another step forward to make it closer to perfect.
The problem with the above scenario is that having the database controlled by the government or any single entity would allow them to count a vote one way and still allow the voter to see what is on his or her receipt (very easy to do), so this just isn't good enough. The solution is to allow people to instantly download the entire database so that they can audit the votes - this is called read-only access and doesn't allow people to change the votes, just download what the government has and run their own counts.
Auditing millions of votes would be a huge project, but it could be done by organizations and business entities that have the appropriate resources. This would protect against any single controlling enterprise, like the government, from tweaking the counts and the auditing features. If there are discrepancies between the database provided by the government and the databases presented by others, it would be easy to check and audit. The actual receipts would trump them all so that if the government is providing faulty database records, anyone with a receipt could identify the faulty reporting system or an issue with the database. The ultimate power of the vote would be in the hands of the people, where it belongs.
From local to national copies of the data, any tiny difference or change between copies can be quickly and easily be exposed. Imagine any organization or individual with a computer being able to download the various copies of the database for comparison and counting. A vote checking system like this is just a few lines of code anyone could learn to write. Imagine just 5% of the Universities in this country providing a vote check for any receipt holder. Imagine anyone with a receipt being able to check a vote that a receipt represents (couple minutes online). If there is any discrepancy - even just one - then there would be hell to pay.
When people lose faith in the voting system, then there really is no democracy, so how can we ensure that people don't hack the system. Remember that any system is hackable and my premise is that we assume people will do this and simply make it known when it happens and punish those that do. Hacking our voting system, in my opinion, is one of the worst forms of treason there is. If we punished those that changed votes on the level of treason, one of the worst crimes in our nation, this would discourage that activity.
With all of this auditing that will be available with this simple system, finding voting discrepancies could be a matter of days. Just the fact that it becomes possible is a major step forward, but imagine making the corrections instantly through multiple copies of the database - a real count could be established fairly easily and through the months and years that follow, voting enforcement could continue until every discrepancy is found and the people responsible are punished for treason. In other words, everyone with a receipt could take part in this true democracy - a democracy that values the voting process.
Cost To Building This System
I would imagine there would be open source opportunities here that could get the system designed and the software built for free. I think the real issue would be the cost of the receipts - we should have something along the lines of the money we hold in our hands - something not easily printed from home. Also, voting centers would have to house machines that collected the data and provided receipts. In any case, I would think that it would cost a fraction of what Diebold is charging. The key thought I have here is it would be a small price to ensure democracy, and it would set the pace for true democracy around the world.
Does This Solve the Problem Of Dead People Voting?
You have probably heard the stories of how dead people are caught voting. This is where someone at the voting center creates fake votes using the real information for people that just happen to be dead. We could easily track WHERE these fake votes were registered and then hold those in charge of the facility responsible.
I think anything is better than what we have now, but the system I described here brings us to a completely auditable system. It is up to us to make it happen. If you want to take our country back and keep from losing the only real power that every citizen has in a functioning democracy - the vote - then consider preserving this last vestige of democracy. Also, if you have any real power to make some changes, feel free to contact me about this system.