The software utility, eVote and the eVote clerk, injects true democracy and deliberation into our real-world landscape.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Heinz or 'W' ketchup with those fries?

Polls in Pittsburgh are this good.

Yummy for the tummy. Smart free for the mind. Think again for our democracy.

Patrons of an upscale Japanese steakhouse, Nakama restaurant on the South Side, can choose whether they favor Heinz or W ketchup.
"As patrons are paying for their meals, they are handed a jelly bean and asked to put in an a jar favoring Heinz ketchup or the jar indicating W ketchup," Nakama owner Becky Gomes said. "On Nov. 1, one day before the actual election, we will accurately predict the winner of the 2004 election."

Think again. This is a sure sign that we need eVote to flourish in Pittsburgh. And, do they even serve french fries in a Japanese steakhouse?

Friday, September 24, 2004

EFF's guide to eVoting in the federal election

* EFF Releases Quick Reference Guides to E-voting Machines

San Francisco, CA - EFF has released the results
of research conducted jointly with the Verified Voting
Foundation and American Families United into the
strengths and weaknesses of the most popular
models of electronic voting machines. Organized into
one-page quick reference guides, this research gives
voters critical information about widely deployed machines,
such as the Diebold Accuvote TS and the ESS iVotronic.
In the guides, EFF takes users through a step-by-step
process for using each model properly and lists
problems people have had with the machines in past
elections. The reference sheets represent one of the
nation's first "Consumer Reports"-style analyses of
several different types of e-voting machines.

"It's extremely important that people vote, despite any
concerns that they have about new voting machines,"
said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "The more
people know about the voting machines they'll be using,
the better prepared they'll be on election day."

It's estimated that one-third of the country will be
using e-voting machines in the upcoming presidential

"E-Vote Fears Soar in Swing States"

Register to vote to today

Interesting random error - The Schaerbeek incident

Interesting random error. From Belgium.

It's in French, but in summary what happened is a human realised that there was a counting error in the results
By various checks the error was found to originate from one electronic polling booth. The error had allocated exactly 4096 extra votes to a candidate.

Experts inspected the code and found no errors, they re-fed all the data (it was on magnetic medium) and the polling booth reported the correct count. The conclusion of the experts was that a random error had occured which toggled the 13th bit of the count from a 0 to a 1 (allocating 4096 extra votes to the candidate).

I have to admit that I am skeptical of this conclusion myself. In any case CRC checking could be done to prevent such data corruption. Maybe do the count several times and if the same answer is not obtained everytime raise an alarm automatically.

The part of the article about this incident is displayed below.

Extrait du rapport des experts... .

5.3.7 L'incident de Schaerbeek

Le collège a été prévenu d'un incident à Schaerbeek le 18 mai à 23h30. Il apparaissait dans le PV de totalisation qu'un candidat d'une liste précise avait obtenu plus de voix de préférence que le nombre total de voix exprimées pour la liste de ce candidat.

Une enquête débuta le 19 mai en présence du président de canton, de représentants du SPF Intérieur, des sociétés Steria et Bureau Van Dijk et du collège d'experts.

Il apparut de l'analyse des disquettes des différents bureaux de vote que le problème se ramènait à un bureau de vote.

L'urne du bureau concerné a été demandée et il a été procédé à un recomptage des votes à partir des cartes magnétiques. Les disquettes contenant les nouveaux résultats ont été à nouveau totalisées avec les disquettes originales des autres bureaux de vote.

Le nouveau PV ne laissait plus apparaître l'erreur. La différence quant au nombre de voix de préférence était finalement de 4096.

Une réunion fut organisée le 22 mai, entre le collège d'experts et la société Steria en présence d'un représentant du SPF Intérieur. La conclusion commune atteinte était que l'erreur pouvait probablement être attribuée à une inversion spontanée d'une position binaire dans la mémoire vive du PC.

Le collège d'experts a effectué ce même jour une série de tests sur le PC du président du bureau de vote en question. Sur la base de ces tests, aucun problème au niveau du matériel n'a pu être constatée.

A l'issue des différents tests effectués les 22 et 23 mai (tests de la mémoire, nouvelle clôture du bureau, simulation d'opération de vote uniquement pour le candidat en question), l'incident n'a pu être reproduit. Analyse technique du problème

Il ressort des constatations qu'il y avait un écart de 4096 voix de préférence pour un candidat. Un écart de 4096 peut être occasionné par une inversion de la 13ème position binaire du compteur. Analyse détaillée du code source suite à l'incident de Schaerbeek.

Suite à l'étude de l'incident de Schaerbeek, il fut procédé à une analyse détaillée du code source en rapport avec l'incident. Il apparaît de cette analyse que:

  • Toutes les données concernant le scrutin sont stockées dans une structure définie globalement dans la mémoire vive du PC du président;
  • Cette structure globale est initialisée au démarrage du programme (ouverture du bureau de vote);
  • Les différents compteurs (nombre de voix par liste, voix de préférence, ...) sont mis à 0 au démarrage du logiciel de l'urne.
  • Les différents votes sont conservés en mémoire tampon pendant les opérations de vote (sous la forme de copies des contenus des cartes);
  • Lors de la clôture du bureau de vote, les votes sont lus à partir de la mémoire tampon et les compteurs adéquats sont incrémentés;
  • Le logiciel ne prévoit pas un double comptage ou une vérification croisée;
  • Il n'y a dans le code source aucune instruction explicite qui aurait pu être à l'origine du phénomène.

Partant de l'hypothèse que l'erreur est due à une inversion spontanée de position binaire, il est de plus possible de conclure que celle-ci s'est produite entre le démarrage du logiciel de l'urne et la clôture du bureau de vote. Conclusions du collège sur l'incident de Schaerbeek

Étant donné qu'aucune erreur n'a été trouvée dans le logiciel, et vu la structure interne du programme, le collège conclut que l'erreur a très probablement été occasionnée par une inversion spontanée et aléatoire d'une position binaire (ce phénomène est abondamment décrit dans la littérature spécialisée).

Steve asked for replies

Governments should avoid creating islands of OS development

There is no such thing as any island of OS development. By its nature, its open, hence no island tag could stick. It might be quiet, idle, -- but it can't be an island at all.
as instead work with large OS efforts "with legs.

Some like legs, others like the face, others the personality. Some like long-legs, yet my favorite toast is to two-legged women.

If a project has any pair of legs, it has legs. Two people or one person can move mountains.

Western PA is a scholastic football hotbed. All our kids do NOT only need to play football just because that is where the action is.

Governments could contribute back to OS developments (modules, bug fixes, feature additions) with e-democracy technology for example, then you'd have a dynamic engine of development.

I think that is a stretch if it is a prediction. COULD, SHOULD -- but not slam dunk.

There was a lot of buzz after 2000 about electronic vote machines, lots of legs. Gov got into the fray. But, the engine needed a 'distributor' and a 'transmission.'

This would probably help NGOS and companies in this space as well, because as far as I can tell most e-democracy "profits" come from technical assistance and integration of tools not the sale of software itself. (Disagree with me please:

Most e-democracy "profits" come while being a waiter, small-business owner who sells ice-cream cones, professor, or candle-stick maker. My quality of life is not like that of Beruit, etc. The profits come from moment to moment opportunities and the calmness of the week, month and years.

It is hard to "capitalize on democracy" -- or "profit on it." We profit from it.


Democracies Online Newswire -

Headlines from top blogs:

Also see this amazing table:

I am interested in what models actually work for sustained OS development in the public sector. Who coordinates? How are project funded?

Without a creative "hub" it is hard for me to see how most governments can justify their involvement/contribution of the code/modules they develop back into an OS effort. Governments should avoid creating islands of OS development as instead work with large OS efforts "with legs." Governments could contribute back to OS
developments (modules, bug fixes, feature additions) with e-democracy
technology for example, then you'd have a dynamic engine of development. This would probably help NGOS and companies in this space as well, because as far as I can tell most e-democracy "profits" come from technical assistance and integration of tools not the sale of software itself. (Disagree with me please: )

Steven Clift

Open Source Observatory re-launched

The European Commission's Open Source Observatory (OSO) is a clearinghouse of information
related to free/libre/open source software in the public sector, and
is intended to promote and spread the use of best practices in
Europe. The OSO is part of the EC's IDA (Interchange of Data between
Administrations) programme, and ultimately aims to provide a
comprehensive overview of open source software policies and
activities in the public sector, especially in current and future EU
Member States.

The OSO had been inactive for a short period but has now started up
again and we welcome you to visit the renewed site at:

We also invite you to send in news items, announcements for events
and other stories related to open source and of interest to public
administrations. Please e-mail them to:

If you are interested in receiving the monthly Open Source News
Roundup, please subscribe - IDA Open Source News Roundup.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Voting Machines - Ready or Not

Article in the New-York Times.

"Whether or not the machines are ready for the election - or the electorate
ready for the machines - there is no turning back. In what may turn out to
be one of the most scrutinized general elections in the country's history,
nearly one-third of the more than 150 million registered voters in the
United States will be asked to cast their ballots on machines whose
accuracy and security against fraud have yet to be tested on such a grand


"Concerns over the security and accuracy of the machines have proved harder
to dispel, though, and they have not always come from the fringe.

At the end of June, two prestigious groups - the Brennan Center for Justice
at New York University School of Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights - issued a set of recommendations for technical upgrades and
procedures that they said could help shore up high-tech voting systems in
time for the November elections."

Friday, September 17, 2004


(Federal Computer Week)

Officials in Richmond-on-Thames, a United Kingdom local authority just outside London, are letting residents vote online to set priorities on issues that will guide the decision-making agenda of the authority's governing council.


(Daily Trojan) MoveOn Student Action, a student-led political organization, is calling for students nationwide to sign an online petition demanding President Bush end the war in Iraq.

The software tool, eVote, allows webmaster to leverage the power of the petition too. Petitions make another prong on the pitch fork for democracy, along with voting.


(New York Times) Computerized voting machines are attracting a lot of attention in this election year, but one system is being watched particularly closely: the AccuVote-TS.


Mobile phone technology could have a greater impact on the workings of democracy than the internet, according to the leading French politician and e-democracy pioneer Andre Santini.

Santini, mayor of the Paris suburb Issy-les-Moulineaux and co-president of the internet, ICT and e-commerce working group of the French Assemblee Nationale, was speaking exclusively to E-Government Bulletin ahead of the fifth Worldwide Forum on e-Democracy (, to be hosted by his authority on 29-30 September.

"For the past year, current events have provided us with new examples of the impact of new technologies on our daily life, and even more on the democratic process," he said. "From the mobilisation of public opinion in Spain by SMS after the terrorist attacks of 11 March that
challenged the official version of the party in power and led to its defeat in the general elections . . . to the digital photos taken by American soldiers in Iraq and the Howard Dean phenomenon during the American presidential campaign, the impact of technology on democracy has demonstrated its potential."

But most of all, it was the mobile phone that had shaken the world, he said. "The cell phone has conquered the planet in just ten years: more than one person out of five owns this little device today and its functions go far beyond that of the traditional telephone. It is certainly the technology that has undergone the biggest boom in history, with 20 per cent worldwide penetration rate in one decade, far ahead of electricity, stationary telephones, the television and the computer.

"I . . . remember the mobilisation of Spanish public opinion after the terrorist attacks of 11 March in Madrid. How could such a mobilisation have taken place without cell phones? The development of citizen participation by cell phone may even have more of an impact on political life several years down the road than that of internet."

Politicians and public bodies must take note, he said. "The world of politics cannot ignore this new channel of communication with its citizens. Sending an SMS to inform people about a local event, a weather alert or the arrival of an administrative document has become commonplace for the many inhabitants of our modern cities. The use of cell phones to access everyday services, such as paying for parking, is growing."

NOTE: For the full interview see 'E-Democracy Champion with an Iron Constitution.' (link above)

The software, e-Vote, does use email. And email is able to be put into place with cell phones. So, eVote and cell phones can be combined in clever ways.

Even in China, the saying was, the beggars in the city all had cell phones.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

E-Voting in California Outlawed For Now

Many state and local conflicts over adopting e-voting protocols are causing many to scratch their heads these days. In California a federal judge upheld a decision by the California Secretary of State that decertified touch-screen voting machines. The decision also supported withholding future certification until the systems meet specific security requirements, such as offering voter-verifiable paper audit trails. Based on a suit brought by disability activists, the court found that requiring a paper trail was "rational".

Some E-voting problems in general coverage:,10801,92950,00.html