Social news site Reddit has a programming ‘subreddit’, where links to stories about subjects of interest to nerds like me are posted. Also included are ‘Ask Reddit’ posts, meant to provoke discussion.
This one crossed my radar today. A Reddit user asks other users to answer the question “If you wrote an Open-Source voting program, what security measures would you put in place?”
Several posters go on to post ruminations about dual-key cryptography, or cooking up elaborate schemes for voting machines which don’t seem to offer any advantages over hand-counted ballots.
This is an example of a problem which software engineers or programmers are sometimes unsuited to answer. It’s very easy to start dreaming up software-based solutions to this or that problem, but in some cases, software isn’t the answer. We’re not just putting the cart before the horse — it’s a defective cart.
The US electoral system is, in many ways, quite backwards. Voluntary voting encourages voter suppression and GOTV tactics, electoral institutions are staffed by openly partisan individuals, the outcome is determined by simple plurality, voting takes place on a working day, there doesn’t seem to be scrutineers, ballot boxes aren’t numbered, logged and sealed with numbered, logged tags … the design advantages of the Australian way of conducting elections go on and on.
In the case of the USA, improving the voting system has nothing whatever to do with the security or otherwise of voting machines. It has to do with fundamental reforms to the essential nature of the ballot itself. No amount of technical genius can overcome the fact that the system is rotten and is seen as rotten.