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Computers: A better voting system
Posted by kallahar on Jan.25.02 at 06:24 pm PST.

kallahar writes From: Daniel Balparda de Carvalho

Here in Brazil, voting is a duty. You *must* vote. Many citizens are also required to help in the elections. I have been for many elections called to help. Something like six years ago we had plain normal paper elections. Since then the system has been substituted by an electronic one. In our last elections (last October) we had an 100% electronic system. It worked perfectly and the results of the election were known in the same day. The system has been very very successful and I think we can be proud of it. If you don't mind me saying, the gross errors in the US elections have become quite a joke in Brazil.

How does it work? The machine is a tamperproof modified PC that the police delivers at the voting site. It has a display, a keypad with the numbers and three buttons, a mini printer, a 3.5 floppy drive and a remote module.

Before voting starts the machine prints a slip of paper showing its initial "internal state"; that is, the initial number of votes for all candidates. This is just to show that everyone has zero votes to start with. After this a small ballot box is attached to the machine. Every voter can see in the display the photograph of his candidate before confirming the vote so that misvotes are minimal. For every vote, the machine records the vote in its internal disk and drops a slip of paper into the ballot box. All the process of voting can be commanded by a small "remote control" that the machine has. Of course the controller can't see the vote, but he can see the status of the machine and he is the one that authorizes a valid voter so that he can use the machine. At the end of the election the ballot box is sealed, and the machine records the results on a 3.5 floppy that is also sealed. Then the machine prints several copies of the results for that machine. All of these are se

nt to the processing facilities. If the floppy is OK then it's all that is needed. If the floppy fails you have the printed results, and if that also fails you can manually count the votes in the ballot box. It is interesting to note that one copy of the machine's results is placed in the voting place so that voters can come and see the partial result of their section.

I have twice worked in an electronic election with these machines and I can say (as a person highly involved with security processes) that it is very well designed. I can't think of any obvious way to defraud the system. I have heard of no grave problem with this system and I am reasonably confident that it is a good system.

Unfortunately, on further research, they didn't actually implement it this way, but the theory is good.

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