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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How to Stop Vote Tampering

As early voting begins in the 2016 election, there have been numerous reports of electronic voting machines "changing" the on-screen vote. Voters are being warned to pay close attention and keep a hold on their paper ballots.

That advice is a complete waste of time.

Look, any trivially competent programmer can print one result to the screen or the paper while storing an entirely different result in the database.

These reports that the "screen changed" are just demonstrations that whoever hacked that particular voting machine was completely incompetent. If a trivially competent programmer were involved, you wouldn't even know your vote had been hacked. The piece of paper you clutch in your fist would be as useful, and as valuable, as Monopoly money.

The only tech I know of that can stop vote tampering cold is the blockchain technology developed in 2009 for Bitcoin. There are some procedural issues to work out, but if blockchain were used, no vote could be compromised, the person who voted would be able to change his/her vote at any moment right up until the close of polls, all votes would be instantly accessible so anyone could count the vote and satisfy themselves as to the accuracy, and the vote would remain relatively (although not absolutely) anonymous.

The vote could not be broken by a programmer, a virus or a DDoS attack. Only a 51% attack could violate the integrity of the vote, and such an attack would be bloody obvious to anyone paying attention.

The electronic voting machines we have now are ludicrously easy to beat, as is the process by which they are used. The vote cannot be secured by returning to paper ballots - that's just stupid. Paper ballots were also ludicrously easy to beat. I know of no other technology that has even a hope of securing the integrity of an election.

Until we implement blockchain for our elections, the elections will not be decided by voters. Rather, every election will be decided by whoever employed the best hackers. Whether you like it or not, that's where we are now. Ignoring this reality is not helping anyone.

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