The case for reporting voided VVPRs

elections, problems, research
(some of this is part of a paper I'm thinking of submitting to WOTE'06... let me know if you want to work with me on it!)

At last week's CFP 2006 conference we held a "Primer on Electronic Voting" tutorial meant to get people from zero to sixty on the many issues surrounding electronic voting technologies; no small task. Besides the fact that this material will be out of date in a few months, we felt that there is a gap in tutorial-like material for people that would like to be able to work in or get acquainted with this emerging field.

I was surprised at how much I learned myself.

Case in point: Larry Norden from NYU's Brennan Center for Justice presented on their threat analysis report that will be released in three weeks. Their report examines about 120 attacks on three types of electronic voting technologies (PCOS, DRE and DRE with VVPR).

Larry pointed out evidence that would be necessary to detect DRE+VVPR technologies "switching votes" -- where the DRE is maliciously or erroneously programed to register a vote as being for a choice other than what the voter intends. Specifically, it would seem reasonable that you'd see statistically significant differences in voided VVPRs in systems that were misbehaving. Of course, for each model of these kinds of machines, we'd need to establish a baseline of voided VVPRs. There seem to be a few reasons why a VVPR would be voided (in order of what I would consider increasing likelihood):

  1. If the voter made a mistake and didn't detect it until the end of the process.
  2. If the contents of the VVPR didn't match the contents displayed on the screen.
  3. If the voter wanted to void their VVPR for fun; that is, just to see what happens.
  4. If the voter voids their VVPR on accident.

What we want to separate out is item 2.

Unfortunately, while there are 26.5 states* that require their voting machines to produce some sort of VVPR and 12 of those states take the very necessary step of doing a 1-10% randomly-selected manual audit of the VVPRs against the electronically-stored vote data, I know of no state that requires the number of voided VVPRs to be reported in the manual audit; the statutes contemplate only reconciling the paper and electronic records.

It would seem, from the perspectives of policy, auditability and security, that reporting the number of voided VVPRs would be instrumental in detecting cases where some anomaly had the side-effect of causing the contents of the VVPR to be corrupt. This might also be a useful proxy to measure in a more significant manner the amount of voters that actually read their VVPRs (which anecdotal evidence and some new research shows that is a low percentage of voters). Thoughts?

* The half-state is Arkansas where rural counties are required to have VVPRs but the more populous counties had their non-VVPR equipment grandfathered into the statutory requirement.

Our CFP Tutorial

elections, certification/testing, accessibility, reform, vendors, standards, news, privacy, problems, litigation, friends, research, policy, usability, legal, education
Sorry, this post got mangled in a previous database record.

Jack Lerner (SLTPPC), Matt Zimmerman (EFF) and I just finished a superb "Electronic Voting Primer" as a half-day tutorial at the ACM's Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference 2006.

Avi Rubin (JHU; ACCURATE) started the event off with an introduction, followed bby Lillie Coney (EPIC) who spoke about the intersection of electronic voting and traditional voting rights issues. I then gave two short talks; one about HAVA implementation and another about exactly what types of voting systems currently exist on the market. I was followed by Larry Norden (Brennan Center) who spoke about a comprehensive study of voting systems threats (done with Eric Lazarus) that they'll be releasing in about three weeks. Then Galen Hancock and Stephen Dang (SLTPPC) spoke about work they've been doing related to intellectual property issues in electronic voting that might frustrate election officials in doing their jobs. Matt Zimmerman then gave a litigation update classifying e-voting litigation into a variety of interesting categories. Finally, Nancy Wallace ( gave a legislation update.

The proceedings were recorded onto cassette and we'll digitize it and post it on the Samuelson Clinic website soon.

PS: If you're here... holla holla.

Searching DNS using wildcards?

hacks, research

Let's say you wanted to list the IP addresses associated with a second-level domain. For example, let's say you needed all the IP addresses listed in DNS that would match "*".

There are tools like Netcraft's searchDNS tool:

which can do part of this. For example, Netcraft's searchDNS can return information about third-level domains. This could be scraped and then it's just a matter of periodically running individual DNS queries for these sites (and updating the list) to get a decent list of IP addresses. Granted, their could be services used by, for example, ACM that don't have registered domain names that would match "*". But this would be a decent start. Comments?

Yochai Benkler: "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom"

open source, berkeley, policy, legal, podcasts, iSchool


Yochai Benkler at Boalt Hall School of Law Yochai Benkler, law professor at Yale, gave a fascinating talk today called, "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom", based around his book of the same name. The audio of the talk is available by clicking on the title of this post or here: Yochai Benkler at Boalt (MP3 audio) (the audio as well as everything on this blog is licensed under a CC attribution license).

The talk was absolutely fascinating to me as he managed to link together a number of different phenomena and social production processes into a very interesting retrospective on the last few decades. He even spent a while speaking about the event that directly resulted in my getting into electronic voting research: the Diebold memos controversy. This case was where a diffuse group of students and activists were able to keep Diebold Election Systems, Inc. from quashing discussion surrounding a set of internal memos. And, as Prof. Benkler pointed out, that resulted in the decertification of Diebold's equipment in the State of California one year before the legal ruling against DESI in the same case (the EFF and Stanford Cyberlaw Clinic were the legal support for the plaintiff students).

Here is the abstract to his talk:

With the radical changes in information production that the Internet has introduced, we stand at an important moment of transition, says Yochai Benkler in this thought-provoking book. The phenomenon he describes as social production is reshaping markets, while at the same time offering new opportunities to enhance individual freedom, cultural diversity, political discourse, and justice. But these results are by no means inevitable: a systematic campaign to protect the entrenched industrial information economy of the last century threatens the promise of today's emerging networked information environment. In this comprehensive social theory of the Internet and the networked information economy, Benkler describes how patterns of information, knowledge, and cultural production are changing and shows that the way information and knowledge are made available can either limit or enlarge the ways people can create and express themselves. He describes the range of legal and policy choices that confront us and maintains that there is much to be gained or lost by the decisions we make today.

Yochai Benkler at Boalt Hall School of Law

The Future of Information

SIMS, berkeley, friends, podcasts, iSchool


Geoff Nunberg, Mimi Ito, Brewster Kahle and Brad Horowitz

Yesterday the UC Berkeley School of Information (iSchool) hosted a panel discussion and reception to celebrate the change of our name (we were formerly known as the School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS)).

The event started with Dean Saxenian commenting on the one and a half year process that concluded with the decision to join the 20+ other Schools of Information in the US. The panel discussion included (from left to right above): Geoff Nunberg (UC Berkeley, Stanford), Mimi Ito (USC), Brewster Kahle (Internet Archive) and Brad Horowitz (Yahoo!). Geoff Nunberg asked each panelist to present separately first and answer two questions:

  • Over the coming decades, what's likely to be the most surprising or unanticipated change in social behavior, social life, etc. that technology will mediate?
  • What's likely to be the most surprising or unanticipated holdover from the present?

We had so many attendees -- more than 130 -- that we had to have an overflow room with real-time video and audio being streamed into that room. The audio is available by clicking on the title of this post or here: Future of Information Panel (MP3 Audio).

Note: we're still working out the kinks with the audio set up; you'll notice that it's quite a bit more hi-fidelity than past recordings (thanks to a grant by the iSchool). Even then there was some interference that I couldn't eliminate from the massive amount of cellphones and other devices in the audience.
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