Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The tip of the iceberg in election fraud is probably floating in Ohio

There is an interesting story brewing in Ohio. A measure to legalize pot has been defeated. But expert observers say that the election in Ohio was stolen to defeat pot legalization. There is ample evidence of partisanship for and against the measure, and this time the opposition was in a position of power.

There are now accusations of election fraud and there is evidence to support those accusations. How that would hold up in court, I'm not sure. This election could just be the tip of the iceberg in election fraud if the evidence presented so far proves to be right. If the Ohio election was stolen because opponents felt so brazen as to flip the votes, then we have the right to question every election going forward, and perhaps going back to the time we started using computers to count votes.

In the end, the problem of corruption in elections, the actual collection, tabulation and results, will need to be addressed. This is distinct from the problem of voter fraud where voters make fraudulent votes. Voter fraud is such a tiny problem that there is scant if any evidence that voter fraud could tilt an election. Yet, the public debate on election integrity has been consistently steered at the voter, not the people who actually collect and count the votes and the machines they use to do it.

I will offer a solution to the problem of election integrity, but first, let's review what happened in Ohio. Alternet has been covering the story very closely and their first post shortly after the election has documented inconsistencies in the live returns during the election. Alternet shows that in the span of 11 minutes the vote was flipped from a decisive victory in favor of pot legalization to a resounding defeat.

Statistical analysis of the results after the election compared polling with election results and analyzed them with standard measures of deviation. Analysis shows that the chances that polling before the election would correspond to the results shown in the election are statistically remote. Here's the second post covering the analysis after the count was finalized by the secretary of state of Ohio.

Votescam is a small family organization dedicated to cleaning up our votings system. Their documentation of election fraud suggests that at the least, there is evidence of election fraud going back to the 1988 presidential election. According to them, election fraud is non-partisan, so it would seem that both dominant parties have participated.

Votescam has investigated the voting machines and followed researchers in their quest to test the security and integrity of these voting machines. In reading their evidence, I was struck by how one company, Diebold, runs their voting machines on Windows. If I had wanted a secure machine for collecting the votes of the people, I sure as hell would not choose Windows. I'd be using Linux to run the operating system and build my vote collection system on top of it. I believe that the choice of Windows is deliberate for the lack of security and integrity.

Votescam has also noted that voting machine manufacturers have seized upon the use of trade secret protection to avoid disclosure of how their machines work. Why anyone would use trade secrets to shield their voting machines from scrutiny is beyond me. If companies like Diebold truly believed that they were doing a good service for our country, they would welcome such scrutiny and offer their machines for testing just to gain the confidence and trust of the people they serve.

We could solve the election fraud problem by making all of our voting machines open source, from top to bottom, with source code and specifications made public to all. With an open specification, anyone can build a voting machine, but more to the point, anyone with the knowhow can verify the integrity of those machines before and after the election.

We also need to look at the machines that collect and tabulate the votes that are collected into a database. All votes can be collected by machines that run open source operating systems like Linux using open source databases like MySQL or PostgresQL.

Integrity of the voting machines and tabulation machines can be tested by using encryption algorithms against the system images and programs before and after the election to ensure that no tampering has occurred. We can use a process called sha256sum to test each machine, from top to bottom to ensure that what was loaded on each machine is the same after the election. All of the results can be made public so that we can be sure that the machines are working as designed. This is how we can ensure our machines count the votes fair and square.

An open source solution to election integrity can be ours. All that is required is the political will to do the job right. If we can't trust our elections, then we can't really say that we have a democracy. But with enough eyeballs on the problem, and people willing to press our government for a solution that works, we can take our elections back.
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