Can Dead People Still Vote on an Electronic Voting Machine?

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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4 Responses

  1. Joe Schmoe says:

    Dead people have rights too!

  2. John Armstrong says:

    I’m looking at their picture and I think they’re pushing the envelope a bit with their phrasing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a horrible design open to all sorts of dirty tricks, but it’s not “just a flip of a switch”.

    Think of it this way: say your computer has two hard drives in it. One has OS X and one has Windows XP. There’s a switch on the motherboard of your computer that says which drive to load from when you first turn on the computer. To change involves shutting down, opening up the box, flipping the switch, closing the box, and rebooting.

    So in practice the exploit goes as follows: one valid set of voting instructions goes on one drive and one suitable for the malicious interloper is on the other. The valid one is booted, which the verifier checks. Now the interloper has to turn off the machine, flip the switch, and turn the machine back on, all without anyone not sympathetic to his methods seeing. Possible? Of course, but not nearly as surreptitious as the press release seems to indicate.

  3. Deven Desai says:

    John, thanks for the input. I wondered about the claims and your insights help see the issue better. As for how easy it is to go through such acts, from the little bit of politics I saw in northern New Jersey, I think that yes, one could accomplish the changes without too much trouble.

    Also slashdot has been on fire on the topic. A new post has the highlights http://backslash.slashdot.org/backslash/06/08/01/191235.shtml

    An interesting point was made about the way Nevada regulates gaming machines. It seems that Nevada has a better system for securing and preventing tampering than our voting machines.

    But another reader notes that sooner or later even with tamper proof machines you have to trust someone (software maker and so on). I think that point is true yet somehow I am less concerned about the programer and few narrow points of trust (who could affect the outcomes but I would think be easier to track) than any election official being able to play with the machine.

  4. Kaimi says:

    I realize it’s likely to be less efficient, but why not print out the vote? I.e., I go to the machine, and vote for Candidate A. It prints out a piece of paper. I look at the piece of paper, and it says “Candidate A” on it. I nod, and drop the paper into a box.

    That way we use electronic machines, but if there’s any question, then we’ve got a paper backup available.