Balancing interests

I have been thinking about secure election systems for a while. Two events have provoked me to consider this issue today. Firstly, I was looking at building a voting system in WordPress and came across YOP Poll which does not have a secret ballot hidden from the system administrators. Secondly, the Lewisham Momentum meeting tonight it seems is going to have Momentum staff or nominees on the door.

The point of principle is that when building trustworthy systems, they must have a segregation of duties and are best observed by competing interested parties who can call foul if something wrong is happening.

In the examples above, neither the software, nor its administrators should be trusted, and in the second example, since there is no audit of their decisions neither should the door keepers who are accountable to no-one. …

e-counting at #lab18

In my article “Who’s missing?”, I looked at some of the facts about #lab18’s Card Vote 9, strangely the first vote taken. It would seem that there are 179,000 votes missing, although the number missing from Card Vote 10 was smaller at 143,000. The first expectation is that this comes from missing CLP’s but the CLPs that did not come, one would expect to be the smaller and poorer. If one assumes that the average size of the missing CLPs is 500 (the national mean average is ~850) , that would mean that between 286 & 358 CLPs are missing! That can’t be right!. Although another explanation is delegates that hadn’t picked up their voting books, or were away from the floor, which may explain the higher vote on Tuesday a.m. A third explanation might be abstention.

However I know that at least in one case the initial delegation size stated was ½ the accurate number, I wonder if this happened more than once and if when correcting the delegation size, they updated the master system on which the card vote value was held.

On of the principles of e-voting/e-counting is that the voter should be able to see (physically) what they’ve done. This cannot occur at Labour Party Conference as the voting slip has an identification code which is hopefully unique and the card vote value is assigned to it by the counting machine. Since the results are no longer published with line items, no-one knows if the card vote count is accurate. I think something should be done! …

e-voting using the blockchain

I have written a couple of things about e-voting, most comprehensively in an article entitled e-voting; I was in a hurry. I came across this twitter thread which reinforces the arguments I make, although he summarises the problems as secrecy and coercion. Matthew also takes a pop at the advocates of bitcoin though and that’s because its complex, not because its private and horrendously expensive.

There aren’t 833837 items in the thread, or at least I haven’t found that many, I make it about 14. Why not check it out? …

Online Democracy

In Labour’s Democracy Review, they argue for more IT and remote access and online balloting, they say

Carers, disabled members, shift workers, women and young members have argued it is the poor, disadvantaged and already under-represented who are least likely to have the time and resources to attend meetings. These points have been made particularly at the disability events we have had.

Who the fuck do you think are least likely to have internet access?

In the HuffPo article, they argue that Momentum is an example of how digital engagement creates activity and energy. In my book, Momentum has some questions to answer about it’s on-line democracy. (It’s closed source, and its IT Security Controls are not public and its segregation of duties is not published, and probably non-existent. )

In my short essay, http://davelevy.info/e-voting/, I say,

Bruce Schneier, in a 2004 essay, posed four requirements, that voting systems be fast, accurate, scalable and anonymous. To these I add, transparency.

E-voting systems struggle to meet the Schneier’s first four criteria and yet the last is possibly the most important; critically losers must trust that the result is accurate.

I say [much] more in articles on this blog tagged e-voting.

ooOOOoo

The HuffPo article posted the full review and I have mirrored the section on Digital Democracy on this site. The report itself is pretty moderate in its ambitions, restricting itself to improving training, asking all CLPs to have a web site and making the social media officer a specific role. No harm really; although it is important to maintain the collective nature of decision making in the Party, where remote attendance and postal votes isolate and allow non Party voices i.e. the right wing press to have a larger voice than our members then this must be opposed. …

E-Voting

E-Voting

At my last Union branch meeting, we heard from Gemma Short of the right to strike campaign. As one part of her presentation she mentioned that one of the Unions’ response to the recent Trade Union laws is to demand that they can run strike ballots (and the mandatory political levy and elections) using e-voting technology. I have been thinking about this for a while and its fans need to take stock; there’s some inconvenient truths. …

Transparency

There’s a tragedy happening in Venezuela. I am trying to discover the truth but one part of the story struck me as interesting and odd. Venezuela, it would seems use an e-voting system. This is supplied by Smartmatic, a British based company and their CEO, quoted in the Guardian, has announced that he believes that

 … results recorded by the company’s systems show “without any doubt” that the official turnout figure was tampered with

This is the problem with e-voting systems. How can he know and how can anyone know the truth? …

MXV

So the momentum stitch-up has kicked off big time. I think I’ll constrain this little post to the e-democracy part of the debate. The momentum bureaucracy are proposing that the coming sovereign national conference is framed, decided or influenced by a digital platform and have conveniently launched one. It is called MXV and is based on a product called Consul which seems to have been built for Madrid City Council. When you arrive at the home page, you are offered the opportunity to “sign in” or “Join Momentum”. If you are already a member, and have not been issued with a password, you’re fucked. There is one email address on the site, to use if one has a problem. I have now mailed them twice to ask for login credentials, with proof that I am a member. (The second mail was sent today.) I’d have expected them to use getsatisfaction or user voice for their help desk interface since people can help themselves and see what’s happening; they seem to be learning from the Labour Party and the whole thing is just a black box bit bucket. Actually it’s several steps better because it’s open source, although I have not yet sought to prove that this code line is in use and I don’t do Ruby so I can’t check the vote counting routines. The original product offers oauth support.

What we have here is the construction of the electoral roll in secret. This isn’t good enough. It’s why we have polling agents, judicial review and even international observers in our public elections and why I argued that the Labour Party needs an independent reviewer of its own elections to make sure that the behaviour of the returning officer and his or her agents is transparent. This is all before we measure the value of the conference, the debate and the mandating meetings,

If this is the new e-democracy epitomising new politics, then frankly it’s wanting. …

Significant

I was tidying up my desktop, when I came across a couple of articles by Bruce Schneier on e-voting. In this piece, he argues to tighten up the IT Security around the voting machines in the US, repeating his demand that voting machines have voter authorised paper copies so voters know and agree their ballot papers. He also categorically states that voting over the internet is just asking for trouble. He is concerned about integrity attacks, but ballot organisers should also be worried about impersonation, duplication and coercion, and this is apart from just hacking the results. There are some who feel that the use of e-voting is better than not voting but there remain significant IT Security problems; while I do not necessarily support a return to “show of hands in the car park”, obsessing about internet voting isn’t the answer yet, and may never be.

For more by me, check out my blog articles on e-voting, and for my bookmarks read here…. …

Labour’s Conference Lost

Labour’s Conference Lost

I was privileged to attend Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool as a voting delegate. The Conference was the book-end of a summer in which the Labour Party re-opened the debates about programme and strategy which many had thought finished last year. This article reports my experience and views; it is quite long, about 2750 words and is broken up into sections, Unity and the membership, some comments on the politics of Conference, a short section on the future, also covering the Tuesday atmosphere and Wednesday’s Leader’s speech. This is followed by a commentary on the Rules debate and the surrounding shenanigans; the main part of this article/report is concluded with comments on the state of the debate on Immigration and Brexit.  …