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Patrick Traynor @patrickgtraynor
, 15 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
Let’s add a little context to the discussion of voting security in the US. To do that, I’m going to do something Computer Scientists are bad at - I’m going to talk about history. Specifically, let’s look at the Help America #Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. 1/
The reason to talk about HAVA is to start recognizing some of the challenges of paper ballot-based voting. HAVA came about largely because paper ballots were proving to be extremely difficult to manage. 2/
For instance, paper ballots are expensive (they’re not printed on standard college-rule paper), and they’re not reusable across elections. You’ve also got to try and guess who is going to show up to the poll, and how many ballots you’ll need in each language. 3/
And forget being disabled. Paper ballots couldn’t help you there. 4/
Then you’ve got to keep track of physical ballots, making sure that stacks don’t go missing before or after an election. This is a lot of work, and poll workers have a tough job. 5/
All of that is meaningless, of course, if you recall the famous “hanging chads” problem that we had here in Florida. Even in the case where you do everything above correctly, paper ballot design can still cause problems 6/
That’s where HAVA came in. “Just use a computer” they said. “All the problems and expenses of paper go away,” they said. Any idiot could see, paper was the problem and technology was the answer. Everyone knew computers were better.* 7/
*(This was the “Wisdom of the Crowd” at the time. Many people rightfully argued against electronic voting from the beginning.) 8/
HAVA provided funds to deploy electronic voting systems in all 50 states, but states (and individual counties) could select the mix of electronic voting systems they wanted. HAVA helped provide some basic minimum requirements for these devices. 9/
What HAVA didn’t do was meaningfully consider security. The result? Read either the California TTBR or the Ohio EVEREST Reports. (Note, I was one of many authors of the latter).… 10/
Why am I bringing this up? Solving real-world problems like securing voting are hard. Really hard. People seem to have forgotten about all of the challenges with paper ballots now that the wisdom of the crowd has flipped again. 11/
For instance, how does switching to paper ballots deal with people being surreptitiously removed from voting rolls? You can’t use any ballot, electronic or physical, if you’re not allowed to vote at all. 12/
It turns out that solving these problems takes a great deal of care. Think about your own life. How many of your real problems actually get solved by someone yelling, “Just use a computer” or “Any idiot knows to use paper”? 13/
Similarly, throwing out “use the blockchain” is less than helpful. It fails to fully capture the challenges of voting (e.g., unlike finance, you DON’T want a voter to be able to prove how they voted to someone else - this invites vote intimidation, which is a real threat). 14/
So please, look back at the work done by many smart, dedicated folks over the past 20 years. Also, if you’re a US citizen, be sure that you are STILL registered to vote (or register now) via . Let’s try to learn from history. 15/15
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