Is Holland a democracy ? Nobody knows.

There is no way e-voting-machines can work, if votes are only stored electronically.


voting machines
black box No voter, not even the person who build it or verified it, can know what happens inside the voting-machine, because it is impossible to fully verify, and to make sure nobody has altered it since. Anything more complicated then a peace of paper and a glass box is too complicated to verify by voters, and is actually also too complicated to be verified by poll station workers. Poll station workers who think they can verify an e-voting machine have just provided proof of their lack of understanding ... unless they have their own high tech laboratory just around the corner (and plan on using it, which will destroy the machine, making it unusable for voting ...). Solution: don't use voting machines.
public can not verify counting The public can not see let alone verify how ballots are counted. Not even computer experts can independently detect actual ballots in voting machines
who must - and who must not ! - control voting the government: NOT Conflict of interest: the government - those politicians participating in the next race, currently controlling government - can not both have an impact on the counting procedure, and participate in the race. This is a conflict of interest. If it were allowed to exist the society would effectively be a dictatorship, at the pleasure of the government.
The majority of the people: yes The majority of the public is the only group in existence, with an absolute interest in the correct counting of all votes. The majority will always win the election by definition, if votes are counted correctly. That is why this majority must be engaged as much as possible, within the voting process. It used to be done by vote-counting committees, who represented the public as accurately as possible. We did not drive all votes to one location, after which a small specialist group tallied them, then burned them, and announced the result. This is exactly what electronic voting machines do (hidden behind the complexities of computer technology). Once a vote is cast, it is never seen again. Not even by the people who think they are counting them.
a committee: no The problem with a committee is that who appoints it, is it. If the government appoints a committee, the committee is just a part of government. If the people vote through paper ballot for a committee to oversee elections, they could just as well vote for politicians directly. A committee has no inherent interest in proper tallying, as they are a minute minority. No competent person is likely to want to oversee and therefore maintain, a voting system that does not work. By definition, the committee will have to be incompetent.
price Although the "results" may be out earlier, and counting by hand takes time/money, the computers will need to be outfitted with a "paper trail" (printed and then hand-cast ballots) to be anywhere near functional. That means that voting machines will be more expensive, because they also produce an equal amount of to be handcounted ballots. The money is only buying a "quick and dirty" result, which can not be trusted and might as well be ignored. Voting machines only add cost, and present more anonymity problems, which probably can not be solved as the hardware can never be fully verified.
experts can not verify Note: whether they can or not is irrelevant To completely verify a piece of computer hardware, you will probably need to destroy it, because of the potential for unknown wireless (or other) input methods, hidden on board clock devices altering behavior with time, not to mention brand new technologies unknown to the experts. Once a chip has been fully analyzed (which takes a lot of time/money), it is destroyed in the process, meaning that no fully analyzed chip can make it into a voting machine. You can analyze a car, and put it back together. You can not do this with a computer because the components are too small and fragile (that's the components on the chip, not the chips themselves), and too ghostly.

How about this: 06.04.2003 - Researchers create wireless sensor chip the size of ...

lack of understanding The voters, the politicians and the poll workers, and especially any commitees appointed (by government!?) to oversee the process, have (apparently) insufficient computer understanding to know what they are doing, because what they are doing does not work, but they are still trying to. If there is computing understanding, then at least there is little respect for proper procedure, because nobody can deny that the people have been cut out of the loop. This lack of understanding means that a system that can not work, is operated by people who don't understand the basics of the technology, and have little respect for the fundamental procedures of democracy. This seems likely to result in many more errors then just from the inherently broken system alone: dubious qualities are already present, possibly (probably) resulting in direct manipulations. History and the present are full of vote manipulations.
illegal laws about `who counts votes' In any region that has laws concerning how votes are to be tallied, these laws probably indicate who should tally them, who must be allowed to be present, and such things. In all such regions, voting machines will be illegal, because nobody can even see the votes. That means that such regions currently have illegal governments, without mandate and without power; a group of undefined individuals who pretend be a government by behaving that way, by being in the usual places of a real government, by being treated as if they were a government, and they may even believe they are a proper government. But they are not if voting rules were broken, even if nobody understood that at the time, or was having bad intentions.

The honorable solution: step down and declare the first new elections since voting machines were first used. The people most to blame are probably poll workers and election monitors: they should have refused to participate in voting machines, and declared that "what I don't understand or what I can't see, I can't monitor or licence". That is their purpose. It should be possible to declare governments voted for using voting machines illegal in court (if there ever is to be a reason for the Judiciary to be a different branch then the Executive branch, this may be it: protecting the rules for how the Executive is being elected.).

who may change voting rules From the idea that the current government can not have an impact on vote-counting follows, that politicians can never be allowed to change the rules for how votes are being tallied in any kind of major way. If the law of the country allows for politicians to alter fundamentally the way voting is conducted, the law of the land is fundamentally broken. It should need a proper referendum to alter procedures fundamentally, as there is no other body with sufficient authority available, the government being (naturally, according to `natural law') disqualified from this power. Laws that changed the rules for voting to allow `invisible ballots being counted by machines nobody can verify but under control of minute and undefined minorities', are illegal at least from natural law, and perhaps even from actual law (depending on the local laws, obviously).

From these two points flows that voting-machines are always illegal under natural law (perhaps actual law), unless there had been a paper ballot vote in favor of the new electronic voting machine system.

Intentions present Unfortunately, unlike the paper system, the amount of badly and well intentioned people is not reflected in the accuracy of the result. It takes one well placed attack by one person, to completely alter the outcome of a national election.
intentions future The fact that vote machines allow for complete control over elections to whomever is able to alter the vote tally last, means that this system will be a powerful magnet for everyone with bad intentions. Even if presently there are only "angels and saints" (though not very smart angels and saints) working in the voting industry, this is destined to come under attack. People with good intentions and adequate skill probably don't want anything to do with voting machines (except removing them). It is useless to look at the innocence of people currently involved with voting machines as a defense for voting machine procedures. You have to look at all possible futures, centuries ahead. Will all people involved with voting machines always have to be innocent and highly skilled ? If not necessarily, what kind of danger do we impose on future generations ?
naivity Many people trust voting machines because they don't understand them. They seem to assume that the relatively more smart people then them, will "take care of them", or that something as powerful as computers can only be in the hands of good people. Although there seems to be some very general truth in that - a technological species capable of computing but still having behavioral issues is likely not to last long, therefore unlikely to exist - it is the fact of the matter that humanity is both: able to use computers and has a lot of unresolved moral issues.
without purpose Voting machines have no purpose. They do not provide any upgrade over the paper/booth system, only degrade its procedure. The only reason might be speed, but that is illusion. The voting machines are the slowest of all voting techniques: they never deliver a result that can be trusted. Even the speed with which the untrusted result is delivered is only a marginal improvement, while there are many ways to get speed without compromising procedure, especially in the area of optical/mechanical counting. Such counting could provide a quick result, use technologies that can better be verified themselves (depending on their simplicity), and allow for hand-counting and actual *seeing* of ballots/votes.

Using voting machines means blind faith, while the purpose of the voting process itself is to limit the power of a government in time, to prevent it from demanding blind faith "or else", doing the kinds of things like keeping itself in power indefinitely, against the will of the people.

All governments and decisions made with voting machines are illegal and powerless, they only seem to have power because they are thought to have a mandate behind them, but the true nature of this mandate is unknown, unverified and unverifiable. A government that has no mandate, is a dictatorial group which has manouvered itself in a position of power, and/or has been manouvered in power by someone else. In the case of voting machines, power depends first on deception and ignorance. But as this government deteriorates, it can come to rely more and more on violence, and infest the government agencies with people willing to carry out such violence if asked. Once that has happened, politicians may be unwilling to change the voting system unless physically forced to (democratic revolution).

Alternative vote counting machine:

A design for a rapid vote counting machine might be based upon the machinery banks use to count bank notes. One possibility is that such a machine (also) sorts the votes, generating different stacks. Each stack can then be easily checked to see whether it only contains one type of vote, humans can do this by hand. The hight of the stacks gives a rough idea about counts, while the machine can provide an exact count.

The requirements for such a machine have to be that it is quite small, ideally the size of a bank note counter (.5 x .5 x .5 meter). It can not be a factory-floor sized machine, because such a large size means that ballots can disappear somewhere, and re-appear somewhere else. The set-up of the counting must be such, that there is no way that someone can feed in/out false ballots through some trap door. Having a portable machine makes this difficult.

The internal design of such a machine, will probably be some kind of optical sensor scanner. If possible (and it is certainly possible), the scanner makes a digital picture of what it is scanning. These digital pictures can also be sorted by vote, and stacked above each other. A human could then very easily and quickly walk through these pictures, and detect ballots which may need to be looked at again. Keeping the pictures and sorted ballots in the same order, means that problem ballot can be found quickly, and investigated.

Ballots should ofcourse remain in some place, ideally in large glass containers visible to the public, for the duration of the mandate. There should probably be some kind of secure access to these ballots, for people to conduct recounting.

It is much better if the people do NOT press buttons on anything other then the simplest of mechanical devices, to mark their ballot. Any complex machine can have (and therefore has to be assumed has) unknown anonymity problems which can not (realisticly) be detected. Todays optical scanning technology is very advanced, it should be no problem to detect pencil marks on a paper ballot. If anonymity is no concern (it isn't?), then devices could mark the ballots in very dependable ways, making the optical/mechanical counting more reliable later.


Links:
Pull the Plug on E-voting (local copy)

sede - secure democracy

Can this program solve the problem ?

Yes and no: it depends. The sede program and paper-ballot voting are different type of systems, they can not be interchanged without altering fundamental procedures.

Sede can replace paper ballot voting in government elections, under the requirement that people do not sell their vote, and are not coerced by violence. More precisely: the amount of people who sell their vote plus who are forced make up an (additional) error margin. This margin (plus other sources of error using sede) could then be compared to the error margin of other voting techniques.

If 50.000 people are forced out of their vote, and 150.000 sell their vote, on a voting population of 10.000.000: 2% error. If 9.000.000 sell their vote: 90% error.

[pencil having marked the o in
demOcracy red] Vote selling means power is likely to shift to rich people, they can buy most. Other systems have their own weaknesses: counting paper ballots could have a higher error-margin then using sede. In sede voters can check their individual vote (and ideally even get it corrected), scaring off (and neutralizing) direct vote manipulations. But that does not solve selling/forcing. From the point of view of sede (voter verified voting), vote sale or violence is not a problem: the possibility to have ballots filled out by someone else is a useful feature (especially if there is a lot of voting), and a forced vote is not a secretly manipulated vote: the "manipulation" is known by the voter.

Making a voter verified voting system immune from voting/selling, means that voters must be insulated from the time of receiving the marked token until the vote is published, must not be allowed to vote whatever they want (have to select between several options), and must not be allowed to mark their own token creatively (can not include a comment). Using sede: votes would need to be post-processed to remove all creative content. How do you insulate an entire nation from eachother ? Making immune does not seam feasable (especially for national elections).

The error-margin produced by selling and by force, is obviously depending on the level of ethics and inter-personal violence in a society, as well as the distribution of wealth. If this is too disadvantageous, the error margin becomes unworkable large. If not, the additional features of using sede could provide a more democratic voting system.