back to article Dear America: Want secure elections? Stick to pen and paper for ballots, experts urge

The upcoming 2020 US presidential election should be conducted on paper, since there is no way currently to make electronic and internet voting secure. That's according to a dossier from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which probed the fallout of alleged Russian meddling with America's 2016 …

  1. Andy Mac
    Thumb Up

    Now they just need to develop a machine that can punch a hole all the way through the ballot paper.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Why? A cross made with a pencil, black biro or felt-tip will do just as well and, indeed, is much better if the ballots are counted by humans.

      For machine-counted ballots a black mark in a box read by an Optical Mark Reader (OMR) is also better because it will not be subject to the 'hanging chad' problem.

      OMR is old, tested and reliable technology: I was writing systems to use it back in 1971/2. With reasonably well designed forms it provides an easily used offline interface that works in places where online access isn't usually available, such as a polling station. When polling closes, the marked-up ballots from each polling station would be securely transported to the counting centre and fed through its OMR reader. Security is good because there's no need to connect any part of the voting system to a network.

      The first example I saw of a live OMR system belonged to a magazine distributor. This is the middle man between the publishers and newsagents. The distributor's delivery van driver delivered magazines to the newsagent and collected last week's unsold copies. Both were recorded on an OMR form in front of the shop owner and passed to the distributor's computer dept to be read into the stock control and accounting system. The OMR forms had been printed with the retailer's code and the list of magazines he sold before being handed to the van driver, sorted into delivery round order - a very slick operation. Using then-traditional data prep methods took 3-4 weeks to produce invoices etc: the use of OMR reduced this to 3-4 days.

      The OMR system I worked on used a set of forms to record case histories for a hospital cardiovascular unit: there were forms, designed by medical staff, to record pre-op examinations, details of the operation, post-op examinations and outcomes. We developed a system that read the OMR documents and stored the details in a database. As well as generating outcome statistics (its main purpose), it printed easily readable case histories that went back to the surgeons for checking/correction and to be added to the patient's case notes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Martin Gregorie

        I doubt there's any OMR system in current use that cannot be hacked in one way or another (via USB, exploitable chipset vulnerability, whatever). No, human counting of ballots only please. Sure you could have the odd bad actor, but arranging for an army of them is a lot more difficult.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Martin Gregorie

          "the odd bad actor"

          I would have thought that before Trump/Pence, but it appears Pence has brought a not insignificantly large group of Evangelicals who seem hell bent on bring about the Apocalypse and will use their whole "lying for Jesus" methodology to do so. The religious right in the US, it seems, is going through a massive, collective, cognitive dissonance. They know they're wrong, but cannot bring themselves to accept that, yet. It is this group that would like to be the ruling equivalent of the Taliban or the religious branch in Saudi Arabian governance (autocratic theocracy?). If we can make it through another generation or two without being thrown into a nuclear war and/or Fascist regimes everywhere we might be able to shake off the shackles of that religious tribalism and have one fewer group to fear will bring about the loss of human rights.

          1. VanguardG

            Re: @Martin Gregorie

            There are idiots on both extreme ends of the spectrum, AC. Right and Left both have their share of moonbats all too willing to sacrifice all rights of a few, or a few rights of all, in exchange for the illusion of "security", largely against threats mostly invented, or at least heavily exaggerated, but those in Congress and the White House, regardless of which side of the aisle they lean toward. To focus so ineptly on the threat from one direction would blind you to the equal threat from the other. Our friends over in the UK, where there's a political party for every blade of grass, have the correct of it. A two-party system cannot help but eventually polarize as people are forced into one or the other, though they do not fit into the mold of either, and here we are. Elsewhere, these people would band together and form a new party and become, perhaps, a force to reckon with in time. Here, the titanic two have amassed so much money as the ONLY two that no third party can raise enough to combat them. Long term, getting this nation back means making it easier, a *LOT* easier, for alternate political parties to take on the Democrat and Republican parties, and ultimately, ideally, eliminate *all* parties and make every candidate run as an individual, espousing what they really believe instead of what the "party" makes them say in order to get the "soft money" campaign funds. I'm tired of voting for a candidate knowing its really the DNC and RNC that are pulling the puppet strings.

            1. brainbone

              Re: share of moonballs

              "There are idiots on both extreme ends of the spectrum, AC. Right and Left both have their share of moonbats all too willing to sacrifice all rights of a few, or a few rights of all, in exchange for the illusion of "security""

              Sorry, but that's false equivalence.

              First, the share of "moonbats" on the right is currently much higher, as is evident by the current President of the U.S. Second, the consequences of the right's agenda is much more severe. What would we get by following some of the currently mainstream "extreme" left views right now? A few more kids mistakenly self labeling as transgender and insisting their name is "Jace" before they're old enough to really even understand what they're talking about? More directors being fired for telling bad jokes? Both not great things -- but solvable.

              Now, it is true that if you go far enough left or right, you'll end up in the chewy fascist center. But the vast majority of current "leftists" are nowhere near that extreme, where the evangelical movement in the U.S. has made "right" synonymous with "lunatic" -- unless you think policies like medicare for all, net neutrality, etc. etc, are extreme, but then you're just being foolish.

              The number of leftists with truly dangerous views is relatively low -- and certainly not anywhere near the threat of the right's agenda that's currently supported by a majority of those identifying as "right". The problem we have right now is that the right has gone so far right that normally sensible ideas from the left somehow seem extreme.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                "share of moonbats on the right is much higher"

                That's merely your opinion sitting on the left, where someone left of you has to be extra moonbatty to seem like a moonbat. Those on the right would no doubt claim that the left has the much higher share of moonbats.

                The problem on the right is that the moonbats became empowered, and unfortunately rather than speaking out most conservatives / republicans are just going along with Trump and defending his craziness. Some of the names being posited as potential democratic candidates for 2020 are pretty moonbatty themselves. Maybe it is a reaction to Trump, or maybe it is a overreaction to having run a more moderate establishment candidate in 2016 who managed the seemingly impossible and lost to Trump.

                If a democrat moonbat becomes president in 2020 we'll probably see much the same thing, though without the entertainment value of deranged tweets and pools over how long he/she will remain in office.

              2. sprograms

                Re: share of moonballs

                The post on which you're commenting is about election technology. The issue of left versus right, moonbat count, and so forth, isn't relevant. Were it relevant, I would point out that many states in the US have their electoral votes wholly determined by the preference of their one or two largest cities. Those cities all vote majority dem, having their vote determined largely by union affiliation or social benefit dependence. But that doesn't clarify the tech problem. Even the machines can't fix the absence of voter ID. The left holds Scandinavia out as the model of democracy...but Sweden, Norway, et al, require one's "legitimation card" in order to vote, a card having a photo and ID number. In Sweden that number is your birthdate and your number in line of births reported that day. People don't find such ID offensive. Why does the US left?

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: share of moonballs

                  Two words: Papers, Please.

                  For many who lived through the Cold War, Socialism is a dirty word and they'd prefer anarchy instead.

                2. notowenwilson

                  Re: share of moonballs

                  "People don't find such ID offensive. Why does the US left?"

                  Because the US has a long and proud tradition of voter suppression. The issue is not having to have a card; the issue is that it's too easy for local authorities to decide that the card will cost you $50, or is only available if you have a drivers license, or if you have a clean criminal record, or are paid up with your taxes any of which would mean a huge population of low income (and generally Democrat voting) people can't get one. Same reason the right don't want voting age lowered to 16... the majority of kids will vote democrat.

                  The US loves the idea of local control (to save us from the big bad feds) but the by-product is you get lousy governance.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: share of moonballs

                    "People don't find such ID offensive. Why does the US left?"

                    Because the US has a long and proud tradition of voter suppression.

                    The US also has a long and proud tradition of voter fraud.

                    1. DougS Silver badge

                      The photo ID requirement isn't bad

                      In and of itself. The problem is that GETTING a photo ID provides many places from which to suppress the vote. You can charge people for it, which will turn poor people off from voting. You can demand all sorts of difficult ways to prove your identity - low income people who have moved many times in their life often have lost their birth certificate, and never had any other forms of ID like a passport. So how do they prove to the office giving out photo IDs that they are who they say they are?

                      Even if you pass those hurdles, you can insure that only one location in the whole county is available to provide such IDs, and locate it off any bus routes etc. so it is very difficult for poor people to get there. You can also understaff it, to guarantee long waits, so even if people make it out there with money and proof of ID in hand, they have to leave because they need to get to work, or they don't make it through the line before they close for the day.

                      This is why a simple requirement for ID will suppress the vote of the poor, especially urban poor who often have no transportation of their own and have moved around a lot in their life so they have no proof of ID.

                    2. strum Silver badge

                      Re: share of moonballs

                      >The US also has a long and proud tradition of voter fraud.

                      No. There's a long tradition of unsupported claims of voter fraud - without any evidence to back it up.

                3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

                  Re: share of moonballs

                  LOL - can you imagine trying to tell Americans that they need a photo AND an ID number?

              3. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: share of moonballs

                First, the share of "moonbats" on the right is currently much higher, as is evident by the current President of the U.S. Second, the consequences of the right's agenda is much more severe

                Sorry, but that simply isn't true.

                The consequences of the lefty moonbats are always more severe. Pop over to Venezuela and report back. Trump hasn't achieved, and will not achieve, anything remotely as severe.

                It's reached the point where Socialism has destroyed enough of the worlds successfull economys that the only rational response is to ensure anyone entering a voting booth is sufficiently educated as to its obvious and persistent evils that they never even think about voting for a leftist party again.

                1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                  Re: share of moonballs

                  The consequences of the lefty moonbats are always more severe.

                  Comparisons of left and right only really make sense for moderates. Extremists are extremists whether they are Marxist or Fascist. Was Pinochet really better than Chavez? Cuba under Castro had little freedom of expression but better healthcare for the poor than the US.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Martin Gregorie

              @VanguardG

              I agree that there are bad on both sides. Right now the right has both the power and has "flown over the coocoo's nest". A big part of the problem with two party systems or politics in general is corruption and both sides, it seems, largely are.

          2. Aodhhan Bronze badge

            Re: @Martin Gregorie

            If you're going to spill evilness about those on the opposite side of the political spectrum, you may want to at least take a few minutes to look at how imbedded you are.

            You should consider how fascist your words are.

            A fascist doesn't want to hear the other side. If someone doesn't believe what you believe, then they are wrong... and should be punished. --This is fascism.

            A fascist doesn't look at both sides. They are stuck on what they are told (rarely looking for the truth).

            A fascist sees faith as a bad thing, and belittles anyone who follows religious beliefs.

            Finally, a fascist calls others fascist without proof...often times without knowing what the word actually means--because they've spent so much time just repeating what they've been told to say.

            Attempting to apply 'tribalism' to religion is so completely ignorant, it's clear you don't have any original thoughts of your own, and you've never stopped to use the cognitive creative abilities your brain does have. You may want to try critical thinking for once. You'll find your life suddenly becomes a lot more enjoyable and filled with less hate.

            1. strum Silver badge

              Re: @Martin Gregorie

              >A fascist sees faith as a bad thing, and belittles anyone who follows religious beliefs.

              Poppycock. Fascism and the church have a long and dismal history. Atheists were not permitted to join the SS.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: @Martin Gregorie

          "No, human counting of ballots only please. Sure you could have the odd bad actor, but arranging for an army of them is a lot more difficult."

          Even with the kind of size and clout the major political parties can bear? Does the term "political machine" ring a bell back to the old Gilded Age? Wasn't the pursuit of nonhuman ballotting the result of the corruption of the human ballot process, regardless of its supposed safeguards?

          1. DougS Silver badge

            It doesn't matter if an OMR machine can be hacked

            You'd have to hack them in person, one by one, so it isn't scalable. What I've been saying for years is that there needs to be a mandatory recount of small percentage of randomly selected precincts (statisticians can determine the value of 'small' based on the confidence we want) that's done by hand to catch any large scale fiddling. If any is found then a full statewide hand recount can be conducted.

            The reason you want machine reading is because people aren't patient enough to wait until the next day to find out who wins an election. You can't have the ballots hand counted the night after the election, anyone who thinks that's possible does not understand how US elections are conducted well enough to comment.

            So you let the machine count them, send them to the county/state HQ, and the results can be reported as 'unofficial'. The next day you do the random audit recount in thos precincts that are selected, and if no problems are found you're done other than late arriving absentee ballots etc. that get added to the total and don't matter unless the election is close - in which case the loser will request a full recount anyway which can be done by hand pretty quickly since it is only one item on the ballot.

            Give people the electronic touchscreen machines they are familiar with, have them spit out a ballot with text designed to be both human and OCR readable and the voter looks at it to verify his vote for Lizard 1 was recorded instead of Lizard 2, puts it in the secrecy folder then deposits it into a locked ballot box (or a fancy machine like the one at my precinct that takes the secrecy folder off it and reads the ballot then and there so result reporting is very quick)

            1. robidy

              Re: It doesn't matter if an OMR machine can be hacked

              There in lies the problem...you are assuming all machines need to be tampered with.

              You only need to tamper with sufficient machines, to cover the winning margin+1 vote.

              Anything else is a waste of resources you could use hacking other things.

              However if your're on the voter machine security side, you must secure ALL voting machines for the election to be credible BEFORE the election.

              This changes AFTER the election dependent on tbe result...i.e. you need the winning margin-1 to have been secured.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: It doesn't matter if an OMR machine can be hacked

                You only need to tamper with sufficient machines, to cover the winning margin+1 vote.

                Unless it is a very close election, you need to tamper with a lot. If you say "well, we need 100,000 votes, so we will turn 100 large precincts that were 80/20 D to 70/30 R, problem solved" it will be quickly discovered that something really odd has happened that would be looked into.

                At any rate, that's why my proposal (and the one that the republicans refused to vote on in the house) includes mandatory hand recounts of a statistically significant portion of precincts, with thresholds set that would trigger mandatory statewide recounts if necessary. That's going to easily catch any OMR/OCR fiddling, so matter how carefully done.

              2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

                Re: It doesn't matter if an OMR machine can be hacked

                At least with an OMR machine there is a paper record that can be preserved allowing a recount and public examination of the votes.

              3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: It doesn't matter if an OMR machine can be hacked

                You don't even need to tamper with enough to win the vote.

                Have a couple of noteworthy senators defeated by 65536 votes to zero - or even win by the same margin. - and you start the new administration with everyone believing the vote was rigged

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Stork Bronze badge

        Sounds similar to how we signed up for courses/classes at my university in the late 80es. Worked for typically 5 or 6 classes, should be extendable to US elections too.

      4. David 18

        @ Martin Gregorie

        "OMR is old, tested and reliable technology:"

        See the problem word there is "Old". Every fule know old=bad, newer is ALWAYS better. Tested and reliable are not important.

  2. John Miles

    Re: Dear America: Want secure elections?

    Whatever makes anyone think the people in charge want secure elections? Just ones secure from anyone one else winning.

  3. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    When you have millions of people voting into an anonymous pool, at some point in the counting process you are dependent on a small group of people to keep their hands out of the till.

    Inevitably, this is where the security is most susceptible. Put the surveillence camera there.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      In most states, there is oversight even greater than what could be provided with security cameras: there are actual, live election observers from interested parties watching the process for shenanigans.

      1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

        In Canada at least ballot counting is done a local level, by lowly paid election employees, with party scrutineers looking over their shoulders. It's reasonably fast, fairly foolproof, and includes a paper trail just in case. It would be very hard to significantly swing a vote.

        I just don't see the rationale for trusting technology in this case. There are just too many ways that it can be hacked or gamed to be trustworthy.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          So what stops PEOPLE from being subverted, including any watchers?

          1. DougS Silver badge

            So what stops PEOPLE from being subverted, including any watchers?

            Party loyalty. There will be at least one observer from each political party in most precincts. I suppose one of them could try to bribe all the rest to look the other way, but you'd only be do that in a LOT of precincts to swing the total. And somehow keep that from ever becoming public, or those who were bribed from coming back and asking for more money saying "while I was being offered this money, I had my phone recording what your guy was saying, I'll call all the major newspapers and networks with this unless you pay $20,000 a month for life to keep it locked up"

            1. DCFusor Silver badge

              Thus eliminating all independents - only the R's and D's in the US can afford to have someone at each polling or counting place, and those two toss ballots for 3rd party people over their shoulders. I've seen it.

          2. sprograms

            Yes. And what good are observers from both parties, or video cameras, if the the process of actual individual voter identification is week?

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              And will always be weak due to the Perennial fear of Big Brother?

          3. michael cadoux

            Watchers are from opposing political parties, so anything that an accredited watchers from Party A might wink at would likely be picked up on by a watcher from parties B or C.

          4. JohnFen Silver badge

            The fact that there are observers from the competing parties present pretty much ensures that the observers won't conspire to overlook bad behavior. Nothing is a sure thing, of course, but I can't think of a better way to do oversight than the presence of election observers.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              And if they're secretly in cahoots like the R-D conspiracy?

              1. JohnFen Silver badge

                The lock-in that the Dems and Reps have is maintained through a multitude of other, more reliable and legal, mechanisms. They have no need to engage in shenanigans when counting votes to keep that up, as that fix was already in before voting even began.

        2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

          I have stood for election to my local council in England, and was therefore one of those "party scrutineers" you mention. The people counting the ballot papers are a mixture of council officials and others such as bank tellers, used to sorting and counting slips of paper.

          Those counting people are instructed to ignore useless and irrelevant interjections from the party scrutineers. The counting process is simple if just one councillor is to be elected, but becomes complicated in a large ward that elects two or three councillors.

          Some ballot papers are queried. This ranges from the one that used ticks instead of crosses, to the one that just said "s*d off". A council official will gather representatives from all the parties to decide these cases. Where the voting intention is clear, it is usually granted. In the cases I saw, it would not have affected the result, but in a marginal seat there exists an escalation procedure.

          I doubt that an electronic process could replace all that.

        3. gregthecanuck

          Barry neglected to mention we also hand out free maple syrup at election stations to encourage voter turnout. The only problem is too many voters keep adding "pancakes" as a write-in option.

  4. JohnFen Silver badge

    In summary

    The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine used a whole lot of academic words to say something very simple: use common sense.

    1. Joe W

      Re: In summary

      Just that common sense is not all that common (somebody said).

      I have been baffled by the USians insistence to use those machines, doubly so ones that do not create a paper ballot to recount afterwards. To me this is madness - which actually is apparently common. Still, as somebody commented, maybe these are used so you can properly rig the elections (no need for the Russians to interfere...)

  5. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Eep!

    I'm a little worried that an article about a recommendation for dumping electronic voting should be illustrated with a photo of a mere human holding Orac up high.

  6. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Outdated report

    I expect they had already compiled the dossier before it emerged that the Russian Trolls are really Michigan Democrats and Oracle-backed campaigners.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Time Machine Invented!

      Michigan Link: On 2018-08-16 DNC security partner Lookout tested the DNC's email security by setting up phishing sites to collect user names and passwords. This information was then sent back in time to before the 2016 election so that DNC emails could be leaked.

      Oracle link: The Internet Research Agency indictment is dated 2018-02-16. Google said they had taken steps to prevent similar trolling by the Russians. CfA tested this by setting up account using the Internet Research Agency's address and doing some trolling. Apparently this trolling travelled back in time to before the 2016 election and caused the indictment.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Outdated report

      Everybody knows the Soviet Union was just a PR front for Oracle

  7. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    And not only the voting itself

    There's also the voter registration databases that need to be secured against tampering. Otherwise, who knows what can happen when Mr. Buttle presents himself and finds he's registered as Mr. Tuttle?

  8. Chris Miller

    Even if some security guru comes up with a magic way to make internet voting 100% secure, it will still be a very bad idea, because (unlike making an X in the privacy of the voting booth) there's no way to stop someone from standing behind the voter with either a baseball bat or a big wad of cash to ensure they vote the 'right' way. For the same reason, postal votes should be permitted only for very good reasons, not just as a way of increasing turnout figures.

    1. DCFusor Silver badge

      Security guru Bruce Schneier pointed this out quite awhile back on his blog. While I don't always agree with the guy, he knows his stuff - but is often far too soon in today's TL;DR no attention span society. I think he pointed this out >12 years ago?

      Well, no one is perfect. He also said, and not that long ago (when you get old 8 years ain't that long), that the internet was no threat in re infrastructure, because everyone was using leased lines (that is, everyone who'd hired his security biz maybe). But far from everyone.

  9. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    PENCIL and paper

    Canada generally insists on stubby little pencils (not pens).

    The story is that once upon a time, somebody replaced a pen with one containing Disappearing Ink. Of course they did this in the polling stations that were most likely to vote for the candidate that they didn't want to win.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: PENCIL and paper

      But what happened when the malcontents started bringing good erasers?

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: PENCIL and paper

        Chas Neuf inquired about "...erasers?"

        That's why the ballot boxes are sealed-up and effectively guarded by a collection of typically honest Poll Workers.

        Once you've cast your ballot, it's extremely safe.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: PENCIL and paper

          "That's why the ballot boxes are sealed-up and effectively guarded by a collection of typically honest Poll Workers.

          Once you've cast your ballot, it's extremely safe.".

          That is, so far so good, and all depends on the honest Poll Workers.

          There are some good vids about how the ballot boxes are treated in Russia with less honest, if perhaps typical, Poll Workers.

          If the whole system is corrupt there is no solution anyway, pen or pencil or what ever.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: PENCIL and paper

            How do you stop a Kansas City Shuffle, then, especially with the help if insiders ready to duplicate any form of authentication needed?

  10. Geoffrey W Silver badge

    Blue sky / Out of the box thinking...

    How about a man with a clipboard and a big list going door to door asking for your choice, accompanied, of course, by a big police man and some doggy treats for protection. You could solve the hacking problem and the participation problem at the same time.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Blue sky / Out of the box thinking...

      You could solve the hacking problem and the participation problem at the same time.

      ... while introducing several others, like all elegible voters having to be at home during a rather extended time window, and lack of sensible oversight: at a voting station there can easily be several observers (from all parties in the race, as well as neutral non-participants) watching the ballot boxes and the entire process all the time.

      And the hacking problem isn't limited to the voting itself and the tallying afterwards. As I mentioned above, the voter registration databases need to be equally protected. One way or another you have to compile a list of who's over voting age and entitled to vote in the election at hand (resident status can allow voting in municipal council but not for national government particular criminal convictions may limit your voting rights, etc.).

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Blue sky / Out of the box thinking...

      In Britain, that is what the political parties do. They call it canvassing.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Blue sky / Out of the box thinking...

        In Britain, that is what the political parties do. They call it canvassing.

        Ehm, no. That's just a particular way of promoting one's party. The way I read Geoffrey W's comment, he wants voting officials going around, and recording the actual votes from people at their homes. With a police officer as observer/protection.

        Doesn't solve the problem it intends to solve, and introduces a bunch of others.

  11. Herby Silver badge

    Somehow...

    For over two centuries we existed with physical ballots, and had little problems. Seems like a proven technology.

    Isn't there a saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!".

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Somehow...

      Even in national elections with total numbers of votes going into the hundreds of millions? Doesn't a concern of scale present itself then?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Somehow...

        Doesn't a concern of scale present itself then?

        No. With a larger population, the number of districts, voting officials and observers just has to be increased so that each district still covers about the same number of voters. And with a larger population you will have a larger pool from which to select those officials.

        One thing that would help is limiting the number of items to vote on. Why the fsck should one vote for a dogcatcher? Party affiliation should be irrelevant, personal preference might play a little, but the main criterion is whether he or she is good at catching the dogs that should be caught (and not the ones that shouldn't). Doing that job badly? Demote to drain cleaner.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Somehow...

          "No. With a larger population, the number of districts, voting officials and observers just has to be increased so that each district still covers about the same number of voters. And with a larger population you will have a larger pool from which to select those officials."

          All of which costs money. Try doing all that from the same shoestring budget...

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Somehow...

            All of which costs money. Try doing all that from the same shoestring budget...

            The budget grows proportionally with the population.

            At least, in countries other than the US.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Somehow...

              Not the ELECTION budget, which is usually FIXED...

              1. notowenwilson

                Re: Somehow...

                "Not the ELECTION budget, which is usually FIXED..."

                It's not like the election budget has remained fixed since 1950. Budgets get revised every year. But let's assume that they don't get looked at for a full presidential election cycle. How much has the US population changed in 4 years? About 3% from a quick look. If you can't tolerate 3% more people you've got issues. Hell, US voter turnout swings by more than that from election to election. Australia's population increased by 4.5% over a federal election cycle. Every vote is counted by hand and the AEC is one of the best in the world at running elections. The US issues are purely their own making.

              2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                Re: Somehow...

                Not the ELECTION budget, which is usually FIXED...

                Nah, the Supreme Court nixed the attempt to limit PAC and SuperPAC spending which effectively means that there are no limits. Spending 2011 was around $ 4 bn on the presidential election alone. Essentially the budget pays for about 6 months of television on all networks.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Somehow...

                  But that's all private spending. I'm talking about the budgets set aside to actually conduct the elections, which are all public money. IOW, don't you think this is all by design at every level of the government?

  12. David M

    In case no-one's already mentioned it...

    https://xkcd.com/2030/

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Still won't fix the US'ans broken "Electorial college" system

    Which only needs a few people to swing a way in a few particular states and hey presto you've "elected" probably the President with the highest score on the PCL-R ever.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Still won't fix the US'ans broken "Electorial college" system

      To fix that you have to fix the two-party system first, same in the UK, good luck with that.

      The funny thing. looking at it from outside, is that we all sneer at the one-party systems, but at the same time both Brits and Americans want that one party of their love the run the country and the government to the end of time. Just look at the mess in both countries.

      I would hate that to happen in Finland regardless of party. It's as stupid and non-functional as having only one ISP or brand of cheese. Also elect the President directly by the people.

      And yes, pen and pencil, ink. I would suggest that for Estonia too.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Still won't fix the US'ans broken "Electorial college" system

        "To fix that you have to fix the two-party system first, same in the UK, good luck with that."

        So HOW do you fix a two-party, especially one so well-entrenched and with the electorate so echo-chambered?

  14. Wim Ton

    In the US, the fraud takes place before the election: meddling with district boundaries and trying to exclude people that could vote for the wrong candidate.

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Finally !

    Further, internet voting should not be used in the future until and unless very robust guarantees of security and verifiability are developed and in place, as no known technology guarantees the secrecy, security, and verifiability of a marked ballot transmitted over the internet.

    Finally an official voice of reason. I have been watching US elections with complete disbelief ever since the Diebold fiasco. It is high time a very big broom clears out all the cobwebs in that area, and this just might be the herald of its arrival. Maybe.

    Now to see how interested parties will organize the resistance.

  16. jason 7

    They don't get it.

    The machines will stay whatever.

    Why?

    The machines are a fantastic way to help rig elections by rationing them to areas that don't vote the way you want them to. Oh you good people can have 5 voting machines and all be done by 5pm. You folks in that district can have the one and you can get lucky if you get the chance to vote!

    There is no excuse for not providing $50 worth of pencils and slips.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: They don't get it.

      Sure there is: not enough in the budget.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Since the US is aware that their last election was rigged

    Then surely they need to have another election, one that is less rigged

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Since the US is aware that their last election was rigged

      So, another "less rigged" election, run by the folks elected in the previous, rigged, election(s)?

      How's that supposed to work?

      Note the undercurrent in the various discussions. Dems generally favor methods that require a lot of "foot troops" to subvert, while GOP generally favor methods that require a few select points to be subverted, often at substantial monetary cost.

  18. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

    xkcd had a comic on that already!

    https://www.xkcd.com/2030/

    You cannot get closer to the truth.

  19. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    Reminds me of an old joke ...

    US President Ronald Regan, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yeo and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos were in a summit. During one of the breaks the three leaders wandered around the topic of election and election result.

    US President Ronald Regan went first and claimed "In America, we get the result of the election 24 hours after the polling booths close."

    Not to be outdone, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yeo claimed, "In Singapore, I get the result 12 hours after the election booths close."

    Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos remained silent. He stood up, shook his head and said, "Both of you can't beat the system in the Philippines. We know who wins the election 24 hours BEFORE election day."

  20. Milton Silver badge

    In short, the British system

    Oddly enough, the relatively primitive and mostly manual system, as used in the UK, is highly secure and would work perfectly well in the US. Population size is less of a problem than wide geographic distribution, but it doesn't really matter if some regions return results after 48 hours. The "chain of evidence" approach to marking, collecting, transporting and counting ballots, and doing this in a way that always allows for independent observation, makes it very hard to interfere in a British election—especially to do so in a hidden way. That last point is important.

    The ballot machines used in a number of US states are not only woefully insecure insofar as their counting can be tampered with, but worse, much worse—this can be done in such a way that the very act itself can then be concealed. Even if there is suspicion of a rigged vote, what can you do about it, if there is no alternate means of checking? Without a backup paper-receipt approach, there is no way to know how a vote was rigged or how to correct it—even, indeed, if you had 100% certainty that it was rigged.

    The British system may seem quaint, but not only is it reliable, any attempt to subvert it would require hands-on interference which would be eyewateringly difficult to conceal. An internet-based attack by some GRU goons in Leningrad is relatively deniable. There may be no apparent physical interference. On the other hand, a conspiracy of balaclava'd thugs at a polling station or a returning centre is kind of hard to overlook.

    Ultimately: on the one hand you have the marketurds, lobbyists and other assorted paid liars from the voting machine manufacturers, plus the gullible morons they are selling to. On the other you have the independent, evidence-based, rational, logical reasoning of experts. There's no real question, among adults, about who is right, or why. The question is only whether gullible morons have any shame.

    Since they are frequently politicans, and they don't even have enough brains or humility to realise they are gullible morons ... well, I'm not holding out much hope.

    1. Steve Graham

      Re: In short, the British system

      "the relatively primitive and mostly manual system, as used in the UK, is highly secure"

      I agree. I have very little doubt that the EU referendum result accurately reflected the votes cast. And given the difficulty of manipulating the recorded results, the billionaires and oligarchs chose to attack the weak link, the human one.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: In short, the British system

        I still say it's possible with an organization as big as the Republican or Democratic parties, even to the extent of subverting law enforcement to turn aside or reverse any allegations.

    2. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      Re: In short, the British system

      this is the rub, if Merica got off its newer is better high hourse and used the same system that has worked properly for the last 100+ years and not so well for the couple of hundred before that (rotten boroughs etc)

      then one man one form one mark in one box

      take all the forms, count the marks and roberts your fathers brother

      We have 2 parties, as do all FPTP voting systems, its just the Liberals havent died off completley yet since Labour took over as the second party in the 30s-40s

      in Scotland its SNP and Labour, in NI its DUP and SF

      wales have a hybrid system so Plaid Cymru Labour and Conservitives are all represented.

      The problem in the US is the Electoral College System, in which you can win without the popular vote, as states give all their electors to the winner. This means that by tampering with three or four counties, you can tip the three or four swing states and end up winning the election.

      if states applied PR to their electors, the results would more closly mirror the popular vote.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: In short, the British system

        The problem here is that a PR system would swing the influence to the most populous parts of the country: the dense cities.

        Frankly, I don't think a single system will be sufficiently satisfactory. Like the Connecticut Compromise, you need multiple systems. In this case, three. Count the votes three times: by person, by district, and by state: best of three wins. This can help to keep the influence of sparse rural states while still allowing for two more granular measurements.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it even make a difference?

    Year after year citizens are forced to make the horrific choice of "least worse".

    Our system is entirely broken, as evidenced by our last election where we had to choose between two of the most loathsome individuals imaginable.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bring back the arena

    Candidates in an arena.

    Various blunt weapons thrown in.

    Winner takes all.

    - For shits and giggles, use Russian made weapons.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: Bring back the arena

      Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Dyin’ time’s here.

  23. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    It's not the fucking machines

    Aside from partisanship, America's biggest problem with elections is voter participation: 50% of those deemed eligible is considered good and that's what the presidential election averages: mid-terms and special elections rarely get above 35%. America likes to think it's democratic but it still largely stuck in the 18th Century and relies too heavily on institutions to balance out the problems inherent in the electoral process, such as being beholden to special interests.

  24. IGnatius T Foobar !

    Election integrity is easy *if* they're willing.

    One person, one vote. It's not difficult, but there are people who equate simple and effective measures like voter ID and finger dye with voter disenfranchisement. Unsurprisingly, these people happen to be the ones that are cheating.

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