NonScienceNonsense

See a problem, propose a solution you want that might make the problem worse

There were long lines for Election Day Registration (EDR) and it took a whole 10 hours to count enough votes to determine the Governor in Connecticut. Our EDR is a problem, but waiting ten hours for result is just a concern hyped up by a overly impatient press and used as a opportunity by advocates to promote early voting as a solution.

As of this time the states of California, Colorado, Florida, and Georgia are still counting votes. They all have mail-in early voting.  California has a Friday deadline to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by election day and counts them for weeks after election day.  As of Friday all those other states were still counting.

There real are problems and there are reasonable solutions.

the Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting

From David Jefferson at Verified Voting: Verified Voting Blog: The Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting <read>

Internet voting has been studied by computer security researchers for over twenty years. Cyber security experts universally agree that no technology, including blockchains, can adequately secure an online public election. Elections have unique security and privacy requirements fundamentally different from and much more stringent than those in other applications, such as e-commerce. They are uniquely vulnerable because anyone on Earth can attack them, and a successful cyberattack might go completely undetected, resulting in the wrong people elected with no evidence that anything was amiss….

Election security is a matter of national security. Blockchains, despite all the hype surrounding them, offer no defense against any of these well-known threats to which all online elections are vulnerable.

What we don’t understand seems all but impossible and fictional

Like you I don’t know a lot about brain surgery, flying a jet, or hacking a cell-phone. Off-hand I often think of all of those somewhere on a spectrum from taking years to learn, to almost impossible, fictional or magical.  Yet the evidence is different. People learn brain surgery, perform it regularly and well. Just this week we saw a mechanic take-off and fly a jumbo jet, apparently with only some video game experience. Which brings me to my newest proverb:

What we don’t understand seems all but impossible and fictional.

But that is not true. Case in point, DEFCON.

It’s Impossible to Know (how) Your Internet Vote Counted

As West Virginia plans, once again, to allow Internet voting for military voters, it is a good time to remind everyone that Internet voting (web page, web application, email, fax voting etc.) are all unsafe for democracy. And that block-chains cannot solve those problems.

One of those problems is that there is no guarantee that your laptop or smart phone has not been hacked in a way that  alters your vote. Another challenge is the, so called, Secret Ballot.

Do you need a blockchain? (Probably not!)

Blockchains are the latest technology to enter the mainstream.  A blockchain powers and makes BitCoin possible. Many are treating blockchains as the next big breakthrough in technology. There is even a Blockchain Caucus in Congress.

Do not get your hopes up or bet your retirement savings on blockchains, they are definitely not the next Internet or Hula Hoop.  Most importantly they will not transform elections or solve the challenges of online voting.

From IEEE Do You Need a Blockchain?

“I find myself debunking a blockchain voting effort about every few weeks,” says Josh Benaloh, the senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research. “It feels like a very good fit for voting, until you dig a couple millimeters below the surface.”

Nonscience Nonsense, insults our intelligence and the Granite State

Coverage by Alternet: The GOP Is Plowing Ahead with an Audacious Effort to Hijack the Vote and Rig Elections   <read>

“Plowing” is apt. They are really piling it on.  It could be worse.  They may hide their emails, yet their agenda is transparent.  Instead they could have a hidden agenda and succeed in reducing voting rights by a thousand cuts.

The Republican Party’s efforts to disrupt voting and thwart representative government was on full display this past week, when despite ridicule in the press, the GOP’s leading proponents of undermining voters and rigging elections were unbowed and forged ahead.

Beware the vendor/technologist offering a panacea

The general public, legislators, business people, and many technologists – all of us – often miss-estimate the potential and applicability of technologies.  I remember in 2004, my congressman, told an audience we did not have to worry about electronic voting because of encryption.

The latest “new” technology is Blockchains, the technology that underlies BitCoin.  It has some valuable applicability, yet I suspect  not that much.

Using blockchains for voting has been considered by academics for decades, but only as a thought experiment. If you ask any cryptographer who knows the basics of cryptocurrencies (remember, blockchains were invented by cryptographers) if elections should be conducted using blockchains, they would laugh and say, “Hell no, that doesn’t even make sense!”

Surprising statements by Denise Merrill and Neil Jenkins

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State and President of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Neil Jenkins from Homeland Security spoke on NPR on election integrity.  <listen>

We disagree with both their similar statements:

.”Because our system is highly decentralized there’s no way to disrupt the voting process in any large-scale meaningful way through cyber attacks because there’s no national system to attack,” [Merrill] said Tuesday at a hearing before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on the impact of the critical infrastructure designation.

Jenkins was quoted as saying “having thousands of elections offices each with their own systems making hacking elections nearly impossible”

Trick n Tweet: The Age of the Unsound Bite

I was going to write a post discussing the allegations of “widespread illegal immigrant voter fraud”. Yet, voter fraud is not the problem; Russian hacking is not the problem; Immigrants are not the problem; How many attended the inauguration is not the issue.

The problem is that, like Three Card Monte, the controversy takes our our attention off the real issues.

Another Annotation: Don’t stop being concerned about election integrity.

Lately the news is filled with Donald Trump saying the election is rigged and with election officials and others saying that is impossible.  We continue to disagree with both. As we have said:

The truth is that there is no more or less risk to elections this year than in the recent past. The bad news is that the risks of election skullduggery are significant and do not come only from one adversary.

So, lets annotate a recent Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant: Nothing Rigged About American Elections