January 24, 2019

Testifying at E-Voting Hearing

I’m testifying about the Holt e-voting bill this morning, at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on House Administrion, Subcommittee on Elections. I haven’t found a webcast URL, but you can read my written testimony.


  1. Jim Callahan says:

    Elected officials often compare touch screen voting machines to automatic teller machines (ATM) used to access bank accounts.

    Upon detailed inspection, the comparison breaks down. Voting processes require a secret (anonymous) ballot, by contrast transaction systems such as ATMs use sequential, time-stamped logs, which can be used to back out the identity of the person doing the transaction (some logs record a user identifier directly in the log). In a voting scenario, a sequential sign-in sheet at a polling place could be matched against a voting machine log revealing the voting choices made by each voter.

    In short, ballot secrecy precludes the use of a standard security measure: sequential, time stamped journals.

    Jim Callahan
    March 23, 2007
    Orlando, FL

  2. Plus, the ATM gives the user a printed docket with date, time, ATM identification, account identification, transaction total, account balance and a sequence number. Of course a voting system that did the same would be easy to build and easy to verify but would be open to vote selling.

    Most ordinary people identify computer technology by the user interface more than anything that the machine actually does. From a purely UI perspective there are strong similarities between an ATM and a voting machine. Elected officials are aiming to make statements with minimal content that sound slightly insightful and reasonably plausible with an emotive push in the desired direction. If proven wrong, there must be wiggle-room for plausible deniability. From this perspective the comparison to an ATM is perfect.