Electoral System Reform Policy discussion


#1

@Jesse_Hermans, I’d also like to organise a Working Group for Electoral System Reform Policy if possible. Sorry about not bringing it up at the PDC meeting, that was my mistake. I’ve since been reminded that having a submission ready should any RC happen is kind of important, and since the issue is both something I have a lot of info on and pretty much the entire reason I got into Aust politics to begin with, well…

Edit:

Pad: https://pad.pirateparty.org.au/p/Electoral_System_Reform


2017-18 PDC Working Groups
(Jesse Hermans) #2

Given you are an expert on the area, are you prepared to work solo? If not how many people would you be looking for to work on it with you?
I’m reasonably savvy on the topic but I’m already in 4 working groups, 3 of which I’ll likely be taking the lead on. I’d join but until I’ve lighten my load I can’t realistically handle more.


(Andrew Downing) #3

I’ll volunteer to work with Jed on this one.
I could do with learning about electoral systems some more.


#4

While I’m reasonably confident I could do things solo, and I’m not about to turn down help, I’d say the ideal would be about two others. One person who also knows a lot about electoral systems to ensure nothing important is missed and things make sense. And one person who doesn’t currently know much about electoral systems (but who wants to learn more) who can ask obvious questions and make sure what gets written makes sense to the layperson. Preferably with at least one of these others having policy development experience, because that’s an area I’m deficient in.

And the first victimvolunteer steps forward! :stuck_out_tongue: Your help would be much appreciated, thanks.


(Andrew Downing) #5

I think I qualify as person number 2.


(Jesse Hermans) #6

Looks like that’s sorted.
I know a fair bit about electoral systems, so I’m happy to have stuff run past me for review/proof reading once it’s fleshed out if all it requires is feedback. That doesn’t require much time/resources on my part. Just notify me when you want feedback on the pad link, and I’ll get back to you. Can then have it put to the rest of the PDC at a meeting.


#7

@jedb We just had someone enquire about Blockchain voting

Would you support Australia Post’s efforts to introduce blockchain voting to our electoral system?

I told them that I will pass this idea on for consideration of the Electoral System Reform Policy Working Group


Democracy vs Anonymity
(Andrew Downing) #8

Watch Tom Scott explain why we should be wary of electronic voting … https://youtu.be/w3_0x6oaDmI
It’s quite approachable as an explanation.

Block chain solves some but by no means all of the problems he cites.


#9

My personal opinion is not to have full electronic voting, but rather “electronic-assisted” voting where we have voting machines which are open-source, cryptographically secure end-to-end (hardware, software & communication) and verifiable to help cast, collect and process votes. I think that block-chain technology has a part to play in that.

I don’t think that Australia Post has any business running an election, but if they want to run voting for say Public Company board of directors and Private organisations where there is no conflict of interest I have no problem with that, nor if they wanted to contribute their R&D to open source or other organisations, or even supply their services under tender to the Government (as a public-private entity) to compete with private companies.

on that note: Add me to the WG too, to work on the technology side (I know you are looking more at the methods, etc)


(Andrew Downing) #10

As Tom Scott said, that’s a really expensive and insecure alternative to a pencil.

Really though, they won’t be open source (AEC’s existing vote counting is still proprietary, and copyrighted to them, and considered commercially sensitive in some weird public/private loophole).

Even if we got that, how will we know the software in the machines is really the software we think it is? How would even official scrutineers do this, in a way that they can trust each others access to the machine happening such that they have no other opportunity to alter anything, while checking every aspect of the machine that could affect voting?

What about the rest of the machine itself? It almost certainly has some flavour of vulnerability, that governments will be storing up and not talking about, so they can exploit it on the day of an important election. Viruses etc., can have been lying dormant for years, or have been subtly introduced during the open source development work, years before. This the sort of thing that intelligence agencies are known to have done in recent years.

What does block chain add to a voting machine network, that can’t already be achieved using much simpler arrangements of point to point crypto?

How does it help voter confidence, if 99% of them can’t even understand how the security of this works?

And what’s the upside of this?
Touch screens instead of pencils? Is that it?

I soooo hate being the luddite in this argument, but there it is.


#11

I’d forgotten about that. It’s certainly something to consider but may be a better fit in the Citizen’s Initiatives policy. Personally I’m with Antony Green on the issue - you need to be able to show the legitimacy of the result, otherwise it’s all pointless. For electing governments, a task that’s done infrequently, there’s value in sticking to low tech, well tested, easy to verify solutions. But for citizen initiated votes and other direct democracy measures that could happen a lot more often, convenience rises in importance.

(Not a fan of Aust Post’s analogies about it, btw.)

Yeah, the main problem I want to see addressed is how the results of who gets into parliament don’t match up very well with how people vote. Along with whatever peripheral issues get brought up.

More people thinking on the subject is always good.

Started sketching out notes on the subject on Etherpad just now, additions welcome and all that:
https://pad.pirateparty.org.au/p/Electoral_System_Reform (@Jesse_Hermans)

That reminds me, still have to email them over that…


#12

I’d be happy with that (well it’s not insecure).

  • You can put validation into the machine to make sure the voter fills it out correctly - less user errors by mistake, and the person counting doesn’t have to make any guesses about the voters intent.
  • Less cumbersome than long pieces of paper / more user friendly UI
  • Randomised order for each voter is possible
  • Accessibility features can be built-in
  • Printed results are easier to be machine readable (OCR so it is human readable too), quicker to count.

I know that the realities would probably be different to the Ideals, but if we have a Policy out on the Ideals, if the issue comes up then it is easier for us to point to it, get some media attention and say this is really what should be done to make it harder for them to put their evil plans into action.

We should make a point about that

If it is a glorified pencil, the user can just read the print out.

If it is an anonymous blockchain, the entire blockchain can be made available to the public where anyone can cross-check their voting receipt to see that it has been recorded correctly

Block chain makes it almost cryptographically impossible to tamper with the results. I say almost because you can never say unbreakable when it comes to cryptography, but the logic is sound and if you were able to break blockchain crypto you probably wouldn’t waste your time on politics but rather make yourself insanely rich with crypto currencies. Bitcoin’s viability and value is built off Block Chain.

With point to point crypto, you tamper with one result and probably nobody would notice. With Blockchain, you tamper with 1 bit and the entire chain falls apart because nobody’s verification hash after that change will match anymore.

I don’t think that matters as long as the idea can be communicated in simple terms (as I’ve done here) and they are able to actually check the data for themselves. The data is open so they could even check it with a trusted 3rd party who also has a copy of the blockchain to make sure there is no shenanigans on the AEC side returning the correct result only when they check it.

Also which has not been mentioned - Physical voting places need to stay to ensure that nobody is under duress in their vote and a chain of command being monitored by the scrutineers to make sure that everything is being done correctly, and this scrutiny process should happen even on a machine level.

As an extension, blockchain could make it to the home for less important issues, but make the vote need to be verified in a second method (i.e. email or SMS) before it’s accepted in case the device used to vote has been compromised. They would also need to physically visit a place or receive a random access code by mail (overseen by scrutineers) to make sure that the tokens are anonymised. I can not think of a single way to check an ID and then guarantee anonymity online without the overcoming possibility that a system has been compromised to secretly tie your ID to your access code. I’d love it if anyone had any idea on that problem.


(Jesse Hermans) #13

Can these electoral system reforms be split into another topic please?


#14

done :slight_smile:


(Frew) #15

I think blockchain voting should be left as a separate issue, general education about the technology is low outside of IT circles and talking about it makes most people’s eyes glaze over. It might be a vote winner for Flux, but they have the market cornered at the moment, if we start going on about it, it will suck oxygen away from other stuff we want to talk about.

Getting blockchain technology to a point where it is both understood and accepted by the Australian public is something we could totally contribute to. Once that was done, it might be viable as a voting method, but it will take time.


(Ben McGinnes) #16

You don’t need a blockchain to obtain that, you just need robust cryptographic tools with strong algorithms for verification and strict key control protocols.


#17

Sure, it can be done without blockchain, but a blockchain makes it so much easier to maintain integrity of all the votes. In fact, easier than paper-based.

Paper based relies upon a lot of physical security and trust.


(Frew) #18

Democracy relies on trust in the electoral system, people don’t yet trust blockchain, therefore it can’t be used in the electoral system.


(Ben McGinnes) #19

Right. It can also be manually verified without requiring complex computation of various algorithms, all electronic and cryptographic solutions cannot make that claim.

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger crypto afficionado than me in the Party and even I’m saying that paper ballots are still a Good Thing™.


#20

Paper voting relies on physical security, which is great. It’s much, much easier to get that right than infosec. The only trust comes in with postal votes, which I have some reservations about but Switzerland seems to make work. For actually electing a government all the parties with a stake in the outcome can physically watch all the other parties with a stake in the outcome.

Any form of electronic voting involves a huge amount more trust. In the voting machines, if applicable. In people’s computers (HA!) if from home. In all the software involved in making the vote (double HA! verifiably correct software is fucking difficult). Blockchain voting solves… the transport portion of the problem, I believe? At the expense of introducing a bunch of magiccrypto that you need a lot of specialised knowledge to verify?

Few voters truly understanding the workings of things is actually a point I count against Single Transferable Vote. Even a lot of people who think they understand STV likely don’t. The minutae of the transfers gets very complicated very quickly when you’re working with large elections.