Talk:2030: Voting Software

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I think this comic is referencing this twitter thread and the controversy behind it. 17:59, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

The Experts criticize West Virginia’s plan for smartphone voting article on ArsTechnica has more information (as much as possible when the company in question does not provide any details (note that it is about overseas voting). --JakubNarebski (talk) 19:44, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

Is he saying it's weird that we're so sophisticated in other areas of computer science but so far behind in voting technology, or is he making fun of the idea that electronic voting is somehow inherently unsafe?-- 18:10, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

No i think he is saying computer science is a mess and we should not trust it with voting(he is not making fun of the idea of it being unsafe, he is pressing on the point of it being unsafe[saying that all experts agree on that])18:18, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
I think he's commenting on how in most fields, the experts are very sure that they do their job well, and all the angles have been tried and tested, but in computer science the experts are more certain than anyone that there is absolutely no way for a person to actually build a complex software system with no flaws or vulnerabilities, even if they controlled every aspect of the system. in practice of course they control very little of the system and understand even less of it. 18:22, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
He's saying that software development is a terribly buggy process, most likely because the majority of software out there can have bugs without very dire real-world consequences (unlike aircraft or elevators).
Not to mention the fact that there are incredibly smart people with great interest in undoing the work that software developers do, whereas that isn't at all the case with airplanes or elevators. 18:29, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
Plus there's the general issue that the public as a whole takes the view that "Computers are majykal" (misspelling deliberate) and therefore somehow automatically safe & infallible, despite experts trying very hard to disillusion people about...pretty much all of that. Compare that to the common assumptions about aircraft and elevators--people need the safety verified, instead of assuming it like they do with computers. Werhdnt (talk) 19:08, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
There's a logical fallacy here. To compare airplaneS and elevatorS to a voting system program is comparing plural to singular. There would be significant opportunity to break/modify a single instance of those objects, although without the relative anonymity of electronic access involved. Once a computer system is infiltrated, the break-in can be replicated to all instances of that program relatively instantaneously, assuming communication pathways are available. 19:12, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
No logical fallacy; there have been multiple attempts to get people to accept a voting system program, and the 'done by a computer=infallible' problem is not unique to voting programs. Mr. Babbage was being confused by people who were thinking it was possible to get the correct answers from a computer despite putting the wrong data in back in the 1860s (at least!), and the computer at the time was not much more than a fancy calculator. Werhdnt (talk) 20:23, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

A blockchain node doesn't technically need to be connected to the internet in order to function. It needs to have some method for receiving messages from other nodes on the blockchain network, and most blockchain nodes do indeed get these messages via the internet, but some bitcoin nodes (for example) get updates about new blocks and new transactions from the Blockstream satellite. An internet connection is therefore not intrinsically necessary for a blockchain to work, it's just the most convenient way to do it.

Do you think that this comic had anything to do with the debacle in Johnson County, KS last night? 19:30, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

The comic ignores the fact that modern airplanes are heavily utilizing software of all kinds. A software failure in an aircraft could easily be fatal (and have been so various times in history already, while the consequences of a voting software working incorrect are relatively harmless), and still airplanes remain safe, as the comic recognizes. --YMS (talk) 21:05, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

Airplanes are not connected to internet and reasonably well protected from people putting their USB devices in their control system. Also, they are NOT build by lowest bid contractor. There ARE people now capable of building offline voting machine which would be reasonable secure. They are working in banks and stock exchanges and at those companies providing switches for internet backbone, are extremely well paid and wouldn't ever promise they will get the machine finished in single year. Noone asks THEM to make the voting machines. Voting over internet? With consumer-grade devices? Impossible. (I'm also working in IT, although not on mentioned high-security systems.) -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:24, 8 August 2018 (UTC)
Note that she is talking to aircraft designers, not to software engineers working on fly-by-wire systems (back when I took software engineering you got an answer similar to the one about voting machines when discussing fly-by-wire). I took this more as the aircraft designers glossing over the problems caused by software engineering. A voting system which uses paper ballots, with perhaps computer systems used for some stages of counting would be a reasonable analogy to the redundant systems used in aircraft. 23:08, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

Seems to me that the last panel references the E.T for Atari Desert Burial (, perhaps to draw some analogy as to the potential quality or likelihood of success of a Block-chain solution as compared to the ill-fated video game. Anyone think that's worth explaining? Da_NKP 10:15, 8 August 2018 (UTC) Da_NKP

What motive is there to "mine DemocracyCoin"? Who evaluates this blockchain? 22:27, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

That's simple, ideally it would be a private blockchain, and the evaluators would just be every voting computer in existence (They'd all be active for a similar fairly short time period). Presumably the evaluations would be ongoing during the voting process, then could be stopped once voting was complete. The last few votes of the night may not wind up being evaluated.

Wouldn't it be possible to run said blockchain on one's personal computer, instead of running on a voting machine? and you could compile open source software yourself to perform the voting. That sounds like a solid enough way to keep security fine to me, but if I'm missing something, please tell me. TheSandromatic (talk) 03:25, 9 August 2018 (UTC)

The bigger challenge in a voting system isn't making sure someone doesn't modify the record, it's making sure that each person only votes once and only for themselves -- think about past internet voting campaigns: Justin Bieber wasn't sent to North Korea by *changed* votes, but rather by flooding the system with *bogus* votes. 06:26, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
To be a bit clearer, bitcoin (for example), doesn't and can't enforce that wallets correspond one-to-one with people -- multiple people can share a wallet (if they all know the private key), and one person can have multiple wallets. If you want to guarantee one-to-one correspondence, you have to validate identities and issue unique, signed keys at some prior point. Leaving aside whether or not it's possible to do this part securely and without error (and how big of a target the root signing key would be), you then have millions of people doing their own key management, just like you do with bitcoin. When bitcoin wallets are stolen en masse by key compromises (which does happen), only the wallet owners (who were ostensibly using poor security practices which allowed the compromise) suffer, so the harm is limited. If voting system keys were stolen en masse, but the votes still counted, society as a whole would likely suffer. 07:03, 9 August 2018 (UTC)

I think a problem that lies within voting machines is that a single flaw can and will be exploited along all machines. You wouldn't enter a plane if one plane crashing means that all other planes will crash too.

I am not American and not so inside American politics and its system, but I think there right now is (or just was) some kind of vote in Ohio? Randalls other comic about voting machines, (463)references Ohio directly as well. Even if not, that comic should definitely be referenced here. If no one else does I will in a few hours when I come home from work. Lupo (talk) 08:11, 9 August 2018 (UTC)

There was a special election for Ohio's 12th Congressional District on Tuesday to fill in a vacant spot in the US House of Representatives, yes. I hadn't heard anything specifically about any issues with Ohio's voting machines, though I do somewhat vaguely remember Randall making a comic that expressed horror at the fact that a voting machine needed anti-virus software in the first place. 12:58, 9 August 2018 (UTC)

I guess this may be of interest for reasons why not to have electroni voting