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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Would you trust an election system that allows each vote to be changed?

Despite the pre-election polls, Bibi Netanyahu has won. But how did he win? Did his last-minute bombast and scaremongering turn the tide -- or was there another factor?
It was a stunning turnabout from the last pre-election polls published Friday, which showed the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog, with a four- or five-seat lead and building momentum, and the Likud polling close to 20 seats. To bridge the gap, Mr. Netanyahu embarked on a last-minute scorched-earth campaign, promising that no Palestinian state would be established as long as he remained in office and insulting Arab citizens.
The appeal to the worst instincts of the citizenry may have worked its dark magic, as often happens here in the United States. But let us not be too quick to exclude the possibility of election hugger-mugger. Take note:
The new electronic voting system is being designed and implemented by TEHILA, which is a subdivision within Israel's ministry of finance. TEHILA's original mandate was to develop Israel's government portal. The task of developing the new voting system was assigned to TEHILA by Israel's minister of interior, Meir Shitrit.

TEHILA did not make public any technical paper describing their system. This is despite their repeated promises to be transparent, and to publish technical details and code.
The voter registers his or her vote on a smart card. Interestingly, the system allows the voter to change his vote -- once. (Why isn't the voter simply told to discard the first card and take another?) These votes are then counted by another machine.
What we do know for sure is that the system is fully software based, and does not have any "physical" component. As we argue here, this is a fundamental conceptual flaw in the design of the system.
Let's take a look at the argument at the other end of that hyperlink. Don't skim; this is eye-opening stuff:
We think that the use of smart cards fails to address the heart of the problem. In fact, it makes things even worse:

The dependency on machines becomes even more acute. Not only that we depend on software, but we also have to check the smart card. Given that smart cards were designed to protect their content from outsiders, checking what is on a smart card is even harder.

For the same reasons, even though using smart cards might make forgery more complicated for an outsider, it makes forgery for an insider much easier and hard to detect.

In case of a mismatch (e.g., as in the 2006 Florida election for congress) there is no way to determine whether forgery took place.
Thus, even on the technical level the system seems to be unsatisfactorily designed. However, our main point is not this. Even if these problems will be fixed, we believe the system is inherently flawed because it is paperless and in particular not software independent.
I will add this: Since the cards and the software allow one changed vote, it is easy to conceive of a system in which even a recount of the actual, physical cards will deliver a result differing from the intention of the voters.

The new election system was implemented by the delightfully-named Meir Shitrit, who has been caught up in a sex scandal involving his housekeeper; she refused to testify after taking a pay-off. It doesn't take much imagination to see how such a situation might render a public official susceptible to blackmail.

Rigged elections are almost inevitable in a culture of dishonesty, and Israeli political society is now riddled with corruption. (This was not the case a few decades ago.) Also see here. As this account of Israeli corruption puts it:
Tamar Hermann of the IDI told Al-Monitor that the corruption issue is not expected to have much impact today. "The public does not accord special importance to this issue. They cannot take any more of this issue," he said. "We are reaching the level where corruption is so predictable that it doesn't make a dent on the voters, whose premise is that everyone is corrupt and that's just a decree of fate. So at least they should be competent. It's similar to the situation in South America, where government corruption is an integral part of the system. They say, 'He's corrupt, so he should at least be competent.' We are nearing that point."
So let's not pretend that election-rigging in Israel is unthinkable. Let's have no further blather about Israel being a democracy.

By the way: One of Bibi's political rivals said that "Netanyahu spends more on alcohol than some Israelis earn per month." Not surprising. How else could that murderous bastard ever catch a night's sleep?

How should we react? On the American left, there have always been those who argue that "The worse things get, the better things get." In other words: It's better if the most vicious right-wingers get into office, because they will eventually alienate the populace from the system.

As readers know, I don't think that way. That "hope for the worst" attitude courts disaster.

Nevertheless, that attitude is now our only solace. Bibulous Bibi's vile reign of racist genocide may have the beneficial result of continuing to alienate American Jews from Israel.

Let's give the man credit: He has done the world the great service of ending -- forever, I think -- the hallucination of a two-state solution. Europe is Israel's largest trading partner, a relationship founded on the hallucination of a two-state solution. With that hallucination popped, it becomes easier to argue for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

The day may come when we will thank Bibi -- not to mention whoever wrote the software that played tricks with those smart cards. Together, they have made the BDS movement much more viable.
Was the old voting and vote-counting system broken in some way? No? Right.
We all need to go back to pen and paper ballots, hand counted. We've known this and we keep getting further astray. So this is a new way to tamper with the vote, ugh.

Israelis were the first, before "Arab Spring" and "Occupy" to come together and petition for a better way. If they indeed, as it seems, tried to vote the bastard out, why not fight in solidarity on the issues?

Canada is also following in our footsteps and becoming more rightwing due to measures the people are not happy with.

Fighting the real problem/s will mean people have to care about conceptual problems, instead of the usual method of caring: teams.
The Israeli election uses paper ballots which are placed in stamped envelopes and then placed in a physically secured ballot box monitored constantly by both officials and volunteers affiliated with several different political parties.

There is no electronic system. At all.
So which are we to believe -- a statement without a link or citation from an anonymous hasbara coward? Or do we pay attention to the articles to which I linked?
There are numerous pictures of people from all groups in Israel casting ballots by putting a paper card with the party name in an envelope and then putting the envelope in a ballot box. There is no electronics involved.
>Or do we pay attention to the articles to which I linked?

The PDF this article links to says it is a purposed system. The post's author needs to provide proof that it is anything more than an idea. Which will be impossible as it does not exist!
The only thing I can find about Israeli voting methods is Wikipedia, which supports what other commentators have said...which is that Israel has a paper ballot system, not electronic (though I think the cards are counted electronically). I think maybe your post is not correct on the voting system used Joseph.
Troll +1,7340,L-4638032,00.html
So all those photos of Israelis casting paper ballots on CNN today are fake????? Wow, Joseph, you must be right about the omnipotence and omnipresence of AIPAC!

By the way, I think TEHILA ("praise" or sometimes "prayer" in Hebrew) is an amazingly silly name for a government agency. I guess that's proof that bureaucrats are the same everywhere.
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