Stealing the elections

14 Sep, '06

I don’t think there is any political society in Bahrain worth its salt that has blessed the forcing through of electronic voting by the government. I agree with them; not only are there technical and security issues associated with this process, there is also a huge political objection (arabic) too which should be addressed.

All this while the CIO (arabic) (Central Informatics Organisation, the data guardian of the Kingdom of Bahrain) has been reassuring everyone that electronic voting is actually okay and nothing untoward will take place.

Although I harbour much respect for the CIO and its good people, they will excuse me for respecting Princeton university in the US a bit more.

So here’s some research into how easy it is to hijack elections through these machines:

Still want to vote electronically?

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Comments (6)

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  1. milter says:

    Others share your suspicion of computer based voting systems. Look at this link from Ireland.

    Some people will still believe a pocket calculator that says 2+2=5.

    Computers may be a revolution, but if you don’t know how all the 1’s and 0’s can get corrupted you may be in for a bit of a surprise!

  2. moclippa says:

    For every bit of software security, there will always be a work around…

    Bahrain has few enough people to still have handcounted ballots be feasible. Though the only way to somewhat secure that would be to make sure each vote is counted several times by seperate people.

    The idea of a computerized voting system is to just have the machine be a neutral tally, that doesn’t have the politicization that a human would bring to the event… but as this video demonstrates, it is quite simple to essentially politicize an otherwise appolitical computer.

    Have international observers ever asked to be (or have been) invited to Bahrain to oversee voting procedures… or offer their expertise on flaws in the current system? Do you know if Bahrain uses the same system as the one featured in this video?… It’s quite scary how easy it sounds like it is to break into one of those machines… as much as I dislike the parliment that was recently voted in, it horrifies me to think that peoples votes can be stolen, regardless of if I disagree with who they vote for.

  3. mahmood says:

    Clippa I complete agree with you; with only 200,000 voters there is no reason to introduce a contentious mechanism that is so distrusted because the electorate essentially distrust the government, rather than technology.

    Maybe if the government corrects the imbalance of the constitution, electoral districts, and gerrymandering, people would not have been so completely against eVoting.

    At the moment it seems the insistence of the government to force eVoting itself is very suspect and rumours abound of the only reason that they introduced this so that “new Bahrainis” or purportedly old ones (Al-Dossary tribe in Saudi who hold dual Bahraini/Saudi citizenship) would be used by the government to ensure that the opposition does not have the outright majority in any parliament.

    So you see, even though that machines like these have been demonstrated by respected organisation that they are open to meddling, it is not the technology that people in Bahrain are against, it is the abject suspicion that people have against the government that is the problem… and the government continues to ignore this rather important aspect, that will topple it one day.

    How long do you think a governing system can last when its own people completely mistrust it?

  4. moclippa says:

    “How long do you think a governing system can last when its own people completely mistrust it?” –

    I think that statement is true to most governments running in the world today, and the majority of them last beyond that mistrust by allowing sociatal pressures to be pushed out through other means.

    I was not sure what you were getting at in your second paragraph – “the insistence of the government to force eVoting itself is very suspect and rumours abound of the only reason that they introduced this so that “new Bahrainis” or purportedly old ones… would be used by the government to ensure that the opposition does not have the outright majority in any parliament.” –
    I am unfamiliar with the rumors so if you could please explain those in a bit more detail. Do you mean to argue that it is suspect that these mechanisms may be used to push voting in favor of these families and/or newly naturalized bahrainis?

    I still think the best solution to addressing these issues, that should keep both sides pleased, is to hold public consultive meetings on these, and other, major concerns. The Majlis system is not dead yet, we need to adapt it to western trends of transparency and discussion/debate format to allow people a greater say in this, and allow the government to explain its position further. That is to keep the debate/discussion in a way that is culturally familiar, but to enhance the old mechanisms with accumulated knowledge of how other systems around the world work.

    It should be public for two reasons, to build trust that government does not operate totally seperated from society; and to educate the public in the thinking that goes into these policies, and the benifits/problems with alternatives.

    In saying all this I always keep two things in mind – People should not be empowered to radically, by disempowering government quickly…. that will only lead to a major conflict with old and new paradigms…. our society needs to educate itself throughout this process to learn to adapt to the new systems (education not just from books and words, but practical experience with the power our votes hold, and what we should expect from the politicians we elect).

    On the other hand, the government should not allow itself to remain autocratic or seperate from society, it needs to continue to adapt to the needs of the people and changing global trends of managment… by readapting formats that are culturally specific to us.

  5. mahmood says:

    Clippa I agree with most of what you said, we’re on the same page.

    Opposition (and people) fear that eVoting is going to be used to enable the 30,000 or so Dossaries of Saudi Arabia as well as the untold thousands who have been unfairly naturalized to vote for whichever candidate the government tells them to. In the absence of a law which bans newly naturalized citizens to vote for a number of years, this is a real danger.

    Couple that with internet voting and the complete absence of transparency and complete lack of electoral information which is still – probably – being massaged by the CIO, the “black hole of information” and you can see why people are jittery to say the very least.

    To me, a resident observer here, I am afraid for the future of this country. Everything is cloak and dagger it seems, and there is systematic tightening of the noose on freedoms we have enjoyed over the past few years:

    Yes, we need to build trust, but the government is not even attempting to build bridges!

    Look at these reports for instance and make up your own mind:

    And all of these links are fresh, they’re hardly a couple of days old! You could dig out a lot more such articles and reports which have been published over the last couple of years.

    So yes, we do have quite a huge mutual trust problem. To solve that requires a lot more efforts by the government to regain its position within the people. I want to see king Hamad lifted on shoulders in the most opposing of villages again, I want the environment of 2000/2001 to come back again, and the real ironic thing about this is that it is so easily doable…

  6. moclippa says:

    Well, I was able to read most of the articles you put up… as I’m in the middle of studying for exams, I had to skim through the U.S. state department one, though I did get to spend more time with the rest (excluding the one in Arabic).

    As it stands, rumors of the teams existence are just that, rumors. Yet if even half of the accusations laid out against them are true, specifically the payment for religous conversions or the manipulation of elections; then we are in the midst of a truly troubling situation.

    I also agree with you on the establishment of a time period of a few years, before newly naturalized citizens should be allowed to vote… there is no harm in putting those laws up, specifically if one of the main concerns of the opposition is that these naturalized citizens have been put in place to rebalance voting in the country. Furthermore, the government needs to begin addressing concerns against its naturalization policy publically.

    On the other hand, there needs to be education on the publics part, in terms of how to conduct themselves during, and after these debates. From what few conversations I’ve had with midranked officals on this topic, they’ve always argued that debates/consultations had been attempted in the past, but often backfired due to radical elements in the society… specifically demagogues that rile up groups to protest (sometimes violently) for causes that the protestors themselves do not fully understand. By this I mean that they protest, without knowing the full facts… and when they do protest, it can quickly turn violent or counter-productive to their aims… which enables government officals to denounce the protestors, or at least the protest organizers, as radical elements.

    The Government will be forced to take a position that encourages dialogue as we’ve discussed above, if the citizens demand it through their actions. That is public denouncments of counter-productive protests by radicals, whilst an organized opposition of moderates self manage the discussion. I firmly hope that citizens in our country can put these measures into action, in order to enable government officals sympatheic to their cause, to have more leeway in pushing the agenda for open dialogues through.

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