How to protect the integrity of voting data transmitted from the local voting machine to the central counting data center?
Showcase opportunity in our own backyard?
11 March 2010
Elections in the
Vote before the system crashes
Technology complicates life for vote-riggers and counters alike
In past elections voters had to write down the names of their preferences for up to 32 national or local positions on blank ballot forms. Their votes were tallied by hand at the precinct, municipal, provincial and finally national levels. Definitive results could take weeks to emerge, giving ample opportunity for vote-padding and shaving. Vote-rigging by President Ferdinand Marcos led to his downfall in 1986. The incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has had a shaky grip on power since she was accused of rigging her election in 2004.
This year the candidates’ names will be printed on the ballot forms, and voters must ink in ovals beside their choices. They then have to feed the forms into machines that count the votes and transmit the totals—usually through public wireless networks—to central servers. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) expects definitive results in 48 hours.
Comelec’s supplier, a Venezuelan-owned company, says the system cannot be hacked. But Comelec tests have shown that the machines often reject ballots, and sometimes fail to connect to the servers. An opinion poll found that most voters do not know how the system works. Many could be bewildered by a ballot 60cm-long, printed on both sides.
Noynoy Aquino, a senator whom opinion polls make the favourite in the presidential election, has spoken darkly of a plot to “affect the outcome”, but gave no details. Comelec has said it is investigating reports that 5,000 wireless signal-jammers have been illegally imported. It says it is ready, if there are breakdowns, to count up to 30% of the vote by hand. But manipulation of a lower share may be enough to sway the expected close contest between Mr Aquino and another senator, Manny Villar. Other politicians have voiced fears that a disputed result might leave a power vacuum, which could be filled by the armed forces or by Mrs Arroyo’s staying on. Computerisation is meant to reinforce stability, but might even have the opposite effect.
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