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secret ballot

The Halfbaker should not know how we voted.
  (+5, -4)
(+5, -4)
  [vote for,

The halfbakery knows how I vote, since it will let me retract or reverse a vote, but not reinforce it. I just looked at a politically contentious Halfbakery item and thought that I'd like to vote on it, but I didn't, because I was raised to be serious about keeping my votes secret on sensitive political issues -- I don't even talk directly to my wife and children about voting. Maybe I'm paranoid rather than serious -- I grew up during the Cold War in the country (Canada) separating the US from the USSR. In any case, I will not record my opinion on contentious political issues if I believe that it could be traced back to me by the government or by an occupying army.

Anyway, the halfbakery must record my votes somewhere. It would be better if it did not, but then it would have to guard against revoting by some other means. Possibly this is impossible, but perhaps some sort of zero-knowledge proof scheme could be made to work.

A solution to this problem would, of course, be useful in real-world elections as well.

td, Mar 25 2001

VoteHere.net http://votehere.net...ttingtechnical.html
These people are trying to commercialize secure online voting. Their promotional material offers more technical depth than most start-ups. [egnor, Mar 25 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Electronic Voting Bibliography http://theory.lcs.m...g-bibliography.html
[egnor, Mar 25 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Reason for paranoia http://www.halfbake...Guerrilla_20Pedants
Who cares how you vote -- but be careful how you annotate. [beauxeault, Mar 25 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       It doesn't tell anyone else how you voted either. The only person who knows is Jutta. Nobody else really cares...
StarChaser, Mar 25 2001

       The halfbakery records who voted on what. This buys us vote reversal and me an easy way of judging whether blunt vote fraud is happening. I already can get at that information by looking at the logs, so there's no additional leak to me specifically.   

       For obvious reasons, this information will never be published (e.g., it won't suddenly be visible if XML records of halfbakery ideas ever become available), but that only buys you so much, and doesn't protect you from the people that suddenly offer me money and threaten my cat.   

       A quick, but theoretically less interesting, fix would be to get an account through an anonymizing web gateway of some sort. Then use that account to vote and comment on things that you don't want attached to your real name. As long as you don't vote twice on the same idea or stage elaborate mock-battles with yourself, I don't see anything wrong with that practice.   

       Zero-knowledge voting is interesting, but although I understand the basics, there are people here who are much better at reasoning about it, so I'll wait for them to comment.
jutta, Mar 25 2001

       Yes, StarChaser, I know this. My paranoid delusion involves armed thugs raiding the halfbakery server and coming after me.
td, Mar 25 2001

       I was quickly overwhelmed with material after a few basic searches (try "anonymous voting protocols"). I posted some of the results. (Perhaps one of the experts Jutta alluded to can post something more authoritative.)   

       Summary: It's possible; it's not trivial; it's an active research area; if you're as paranoid as you describe, I'm surprised you haven't come across this work before. You'd do better to dig into the body of published work than to discuss the topic here.   

       Any such system should certainly be implemented as an independent, orthogonal authority; every Web site operator should not have to understand the merits of partially compatible homomorphisms.
egnor, Mar 26 2001, last modified Mar 27 2001

       "My paranoid delusion involves armed thugs raiding the halfbakery server and coming after me."   

       Why would they bother? They can just go to your profile, without even having to get their own account, and find your real name, <or at least what you said was your real name>, information on your work and your kid's website. It's not like there's any information there anyway, you just had to give Jutta your email and a username and password. <Oops. As Jutta points out, it isn't necessary to give her your email. Mea culpa...Been so long since I registered that I forgot...>
StarChaser, Mar 26 2001, last modified Mar 28 2001

       Huh? Nobody needs to give me their email address, [StarChaser].   

       [Td] is concerned about people coming after him if he expressed certain opinions, not about people coming after him based on being his official, good-natured, unpolitical self. (A self that I nevertheless enjoy seeing on the halfbakery, so I'm happy about the non-pseudonymous account, however limited in expressiveness.)   

       Arguments like "if you're so paranoid, why do you reveal so much" don't work, since the sharp end of [td]'s opinion - the politically loaded votes that would be of interest to the armed thugs - hasn't been revealed yet.   

       More musings (not specifically about the halfbakery - I don't think I'll implement this any time soon):   

       My intuition, which is usually wrong, says that it is mathematically possible to make a system where you can retract a vote without being able to tell whether you voted or not. That is, the interface would have three buttons - set to neutral, against, for; you don't see what you voted, but you can reset it and you still can't vote more than once.   

       If you want a UI that reflects what you voted (and you trust the browser), the knowledge of what exactly you voted for could be saved on the user side. It would be just like cookies, but without sending data to the server; instead, the server would send back code that uses the client-side cookies to make layout decisions. (There would have to be limits as to what the client-side cookies can affect; for example, they must not affect URLs sent to the server.)
jutta, Mar 26 2001

       Thanks for your defense, Jutta. Of course I wasn't seriously proposing that you implement anything like this. The halfbakery exists so that we can float crazy ideas, the most seaworthy of which might see implementation. A crazy idea might require a crazy justification. I don't think the paranoia I expressed goes very far beyond the traditional justification (short-circuiting possible reprisals) for secret ballots in real-world elections. If I were a true paranoid, I wouldn't have posted this idea at all, since (putting my paranoid hat on again) Jutta could easily have logs that would identify the idea I had just visited and was thinking of voting on, in which case mentioning a possible vote here would presumably be enough evidence of intent for the sort of stormtrooper I posited.
td, Mar 27 2001

       That's just what we want you to think.
jutta, Mar 27 2001

       I'm commenting from California, not Canada, (paranoia mode again) as you would have discovered had you just run whois on my domain name, listed in my profile.
td, Mar 27 2001

       Of course, the addresses listed in Whois may not always be current.
jutta, Mar 27 2001

       I still don't understand the problem, but I have a headache and don't care enough to pursue it...
StarChaser, Mar 28 2001

       Jutta: It would still be possible to find out how I voted, by changing or retracting my vote and then seeing how the total tally changed.
wiml, Mar 29 2001

       Only statistically. Other people may be twiddling their votes at the same time, and you can't tell the changes they cause from the ones you cause.
jutta, Mar 29 2001

       I don't have a headache anymore, but this still doesn't make sense to me...
StarChaser, Mar 31 2001

       I thought jutta WAS the thought police? <g>
absterge, Apr 02 2001

       I appreciate the concern for privacy in this Brave-New-The-Privatization-Noose-Is-Tightening-World. I still believe from experience (Toastmasters, church, anywhere really) that Secret Ballots in a supposed democracy are for the cowardly &/or the dishonest.   

       People with moderate, reasoned beliefs who lack the courage to stand up for their beliefs only help perpetuate any inequities, gamesmanship, and un-democratic abuses of "p-r-o-c-e-s-s" (a positive word made positively dirty in some quarters).
thecat, Jun 30 2003

       Secret ballots are the guardian of democracy. An oppressive regime can force people to pretend to like the system, but truly secret ballots will allow the oppressed to free themselves whenever they like.

The recent elections in Zimbabwe would have gone much differently without secret ballots. The ruling thug become globally known as a tyrant. If the ballots hadn't been secret, the people never could have shown the world they didn't want him.

I'm all for open democracy and free speech, but if my free speech will result in my young children being dragged off at night and tortured, I'll damn well stay quiet, and if you wouldn't, you're a monster!
Voice, Jun 02 2008


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