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How secret is Singapore's vote / Singaporeans should oppose e-voting

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  • Stephan Ortmann
    From: Stephan Ortmann Sg_Review Singapore s Vote: How Secret Is It? 30 Sep 2005 In a recent article in the American Political Science Review, I have come
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2005
      From: Stephan Ortmann
      Singapore's Vote: How Secret Is It?
      30 Sep 2005

      In a recent article in the American Political Science
      Review, I have come across a very interesting article
      on political machines titled: "Perverse
      Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics
      with Evidence from Argentina" by Susan C. Stokes. It
      specifically mentions the PAP as a political machine
      with the certainty of reelection for the electorate.
      It also refers to an article by Waikeung Tam called
      "Clientelist Politics in Singapore: Selective
      Provision of Housing Services as an
      Electoral Mobilization Strategy". One very important
      aspect for the reelection of the machine, so Stokes,
      is the ability to know who voted for it and who
      against. Otherwise it could not guarantee that the
      voters who it tries to buy will also vote for the
      party. In this regard there are two questions:

      How secret is Singapore's vote? (especially since it
      is ID-tagged)

      Do Singaporeans consider their vote to be secret?

      if anyone knows if there has been any opinion survey
      on this latter question it would be very interesting
      to know! If not, I think it would be a very
      interesting survey to conduct.

      Stephan Ortmann, PhD student of University of
      Erlangen-Nuernberg (http://www.uni-erlangen.de)


      In Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com, Lee Demhart wrote:
      Why Singaporeans should oppose e-voting

      29 April 2003

      The article below was written by Lee Demhart for the International
      Herald Tribune (29 April 2003) concerning e-voting in Britain.
      Singaporeans should pay heed because the PAP is going to introduce
      this at the next elections. Good luck to us all...

      MORE than 1.5 million Britons will have a chance to vote on Thursday
      in 17 local elections using electronic-voting systems that computer
      security experts on both sides of the Atlantic say are fraught with
      danger and an invitation to fraud.

      Britain's pilot projects in computer voting - which include voting
      over the Internet - are the latest examples of the move to electronic
      voting by several European countries in the interest of efficiency,
      speed and increasing voter turnout by making it easier to vote.
      Although Thursday is election day in Britain, the electronic polls
      are already open in some of the pilot districts.

      Elections by computer have previously been conducted in Sweden,
      Switzerland and France, as well as in Britain. The Netherlands,
      Italy, Germany, Estonia and the European Union have announced their
      intention to try them.

      Electronic voting has also been conducted in several American states,
      spurred at least in part by the fiasco in Florida in the presidential
      election in 2000.

      In all electronic elections in Europe and most of the United States
      so far, security experts say, the systems used were vulnerable to
      attack and could have been manipulated in undetectable ways that
      would have made it impossible to determine that the results of an
      election had been changed, either by accident or design.

      Specifically, the experts say, Internet voting could be crippled by
      a 'denial of service' attack against the computer servers recording
      the vote, for which there is no known defence, and could
      disenfranchise large numbers of voters. In addition, they say, since
      voters use their own computers, election officials have no control
      over what software is installed on those machines or what viruses
      might be lurking in it that are activated only during an election to
      change votes.

      Voting over the Internet, is 'an election that a teenager could
      circumvent', said Associate Professor Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins

      Assistant Professor Rebecca Mercuri of Bryn Mawr College near
      Philadelphia, one of the world's leading specialists in electronic-
      voting security, said of the voting systems now being used in
      Britain: 'It's horrifically scary. This is an abomination, and I fear
      for democracy as a result.'

      Senior scientist David Jefferson at the Lawrence Livermore National
      Laboratory in California, who headed the technical committee of the
      California Internet Voting Task Force three years ago, said: 'All
      remote Internet voting from private PCs, no matter how you structure
      it, is seriously dangerous.'

      In London, director Ian Brown of the Foundation for Information
      Policy Research, an independent organisation that studies the
      interaction between information technology and society, said: 'We are
      worried about the security of electronic-voting systems, especially
      remote ones, where people can vote from home using their PC or a
      mobile phone, which is the kind of technology the British government
      has been keen on. No matter what the twists and turns of the scheme
      that they use, we don't think that home PCs are a secure enough
      platform for something as truly vital to democracy as the voting

      Computer science professor David Dill of Stanford University agreed,
      saying: 'These systems are open to wholesale vote fraud.'

      The basic problem in current electronic-voting systems, the security
      experts say, is the lack of an audit trail that would enable all
      voters to verify for themselves in real time that their vote was
      recorded as they intended and was counted as they intended.

      In addition, they say, there needs to be a publicly available
      electronic ballot box that can verify that the announced vote total
      is an accurate tabulation of all the votes cast. This must all be
      done in a way that maintains the secrecy of each individual's ballot.

      About 500 computer technologists in the US have signed a resolution
      put forward by Prof Dill warning that no electronic-voting system
      should be adopted that does not have these protections.

      But none of the voting systems that are being used in Britain or
      elsewhere meet these requirements, Prof Dill said, though it is
      technically possible to have a system that does by using advanced
      cryptographic techniques.

      Mr Jim Adler, president of Vote-Here, a company in Seattle that has
      provided the software for six of the local elections now under way in
      Britain, acknowledged that the security protections did not meet the
      highest standards. 'Governments often make usability-security trade-
      offs,' he said, 'and you can see that in Britain'.

      In a separate e-mail, he elaborated: 'There is no requirement for
      voters to be able to verify that their vote was 'cast as intended' or
      for election observers to verify that all ballots were 'counted as
      cast'. The technology exists, but Britain, so far, has not required

      In London, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which runs
      British elections and oversees them, responded to questions by e-
      mail. 'There is a range of measures in place to guard against abuse
      in the e-voting pilots,' according to the statement by a spokesman
      for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

      The statement said the votes were encrypted and the security
      requirements were 'devised in consultation with the government's
      security experts'. 'When a voter casts a vote,' the statement
      said, 'they will receive confirmation from the voting channel that
      the vote has been recorded.' It added that the confirmation would
      be 'along the lines of 'thank you, your vote has been accepted' '.

      But computer security experts said this was no guarantee that the
      vote had not been tampered with, either on the machine where it was
      cast or in transmission to the counting place or in the tabulation
      itself. 'You know your vote has been counted because you get an 'I
      voted' sticker back,' Prof Dill said. 'But that doesn't say it was
      going to be counted correctly. It doesn't say it's counted as cast or
      counted as intended. How is it that the voter knows that the vote
      that went into the electronic ballot box is the vote he intended?'

      The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also said: 'All e-voting
      pilots will be subject to pre-election independent security checks
      and post-election surveys and evaluation, the results of which will
      be made available to participating authorities and the public.'

      But principal scientist Peter Neumann at the Computer Science
      Laboratory of SRI International in California said: 'The pre- and
      post-testing stuff doesn't prove anything at all. I can build a
      system that will show you that your vote went in correctly and still
      did not record it correctly.

      'What you do is build a shadow system that lurks underneath and that
      demonstrates that everything is perfect, except that the actual
      results are coming from the other system. There are a lot of ways
      that you can skin the cat without any evidence whatsoever.'

      The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also pointed to e-voting
      pilots conducted in Britain in 2000 and last year and said
      analysis 'showed that the arrangements put in place did not enhance
      the opportunity for fraud or undermine the secrecy and security of
      the poll'.

      To which Prof Rubin responds: 'Everything in security is predicated
      on paranoia. The question is, 'Is there an existing vulnerability?'
      Not, 'has it ever been exploited?' '

      Several experts noted that if people intended to rig an electronic
      election, they would not waste their time and effort on a minor local
      election with little consequence, thereby tipping off the authorities
      to the vulnerability of their election system. Such people would
      ignore small, pilot-project elections, such as those currently under
      way, in order to increase the authorities' confidence in the system.
      They would wait until a big election, such as a national one, before

      Prof Mercuri said: 'It's only a matter of time before somebody's
      going to target one of these elections.'

      She and others spent a week in London last autumn explaining all of
      the dangers to Cabinet officials and the election authorities,
      without persuading them to implement stricter controls, according to
      her and Mr Brown, the London researcher, who was also at the meeting.

      'These are basic underlying computer technology facts,' Prof Mercuri
      said, 'but no one wants to listen to this. They want to operate
      under, 'it's not going to happen to us', or, 'this is just gloom and
      doom' or, 'you're a bunch of Luddites' '.

      'But that's not the case. The virus problems and the auditability
      problems strike at the underpinnings of major computer-science
      concepts that we have not been able to solve. The people are just
      shunning this and flying in the face of this,' she added.

      Mr Brown recalled: 'They just said, 'We're convinced it's secure. All
      we need is that it's at least as secure as the existing system, and
      paper ballots aren't perfect'. My response to that is, yes, there are
      opportunities for fraud, but it's on a much smaller scale. You can't
      invisibly, quietly manipulate the vote across the entire country,
      which would be possible with an electronic system.'

      Prof Rubin said: 'You hear the famous line, 'Why are we using 18th
      century technology to vote in the 21st century?' And the answer is
      because it works, and 21st century technology is not well-suited to


      Comments: Mellanie Hewlitt

      Although below article relates to Egypt's elections, the article has special relevance to singapore's electorial scene espcially in view of the striking similiarities between the elections procedures and criteria in both countries.


      Egypt's imitation election
      The New York Times
      SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2005

      Here are some simple ways to identify a real democratic election. The ruling party should not be allowed to shape the election arrangements and intimidate voters. The candidates should be able to compete on a reasonably level playing field. Impartial observers should be welcome and given time to deploy themselves at polling places nationwide.

      Not one of these defining features was evident in last week's Egyptian presidential voting, whose main purpose was to usher President Hosni Mubarak into his fifth six-year term. On Friday he was officially declared the winner, collecting 88.5 percent of the votes.

      A few limited gestures were made in the general direction of democracy, thanks to repeated nudging from Mubarak's most important international supporter, President George W. Bush. For the first time in Egyptian history, the names of opposition presidential candidates actually appeared on the ballot. And for the first time in decades limited expressions of political criticism and protest were allowed. Compared with past elections under the half-century-old Egyptian military dictatorship, this one plainly marked an advance.

      But compared with the real democracy that Egypt's 76 million people need and deserve, the election was an elaborate and largely meaningless sham. The loosening of the reins may have gone further than first intended, but nobody is counting on any lasting political opening. And while some optimistically hope that last week's imitation election could prepare the way for a more genuinely competitive contest next time around, it could as easily turn out to be the ceremonial opening act of a planned dynastic succession, with the 77-year-old Mubarak's 41-year-old son being groomed to succeed him.

      Egyptians need real democracy so that they can demand an end to the corruption and nepotism that stifle economic and educational opportunity and a halt to the social and political injustices that fuel sterile cycles of violent unrest and repression. Unfortunately, the next presidential elections are not due until 2011. That is an awfully long time to wait.


      Date: Mon, 5 Sep 2005 11:16:12 +0800 (CST)
      From: "Robert HO" <ic019@...>
      To: Mellanie Hewlitt
      Subject: How LKY wins elections in addition to straightforwardly
      rigging them


      RC wrote:

      Everytime when there is talk of General Elections
      around the corner, many Singaporeans continue to hope
      that more opposition will be voted in. Since the early
      80s, I have been hearing that the next elections "will
      be different" and that the ground "will not be as
      sweet for the PAP."

      Almost 25 years have passed and the results have been
      dismal. Opposition strength have dwindled to such an
      extent that only 23 seats out of 84 were contested the
      last time around.

      That Singaporeans today face a scenario is not an
      accidental one. It has been masterminded and executed
      over the years by the hand of one Lee Kuan Yew.

      1. In Feb of 1963, 111 people in Singapore were
      arrested under the ISA in a pre-dawn swoop now known
      as Operation Coldstore. The arrests were ordered after
      a meeting in Malaysia between PAP leaders, the British
      and Federation. Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and Ong
      Pang Boon were in the meeting.

      2. Amongst those arrested were Lim Chin Siong and
      James Fu (who later became LKY's Press Secretary). Lim
      was the leader of the opposition at the time. Ops
      Coldstore destroyed all chances of Singapore having a
      two-party democratic system.

      3. In 1963, PAP won elections against major rival
      Barisan Sosialist. They were able to do this beacuse
      most of Barisan's leaders were in jail. Chia Thye Poh
      was elected MP of Jurong.

      4. Between 1965 to 1966, PAP refused to convene
      Parliament for many months, leading Barisan to boycott
      Parliament altogether.

      5. Chia Thye Poh was arrested on Oct 1966 at the
      Barisan office. S'poreans were never to see Chia again
      until he was marooned to Sentosa in 1989. He was
      eventually freed in 1998. Til today, Chia Thye Poh's
      detention acts as psychological deterrant against
      anyone who wishes to sign up for the opposition. The
      ISA is still in use.

      6. In the 1968 GE, opposition decided to boycott the
      elections. This election marked the start of PAP
      walkovers. Only 7 seats were contested, mostly by
      Independents against the PAP. PAP won all.

      7. PAP again won clean sweeps in 72, 76 and 80 until
      JBJ won a seat in the Anson by-election. During this
      period, the ISA continue to be used against political
      opponents. Dr Poh Soo Kai, who was detained in 1963
      and released in 1972, was detained again in 1976.

      8. When JBJ regained his seat in 1984, Lee Kuan Yew
      stepped up his attacks. JBJ served jail time for
      allegedly misdeclaring party funds and was eventually
      disqualified in 1986 after a libel suit. He was not to
      contest again until 1997 where he won a NCMP seat. He
      was again booted out of Parliament in 2001 when he
      declared bankruptcy.

      9. In 1987, 22 young professional were arrested under
      the ISA in a "marxist conspiracy." Truth is : many of
      the detainees were non-member activists working with
      the Workers Party. Some of them were re-arrested in
      1988 after they alleged mistreatment by ISD. Vincent
      Cheng and Teo Soh Lung served close to two years in
      jail. Francis Seow was also detained and upon release,
      stood for elections and almost won a seat, He was
      subsequently charged with income tax evasion and a
      arrest warrant has since been issued against him.

      10. In 1997, Tang Liang Hong burst into the political
      scene with fire and fury. He stood with JBJ in Cheng
      San and lost narrowly. He was subsequently sued by 13
      PAP ministers and declared a bankrupt. An arrest
      warrant has also been issued against him.

      11. After 1997, more restrictions were put in place to
      castrate the opposition. Gerrymandering, Political
      Donations Act, increased election deposits, clampdown
      on internet campaigning etc.

      Under such circumstances, even the most popular and
      well-loved opposition politician would be crushed by
      such a system. One need look no furher than JB
      Jeyeratnam. The remaining opposition would be silly to
      attempt anything that would upset Lee's hold on power.
      At $10,000 a month salary, Chiam See Tong and Low Thia
      Kiang knows which side of their bread is buttered.
      Anyone who goes the way of Chee Soon Juan will be

      Singaporeans need to realise that it is the elections
      system that needs reforming, not the opposition. And
      this can only be achieve through extra-parliamentary
      measures like civil action, public protests and
      international pressure.

      Posted on 10/31/04 at 08:10:07
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