Synopsis: There are no elections in USA.
It is not a hyperbole and it is not a political nor ethical statement. I am talking specifically about the procedure of elections as an information process. By using a «voting» machine you do not give your vote to any of candidates, you give your vote to whomever controls the machine. Giving your vote away is NOT electing.
In case you are concerned about data security or voter fraud issues: those concerns are irrelevant, the computerized procedure in use does not endanger the elections, it ELIMINATES them from existence. From the InfoSec perspective the information process that has taken place of the elections (be it hacked or not) is NOT the elections — not even a surrogate! — it is something else, that, most importantly, has nothing to do with your vote.
To understand how did it happen, we must scrutinize the principal ideas of the classical election procedure, particularly the anonymity of the votes. How is the anonymity created? There is a special physical procedure of the votes gathering which separates your action and its outcome and this procedure is irreversible, we can not calculate the input of this procedure from its output. Corollary, there is no way to verify the output of this procedure i.e. the generated data is THE PRIMARY DATA in the electoral process — It's not your votes that constitute the primary data, but the vote counting performed by the least electoral court! You can not take your vote to a court of justice, but you can take the vote counts. Once again, the physical procedure of voting is a primary (i.e. unverifiable) information source in the electoral process (not you! for the anonymity's sake you fully entrust your vote to this procedure). This procedure is legally enforced and is by-design fair — if properly implemented it guarantees that your vote counts.
How do we know that this procedure is properly implemented? WE CAN OBSERVE IT!!!Traditionally the procedure is implemented in our visible physical world and performed by humans. The procedure is amended with multiple regulations that increase transparency of an implementation — it is in theory observable with a naked eye and we normally do what we can to maximize the visibility in practice. This is the ONLY foundation of the trust we invest into elections. The elections are based on the transparency of the primary vote counting — there is no other way to ensure that the prescribed procedure is followed correctly. Take away the transparency and you effectively take away the elections. This is exactly what the government did by hiding the vote counting process inside computers (so called «voting» machines).
They took away the observability of the electionsLike I said many times, a computer is characterized by the capability of producing ANY output from ANY input. A computer is THE ULTIMATE BLACK BOX — a program that defines the computer's output is completely inobservable (this is corollary to the Turing completeness). Not only inobservable for you, or me — it is inobservable in principle. Simply speaking, you can not know what program is running on a «voting machine» at all — it could be a program that analyzes weather on Mars — you can not know. A «security expert» can now shout something unintelligible about «code signing». Wait until he shuts up. Ask him then, who is going to CHECK those signatures? Oh, [censored]! a computer again! ...and if you think a little further along this path, this will turn out to be the same computer that counts votes.
By replacing the transparent physical vote counting procedure with its opposite, a black box, the government has removed the elections from the elections. Was physical procedure invulnerable to voter fraud? No, but it made the voter fraud necessary for those who seek to compromise elections! And it is a risky crime which is no longer needed. The «voting» machines can be programmed to skip the elections altogether.
You are free to treat my thesis as a risk assessment statement, but keep in mind that we apply it to legal regulations. Here the risk assessment becomes a «yes/no» thing: «if something bad can happen, it will happen» — this is how we must treat regulations.
Recently, Milo Yiannopoulos spread the rumor about the «voting» machines misreading user input, I quote: «you press a button X and with a brief delay the machine switches display from X to Y». This is ridiculous! He assumes that the machine is limited to the rules he imagined and has to violate them with effort. This is a perfect illustration to the phenomenon I described here: people assume too much with regard to computers, fundamentally too much. While a computer does not give two shits about those assumptions, a computer follows his own laws written as a program and hidden form the user. When you press a button you think that you motivate the computer to react (say count your input as a vote) while in fact your input does not have any authority over the computer — it is the computer who decides what to do with your input!!! — it is absolutely free to count or ignore your input, and give you any display, truthful or otherwise, no restrictions.
Of course, the real agent here is a program that defines the computer's behaviour, but for brevity sake, we can say «a computer». Also, since the program is not known to you, it is not only safe, but also required from you for the sake of InfoSec to assume that this program can be ANYTHING, i.e. the computer is free to violate any of your expectations.
Given the current regulations defining the elections, it is the computer that destroys the elections due to its INNATE properties. Theoretically we can redesign the vote counting procedure so that to make it compatible with computers (although it will require to abolish the anonymity of the votes) but it is a topic of another discussion — here I focus specifically on the present situation.
There is a counter argument: OK, there is an open door for an undetectable unlimited vote forgery, it does not necessitate the vote forgery. This is true, but (as long as we talk about regulations) we must assume it is false. If a law allows for abuse it will be abused, and in this particular case the abuse is undetectable therefore unpunishable — this is the risk we can not afford. Next? But who would bother to implement this possible fraud? It is a long way to go. Should we care who exactly they are? They have already completed the most difficult part of the job: millions fancy hardware devices produced and installed all over the country, millions dollars spent on deceptive advertisement, so far they are successful, what would stop them from using these machines? It is like asking: will a marathon runner finish when he is already one inch away from the finish line.
While the alternative media are panicking about counterfeit «voting» machines, and the voter fraud, because of their ignorance in Computer Science, the governmental media are pumping the «almighty russian hackers» myth up. Together they are distracting the public attention from the fundamental problem of the computerized «voting», which has nothing to do with hacking, and renders the voter fraud obsolete. All those «security experts» so «worried» about «hackers» are trying to convince you that there is an object to be worried about.
Of course, the voter fraud is not going to disappear, it will be practiced as usual, because it is a good distraction. It gives you an illusion that the fraud is necessary, that the elections exist… Relax, my dear americans, there is nothing to worry about, all your votes go straight to /dev/null.
ConclusionDue to the lack of observability (which is innate for computers), computers shift the elections into a gray area. What was well regulated becomes completely unregulated. The procedure you called «elections» is replaced with great void. This is why I insist: «there are no elections» — we define the elections as a very specific system of regulations, all these regulations are rendered inapplicable by introduction of computers. Unregulated elections mean no elections at all.
P.S. I gave you the fundamental understanding of the issue. If you are interested in politically charged details, look at paxonbothhouses.blogspot.