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Book Review: Brave New Ballot




Book Review: Brave New Ballot
Book Review: Brave New Ballot



http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0767922107/c4iorg 
and http://www.shopinfosecnews.org 

Title: Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting
Author: Aviel David Rubin
Pages: 288 pages
Publisher: 
Reviewer: Lyger @ attrition.org
ISBN: 0767922107

"Brave New Ballot" by Aviel Rubin is quite a surprising read and was 
honestly enjoyable. For someone who isn't "tuned-in" to most political 
matters, including the topic of electronic voting, I found this book to 
be informative and interesting on a few levels. Even though at times 
Rubin appears to show disdain for those in the political arena who have 
no "computer security experience", which may be up to 99% of the United 
States population (my estimate, not his), his concern for honesty within 
the democratic voting process is quite clear.

The book starts off with how Rubin became involved with the concerns 
about electronic voting. From there, he provides accounts of legal, 
professional, and personal opposition to his findings and opinions 
regarding security issues with not just the machines themselves, but the 
process as a whole. One particular example involves Kim Zetter from 
Wired News, who Rubin openly admits was right in her assessment of his 
failure to disclose his past business association with VoteHere (a 
company assumed to be a Diebold competitor). Rubin admits his mistakes, 
which is quite a refreshing departure from the "CYA" mentality often 
shown by those who do make mistakes but fail to admit them.

As the story is told, Rubin tells of his experiences testifying to 
Congress, becoming a registered election judge, and the effect on his 
personal life and family as he tries to continue to research electronic 
voting and explain his stance for the need for paper ballots in addition 
to DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) vote recordings. At times, methinks 
"the lady doth protest too much", meaning Rubin often takes jabs at his 
former (or current?) opposition. His points are usually well thought 
out, but some of the snipes in the book probably should have been edited 
out to maintain his objectivity.

"Brave New Ballot" isn't generally an overly technical book, but there's 
enough geekery included to keep techies interested and yet not turn off 
non-technical readers. Code snippets, basic principles of cryptography, 
and an explanation of a "hack the machine" contest held in one of 
Rubin's classes at Johns Hopkins University show that Rubin has a good 
understanding of the technical side of electronic voting, but those with 
more of an interest in the behind-the-scenes politics probably won't be 
disappointed with Rubin's tales of election day polling areas and 
Congressional hearings. Clocking in at 280 pages, the book isn't too 
long, but I did find myself skimming the last few pages of patriotic 
rhetoric.

Rubin is straight-forward in his assessment of the security of 
electronic voting and why he believes electronic voting processes could 
be improved. At times, he seems somewhat snarky towards his opponents, 
but his positions are explained well for those with little background 
knowledge in the subject matter. Rubin's writing style is generally 
clear and direct, and "Brave New Ballot" should capture the attention of 
anyone interested in the electoral process, especially regarding 
electronic voting, regardless of political affiliation.

Lyger


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