By : Jim Pinto,
By : Jim Pinto,
The Florida "chad" debacle resulted in a rapid push towards electronic voting machines. Problem: The touch-screen machines being deployed cannot be made to produce a paper record, and will not be able to do so until 2007. Without a paper validation of each vote, there is a significant risk that the electronic count can be rigged in 2004.
San Diego Mensan, January 2004
The Florida "chad" debacle and the following election fiasco seemed to indicate a rapid push towards better voting machines. Indeed, in the world’s leading techno-savvy country, it seems quaint that antiquated punch cards were still being used.
It turns out that several electronic systems have already been deployed. And some of these have had serious security flaws - the software was accessible on publicly available FTP servers. Source code (containing programmer notes and comments) could have been downloaded by anyone. The exposed code could have allowed someone to plant an undetectable virus in the system's compiler. Some of these systems rely heavily on Microsoft software, which is a frequent target of hackers. This would allow almost anyone to rig voting results.
Most people are unaware that electronic voting machines have already caused serious problems. An example: During the last election in Scurry County, Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates struck election clerks as worth investigation. They found that a faulty computer chip had caused the county's optical scanner to record Democratic votes as Republican. After two manual recounts and one electronic recount (using a replacement chip in the scanner), the Democratic candidates won by large margins and the original results were overturned.
Now, consider this: Billions of dollars have been allocated to assure complete computerization of the US voting process nation-wide by the 2004 election. Problem: The touch-screen machines being deployed cannot be made to produce a paper record, and will not be able to do so until 2007. Without a paper validation of each vote, there is a significant risk that the electronic count can be rigged. I'm not suggesting that it will, just that it can. And most people recognize that if it can, it will.
Now, I don't think I'm paranoid. And I'm not easily convinced on "conspiracy theories". But, I cannot even begin to imagine the significant damage that could be caused if the next US Presidential election is proved, after the fact, to have been rigged. And this after serious accusations that major segments of the voting population were excluded from the voting rolls in Florida, the pivotal state that swung the election.
Many people just shrug this off as scare mongering, or just an occasional problem equivalent to "ballot-box stuffing". Or perhaps, it's just too difficult to think about.
Well, think on this. What happens if, without any audit trail or paper record, there is no possibility of a recount - manual or otherwise? If a touch-screen voting machine is messed with, or crashes, (which could happen) there would be no way to tell how people actually voted. So, what will we do? Ask the courts to rule on who won? Again?
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