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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

posted by Jazz at 12/02/2003 02:51:00 PM


Touch Screen Voting Machines

We have had the technology now for a number of years which will allow people to vote in political elections safely. By 'safely' I simply mean that the interface could be clear and concise, leaving no doubt to the voter who they were choosing, and the machine could easily leave a trail, both paper and "soft copy" of the votes it recorded to allow auditing. IBM has had this technology since the mid nineties and has sold online rail ticket sales systems in Europe which could perform this function with only slight modifications.

In this article, Paul Krugman (with the New York Times) gives a rather chilling look at the choices we have made for the purchase of touch screen voting machines. The ones currently in use through a number of states (produced by Diebold) provide no paper trail, nor any method of monitoring performance or verifying vote totals and records.

This doesn't just raise questions of accuracy. It opens the door to potential fraud and abuse.

To quote Paul's article, "Georgia � where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories in the 2002 midterm elections � relies exclusively on Diebold machines. To be clear, though there were many anomalies in that 2002 vote, there is no evidence that the machines miscounted. But there is also no evidence that the machines counted correctly. You see, Diebold machines leave no paper trail.

Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who has introduced a bill requiring that digital voting machines leave a paper trail and that their software be available for public inspection, is occasionally told that systems lacking these safeguards haven't caused problems. "How do you know?" he asks.

What we do know about Diebold does not inspire confidence. The details are technical, but they add up to a picture of a company that was, at the very least, extremely sloppy about security, and may have been trying to cover up product defects."

This is also a company that has flushed millions of dollars into the GOP for some time now, and who's CEO recently stated, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Yes, well he is most certainly within his rights to work for the party of his choice, but the phrase "deliver its electoral votes" is enough to give me some chills.

They, of course, claim that their system is as secure as a bird in its nest. However, a recent report on these machines and the software they run was not quite so glowing. Dr. Aviel D. Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins who wrote his Ph.D on computer cryptography, considers this system a disaster waiting to happen.

I'm not sure how much cash we've flushed into the pockets of yet another of Bush's cronies on this one. One thing I am certain of, though, is that if the President was looking for a good place to have friends in the next election, the guy making the voting machines is certainly a good place to start.