Progress for the sake of Progress!
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By jank - Last updated: Wednesday, August 6, 2003 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

(Again, thanks to The Corner for this tip. Though, if I were slightly less busy, I’d have caught it earlier)

Electronic voting. There are fewer things that I see as posing huge threats to fundamental trust in the political system.

Most of y’all realize that I am about the furthest thing from a technophobe, but this Wired article has stirred up these old demons for me.

I’ll be the first to admit that Florida in 2000 (Bone thrown to those on the left), LBJ’s adventures in South Texas, and JFK’s gift from Mayor Daley in Chicago show that elections can be manipulated regardless of the technology used to conduct them, but I shudder to think of the possibilities for outright fraud and manipulation possible not only with electronic voting machines, but especially if polling places are plugged into the internet for whatever reasons (Online voting, or rapid reporting and tabulation).

Here are my gripes, in no particular order:

– *Geekifying of Vote Counting* Even assuming no malicious intent, moving to electronic voting takes the ability to count votes out of the hands of the average citizen and hands it to the digitally elite. With various forms of paper ballots, any Joe or Jane off the street can pretty easily be used to verify the results of an election.
– *Proprietary Design* Most of the contracts for e-voting machines have been awarded to folks who are using proprietary technology. The argument for proprietary equipment is that secret designs are harder to hack. The argument against proprietary systems is Microsoft (For just one horror story). I haven’t gone into it much, but I’m a fan of open source software, even though my skilz can’t fill a thimble. Outside eyes can often spot things that inside eyes can’t.
– *Misuse of encryption systems*. 128 bit encryption is pretty tough to crack, in general. But, if we can take WiFi as precedent, where 128 bit WAP is standard in most hotspots, it’s pretty shocking at how few folks actually use it. Granted WAP is vulnerable, but I find it hard to believe that we’re going to be able to adequately train every poll worker.
– *All The Wrong Reasons* IMO, the move to e-voting is being done for all the wrong reasons. Reducing error is about the only valid reason, but advocates are touting faster results, lower costs (HA!), fluffier biscuits, and freshser breath as potential positive impacts. To turn the tables – Why is it essential that we know before we go to bed who wins an election? Don’t we have elections months before they take effect partly to allow for plenty of time to count votes accurately? The requirement to get quicker results seems to be driven by television more than anything, and a desire to avoid having commentators make idiot predictions. “Dewey Defeats Truman”: should have taught us all a lesson about haste.

I’d like to avoid a repeat of Florida 2000 as much as the next person (The fiasco, not the outcome). But I really, really think that a move back to simpler paper ballots, rather than more complex electronic systems, is a better way to go.

Posted in Rants • • Top Of Page

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