Fixing Elections

We’ve got a big problem in the U.S. – an election system that is broken and increasingly can’t be trusted. There has likely always been issues with voting machines, ballots, and the uninformed polling workers, but it’s all compounded with the idiotic move to electronic voting machines.

Last night I read Ben McConnell’s blog post on the topic, and all I can say, is amen brother. Electronic voting is a disaster. The machines can’t be trusted, are too difficult to setup for polling place volunteers, and are hard to use by a large percentage of the population. The voting machines currently used most often are effectively black boxes that are understood and accessible only by the vendors, most notably Diebold.

I urge you to take a look at the HBO documentary “Hacking Democracy”, free to watch at Google Video. You’ll see how easily these machines can be manipulated, and why I think we shouldn’t trust any vendor when it comes to voting equipment and software.

The only way I can ever support electronic voting is if all the hardware and software involved is completely transparent. In computing, encryption technology isn’t trusted by anyone unless the algorithm is openly available for study and critique. That’s why proprietary encryption software isn’t can’t be trusted – there’s no opportunity to verify that it’s doing what it claims. We should demand nothing less for this country’s electronic voting. Make everything completely open source.

If that were done, like the Open Voting Consortium is advocating right now, there would literally be tens of thousands of eyes looking over the code, searching for bugs and vulnerabilities and providing fixes. It would be virtually impossible to introduce malicious code into the project because people of every political persuasion would be keeping watch, looking for exactly that situation.

It’s a shame we’re even facing this problem right now, but it’s only because politicians are letting it happen. There’s no conceivable reason why electronic voting machines aren’t required by law to produce an auditable paper trail. My only guess is that both democrats and republicans are looking for a readily available excuse to threaten lawsuits if votes don’t go their way. After all, it’d be a lot harder to claim voter fraud if everyone actually trusted the system…

One reply on “Fixing Elections”

I watched the documentary too…thought it was deplorable that black-box software is used. Being in Florida now and actually having seen the places where the bungling took place, and actually seeing the people who are/were in charge of voting operations brings it on home a lot heavier.

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