Tuesday, October 14, 2008

E-Voting Can't Be Trusted !

In another week, voting will start in one of the most important elections we have had in many years. With our economy in the dump, our healthcare system broken and a never-ending war being waged in Iraq for no good reason, it is extremely important that every single vote be counted just as it was cast. But will that happen?

I'm not at all sure it will. Here in Amarillo (and many other cities in Texas and the nation), we are at the mercy of electronic voting systems. It doesn't matter whether we vote on election day or whether we vote early, the ONLY voting option we have is to vote on an electronic voting machine -- without any kind of paper trail.

I have written about this in the past and it still has not changed. The fact is that on the machines being used in Amarillo, there is absolutely no way to know if my (or your) vote was counted correctly or not. If the machine had been tampered with, or just accidently went haywire, there is no way for the voters to know. We are forced to just have blind trust in these machines, and the honesty of all the election workers and officials.

For someone like me, who has trouble trusting anyone I don't know and most people I do know, this is totally unacceptable. I want a voting system that can be publically double-checked.

Making matters even worse, there is no way to do a recount on these electronic systems. You can ask it to retabulate, but it will just keep giving you the same answer whether that answer is correct or not. Shouldn't all elections be capable of being recounted and mistakes eliminated.

Anyone who has dealt with machines for very long knows that there is no perfect machine that cannot screw up (in the primary in Tarrant county an extra 100,000 votes were counted than were cast). And anyone who has dealt with people for very long knows that not everyone is honest, and even those who are make mistakes. I personally would like to do away with all electronic voting, but at the very least these systems must be fixed to leave a paper trail so the totals can be checked.

I am not alone in not trusting electronic voting. Dan Wallach is an associate professor and Director of Rice University's Computer Security Lab. He will be testifying before a legislative committee about electronic voting, and he doesn't have a lot of faith in the systems either.

Wallach says anyone with a screwdriver and a couple of minutes can hack a single voting machine. After the election, that machine will communicate with the main computer system and very possibly spread a virus throughout the system. This virus could alter or throw out votes, and do so without being detected.

Have our voting systems been hacked in the past? WE DO NOT KNOW! As Wallach says, “There is also no evidence to suggest the absence of an attack like this having been attempted, because if somebody was successful, you’d never know. That’s not the sort of thing that gives you warm fuzzies.”

He goes on to say, “In terms of technologies we have available today, the best technologies we have involve paper. These electronic machines we use in the state, they generate no paper record so if they misbehave you have no way of either detecting it or correcting it.”

Wouldn't you like to be able to trust our election returns? I certainly would, but there's no way we can trust these machines without a paper trail. We must pressure our elected (and appointed) officials to outlaw all electronic voting systems without a paper trail. That is the only way we can be assured of a fair vote.


  1. all very excellent points that you make. I wonder why people don't holler and scream more about this. We have Diebold in our state and you know how bad that company is.

  2. You are correct that we should be worried, in Virginia, a swing state, one day before early vote is to occur, glitches were found with machines.

    If people are unwilling to be aware of these machines, it will be the rise of the voting machines part 2.


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