Sunday, February 02, 2003

 
CAN YOU TRUST ATM-STYLE VOTING MACHINES?

If the so-called "liberal media" was really concerned about the future of American democracy, they'd be taking a cold, hard look at computerized voting. A good place to start is this article at Commondreams, which I found thanks to Atrios.

The basic problem is this: ATM-style, fully electronic voting is incompatible with our secret ballot system.

One of the primary drawbacks of having a secret ballot is that there is no way for an individual to double-check and be 100% sure their vote was counted. Nor is there any way for election officials to double-check and be 100% sure that every person who voted had their vote counted.

Now, in order to get around this drawback and make sure as much as humanly possible that every vote cast was counted correctly, indirect backup methods have been devoloped for each type of voting apparatus. Taking the simplest system, the number of paper ballots in the locked ballot box can be compared against the number of voters who signed in that day to vote -- and there is no way to get into that box and change a vote for Candidate A into a vote for Candidate B. With another electronic system, optical scanning, inside the locked ballot box you still have the actual paper ballots that people marked, which can later be compared against the totals the machine gave. And again, there's no way to change the marks people made on the paper ballots.

Now, with ATM-style electronic voting systems, there is no check whatsoever that would prevent a vote for Candidate A from being changed into a vote for Candidate B. All you need is a line or two of code that, say, changes every third vote for Candidate A into a vote for Candidate B. Also, independent observers aren't even allowed to inspect the software coding, because the companies say it's proprietary. We're just supposed to accept on complete blind faith that our votes are being counted correctly and no fraud is being perpetrated.

I'm sorry...I just don't have enough faith in human nature to trust people that much.

Lemme put it this way: Would you use a bank ATM if you could never double-check to be sure your deposits or withdrawals were registered correctly? Would you just accept with blind faith that the bank was being 100% honest with your money, despite the fact that you don't receive any receipts, statements or any other confirmation of your banking activity?

That's exactly what the manufacturers and buyers of ATM-style voting machines expect voters to do: have blind faith that their votes are being counted correctly, despite the complete absence of any double-check on the honesty and integrity of the software being used.

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