Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Reliability of Electronic Elections

Sometimes, paranoids are right. And sometimes even when paranoids are wrong, it's worth considering what they're worried about.

I speak here of all who are worried sick that those new, fancy high-tech voting systems can be hacked, fiddled with and otherwise made to record votes that aren't cast or fail to record votes that are.
This article discusses a House bill to require electronic voting machines to produce voter-readable paper verification, and for those paper ballots to be used to audit a random 2% of the precincts in which they are used. This will go a long way toward making these machines reliable, but there's a long way to go.

The software for these machines should be open-source, so that any voter (with sufficient technical knowledge) can verify it, unlike the secret last-minute patch distributed to Diebold machines at the last minute in 2002 that was verified by no one. Of course, there must also be safeguards in place to ensure that the publicly verified software is actually what the machines are running, and that there are no open I/O mechanisms that can be used to subvert this. All this is required for a voter to have a comparable level of confidence to reading a paper ballot and seeing it placed in a locked ballot box.

Lower-tech forms of vote manipulation, -- such as those used in 2004 in places like Ohio -- must also be stopped, but at least voters disenfranchised through such means are generally aware that their votes have not been counted, unlike electronic manipulation, which can result in votes being thrown out without leaving a trace that they were ever cast.

read more | digg story

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