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Electronic Voting

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I am a technophile and gadget geek of the highest order. If it is related to computers or electronics, I own it, I want it, or I’m pushing it. To me, the advances and ease made in life due to technology are amazing. I enjoy working in the IT field. If my hands are on servers and networks and PDA, etc, I am happy.

So why don’t I like the idea of electronic voting? As a matter of fact, why do I think that is a horrible idea that scares me?

Maybe I should ask myself why I still write my most important information down with pen and paper before I put it into my PocketPC?

The truth is that from working in MIS, I know all too well how easy it is to lose files if there aren’t backups. I’ve spent many a long night trying to clean up a network after a really bad virus attack.

More importantly, I know about the steps I’ve had to take to make sure there isn’t network intrusions.

There was a time when I was younger when I used to “hang” with a bunch of hackers online. It was then that I learned that any program, any network, anything that has a network connection can be compromised. The skills I learned from then I later used in my last job to “hack” into workstations and servers where the admin as well as end-user passwords were lost and still not lose data. It was so easy for me and quite useful.

This is one exact reason why the idea of Electronic voting is a bad one.

Sure, we had the problems in the last election with the hanging chads, et cetera. This did show that there was a problem with the method used to vote, but not with the process itself. This does not mean that we need to turn to computers for this issue but to redesign the ballot forms themselves. Yes, computers are faster and more accurate in general, however computers are subject to virii and bad programming. Take a look at what happened recently to some ATMS in the country this past August. Computers aren’t the fail-safe that some people like to think they are.

Voting is a very important process- too important to take out the human element. The ballots themselves also serve a dual purpose. Yes, it’s a lot of paper. Yes it’s bulky- but it is also a concrete record of what happened that one can hold in their hand. You can hold a hard drive in your hand but if you happened to get to close to a magnet, or drop the hard drive, or a virus gets in, all of that data is gone.

Finally, there is something very visceral about filling out a ballot by hand that is satisfying. Voting should carry a little bit of ceremony, reverence and tradition with it as that is a very important action. Everyday, most of us use keyboards or punch numbers into ATM machines. I know that when I vote, I want to make sure that there is a solid, tangible, record to reflect what my wishes are- and this is coming from a self professed geek.

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  • Speaking of hackers and e-voting: E-Voting Firm Falls Victim to Hacker

  • Jan – I agree that being in a democracy means that the choice should be available, however, if votes are stored in a computer the chance for it to be hacked and tampered with is now much greater than a material ballot.

    I don’t want to see some third world hacker having the ability to alter popular choice from his reconditioned 386 and dialup connection.

    As for the Presidency anyway the Electoral College exists as a buffer of sorts, but it doesn’t happen often that the Electoral College goes against popular choice. Once or twice in our history, yes? Somebody please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Count me in as vehemently opposed and terribly frightened. I know how, um, flawed and untrustworthy the election was in 2000, and much of this was with paper ballots; I have been reading how awful the Diebold situation surrounding electronic voting is. The likelihood of… let’s call it mischief in future pollings is just too great for me to want to risk it. But yeah, in a democracy the people should get to decide if they want to travel this treacherous road.

  • We live in a democracy. Therefore, we should be allowed to make the decision about computer voting. In my limited, subjective experience, everyone with whom I have spoken about the topic was at least skeptical about the technology–at most vehemently opposed to it. In the case of Ohio, it seems that corporations are having their way, instituting a voting system that I think most Ohioans would oppose (if they were given the option of opposing it). To be sure, letters to senators are called for.

    As for the future possibilities, I foresee no technologically “reliable, auditable system” that would be immune to tampering. Then again, our current system isn’t so reliable either.

  • I don’t think O’Dell is really going to hack into his own machines, Eric, but it is suggestive 🙂

    Machines of all brands are, apparently, extremely vulnerable. Our congress in their usual half-baked “government by kneejerk reaction” to the Florida chads, passed the Help America Vote Act.

    I’m writing my Senators and House Representative asking that they at least suspend the Act until a reliable, auditable system can be developed.

  • Unless/until there is going to be some sort of DNA fingerprint for voters, I’m against votes this way.

  • Eric Olsen

    I too have grave concerns about the integrity of the voting, and not even necessarily from a political standpoint, but what more enticing target for hackers in general just to mess with?

  • I’m a techie with an electronics engineering degree, so I’m not against technology, but when it comes to voting machines, there’s a major problem already:

    Walden O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. said, in a fund-rainsg letter that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” [The Plain Dealer]

    That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that Diebold is trying to sell voting machines to Ohio, and there are already technical and security problems with those same machines.

    …computer security experts have identified numerous flaws in the systems made by industry leader Diebold Election Systems Inc. that could allow vote tampering.

    Rebecca Mercuri, a computer scientist at Harvard, told the Times: “There are literally hundreds of ways to embed a rogue series of commands into the coding, and nobody would ever know because the nature of programming is so complex. The numbers would all tally perfectly.” [Pressconnects.com]

    Electronic voting is technology whose time has not come.