April 15, 2004

Corrupt Elections in the Digital Age

Bruce Schneier sent me this URL today, to an essay of his on the economics of cheating elections with electronic voting machines. It's an interesting essay, and worth reading.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters continues to amaze me with their spin on electronic voting. I'd love to know who wrote the talking points for how they explain the technology to the public. The main phrase is "touch screen voting" -- with slogans like "It's at your fingertips". Nice, happy phrases about how easy it is to vote using the voting machines.

That's fine. What may also be so easy is perpetrating fraud on these machines, or, more importantly, on the machines that read and process the electronic cards voters hand back to the poll workers after using the "touch screen" machines.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: considering the levels of paranoia, scrutiny, security, testing, evaluation, caution, and care that banks and casinos exhibit when adopting new ATMs and digital slot machines, respectively, it is remarkable and very telling how readily governments embrace electronic voting systems like Diebold's, which is what San Diego County bought and installed to the tune of $35+ million.

The Mission Statement of the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, seen at the bottom of this page, is as follows:

Under the Jurisdiction and Direction of the Board of Supervisors, and with the Assistance of the California Secretary of State, Conduct Voter Registration and Voting Processes with the Highest Level of Professional Election Standards, Accountability, Security and Integrity, Thereby Earning and Maintaining Public Confidence in the Electoral Process.

Well, this is one member of the public, who's worked in the computer industry for 25 years, who no longer has confidence in the electoral process in San Diego because I know from experience how easily vulnerable computer systems are to error and fraudulent use. Sally McPherson, head of SDROV, has not assured me in the least that these machines, or the systems in place to count votes, are free and above any influence from any party or candidate. Go read Robert Caro's books on LBJ. Don't think that kind of electoral fraud doesn't still happen? Please. It's easier now than ever.

Posted by brian at April 15, 2004 06:51 PM

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