Who Wants to Rig the Votes?

Hang onto your hats.

If you’re out of the loop on this, there’s a huge storm brewing over the fact that the federally-mandated touch screen voting systems currently being employed can’t be audited. That’s right: no “paper trail,” no recounts, no way to check whether the delivered totals are correct or not! There’s even some evidence that the reported results can be manipulated over the Internet via cell phones and PDAs.

Well now, the most recent “I, Cringely” column at PBS.com examines the electronic voting machine story from an Information Technology standpoint and explains darn near everything except the accountability factor — not that having an explanation is going to make anyone feel better — and then at the very end, he addresses the paper trail issue and drops what I consider a potential bombshell:

Now here’s the really interesting part. Forgetting for a moment Diebold’s voting machines, let’s look at the other equipment they make. Diebold makes a lot of ATM machines. They make machines that sell tickets for trains and subways. They make store checkout scanners, including self-service scanners. They make machines that allow access to buildings for people with magnetic cards. They make machines that use magnetic cards for payment in closed systems like university dining rooms. All of these are machines that involve data input that results in a transaction, just like a voting machine. But unlike a voting machine, every one of these other kinds of Diebold machines — EVERY ONE — creates a paper trail and can be audited. Would Citibank have it any other way? Would Home Depot? Would the CIA? Of course not. These machines affect the livelihood of their owners. If they can’t be audited they can’t be trusted. If they can’t be trusted they won’t be used.

Now back to those voting machines. If EVERY OTHER kind of machine you make includes an auditable paper trail, wouldn’t it seem logical to include such a capability in the voting machines, too? Given that what you are doing is adapting existing technology to a new purpose, wouldn’t it be logical to carry over to voting machines this capability that is so important in every other kind of transaction device?

This confuses me. I’d love to know who said to leave the feature out and why?

Amen, bro’. And Cringely promises to deliver the answer next week!

[This entry simultaneously posted at FARRFEED!]

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