Jan 12 2008
Contenders in both the Republican and Democratic parties are asking for a manual recount of the ballots in the New Hampshire state primary. While there has been no evidence of foul play at this point, there were discrepancies between districts that originally counted votes by hand and those that used Diebold scanning machines to count the vote. There’s at least one theory that explains the difference, but this needs to be investigated to preserve confidence in the voting system.
I’ve never liked Diebold or any of the voting systems, mostly they’ve all been very resistant to allowing testing of their systems. We have to take the companies word that their systems are secure, going against the basic security tenet of ‘trust but verify’. At least in the case of New Hampshire, we’re talking about a state where they’ve mandated paper trails, so we have a secondary trail to follow in the recount. Such a discrepancy will be much harder to audit and prove or disprove when we start moving into counties that allow for a purely digital voting system. Yes, there’s hashing and other means of digital certification, but if someone can get access to a machine, those are going to be suspect at best. And it’s been proven multiple times that getting physical access to a evoting machine isn’t all that hard.
On one hand, I don’t want this recount to turn up any major flaws, since we can’t afford that kind of chaos going into a Presidential election. Proof that a major electronic voting machine line was compromised would put a huge strain on many counties as they had to find another way to hold elections. But if no errors are found, I also don’t want Diebold holding up this incident as proof that their systems are secure. All the recount would prove is that Diebold security was good enough this time. When I used to be licensed to sell mutual funds, we had a phrase we had to tell customers: “Past performance is no indicator of future value.” The same could be said of electronic voting machine security.