Oct 09 2008
Rich and I talked about electronic voting earlier this week on the podcast and it’s something I’ve never been a big fan of. But Wired’s story on the voting issues Palm Beach Florida had in their judicial election race quite frankly scares the snot out of me! In nearly half a dozen recounts, Sequoia’s optical scanning machines couldn’t return the same results two times in a row. Even when Palm Beach purchased newer optical scanners, testing showed that two machines sitting side by side even had a hard time returning the same results. Quite frankly, electronic voting machines, whether their Sequoia’s or Diebold (whatever there name is now) or any of the other manufacuter’s, can’t be trusted. Especially not with the Presidentail election right around the corner.
Even if you ‘ve never been interested in electronic voting, you need to take a look at Wired’s story. These are the machines that will decide the election. I used to be concerned with the fact that many of these machines run on Windows CE or a variation thereof and how easily they could be hacked. But if a machine can’t even get an accurate count with the best of intentions and support, how can we trust them to count our votes?
The worst part about this fiasco is the way all of the voting machine companies spend more time bashing the people critical of their machines than they do trying to fix the problems. We’ve had machines in our schools for decades that will read a scantron sheet almost flawless, so why can’t Sequoia even get that part of the equation right? Even if we don’t take the security of the machines into account, you can’t ignore the fact that the large amount of errors these machines are showing could make the Gore/Bush election look like child’s play. Imagine how much a 1-2% error rate could swing the whole election. Can you imagine either of the candidates just letting that go by? I can’t and even worse would be if one of the candidates actually had a legitimate complaint and there were a large number of miscounted ballots.
There’s no doubt, we will have an all electronic election some day. But we’re so far from ready right now; not a single one of the e-voting companies has proven their worthy of being the custodian of our votes. They can’t count accurately, they can’t secure the machines, and they can’t be trusted. But they will be anyways, by election officials who don’t know any better or don’t care.