Proud to Be a “Wide-Eyed Activist”

by on January 22, 2007 · 6 comments

IT&T News is a great publication that features many excellent articles by a variety of free-market policy experts. But I found this article on e-voting, by PRI’s Vince Vasquez, rather disappointing:

The e-voting experience has been a resounding success that has generated relatively few complaints from the electorate. To be sure, there were some legitimate problems with DRE machines on November 7, but many have been found to be man-made, such as innocent user error, inept poll workers, or ineffective planning by local election authorities. Unfortunately, these human-based fumbles have opened the doors for open-source zealots, wide-eyed activists, and crafty politicians who want to scrap DREs for the 2008 elections.

I’m not a politician, and I actually don’t think that open source would solve what’s wrong with e-voting, so by process of elimination, I must be a “wide-eyed activist.” I bet Ed Felten and Avi Rubin–both widely respected computer scientists–would be surprised to learn that they, too, are “wide-eyed activists.”

After busting out that sort of inflammatory rhetoric, you would think that Mr. Vasquez would have some pretty compelling refutations of us wide-eyed activists. But he doesn’t even mention–much less address–any of the actual arguments that e-voting critics make against computerize voting. No mention of the fact that DREs are less transparent, harder to audit, or more susceptible to wide-scale (rather than local) fraud than paper ballots. No mention of the current debacle in Florida, the various reports of problems with e-voting machines, or the fact that computer security researchers have actually demonstrated that some e-voting machines are vulnerable to vote-stealing viruses.

Nope, all we get is vague arguments about how “digital red tape and risky industry requirements jeopardizes the value of these innovative machines.” (Why are they innovative? Because there are computers in them!) And overheated rhetoric about “feeding the country’s voting system to ideological lions.” There might be some good arguments for using DREs, but Mr. Vasquez doesn’t seem to have any.

  • http://mcgath.blogspot.com Gary McGath

    It’s curious that the author thinks having eyes wide open is a fault.

  • http://mcgath.blogspot.com Gary McGath

    It’s curious that the author thinks having eyes wide open is a fault.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    The man either has an agenda or is a blithering idiot. The cost of even perceived corruption in government can be very high WRT undermining the legitimacy of a standing government. If much of the public began to suspect fraud with these machines, it could destabilize the United States, and thus lead to bloodshed in the streets if not corrected in time. That’s how more often than not these things are resolved when the public begins to suspect that the government has been 0wn3d.

    And so what if the human recounting process is still problematic? It is undeniably easier for non-technically educated people to police. Your average beat cop would stand a much better chance of noticing shifty people with paper ballots than with electronic voting machines. The paper ballots here in Virginia are also quite easy. For the life of me, I just don’t see what the big deal is about not using voting machines.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    The man either has an agenda or is a blithering idiot. The cost of even perceived corruption in government can be very high WRT undermining the legitimacy of a standing government. If much of the public began to suspect fraud with these machines, it could destabilize the United States, and thus lead to bloodshed in the streets if not corrected in time. That’s how more often than not these things are resolved when the public begins to suspect that the government has been 0wn3d.

    And so what if the human recounting process is still problematic? It is undeniably easier for non-technically educated people to police. Your average beat cop would stand a much better chance of noticing shifty people with paper ballots than with electronic voting machines. The paper ballots here in Virginia are also quite easy. For the life of me, I just don’t see what the big deal is about not using voting machines.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Actually, I had predicted that those e-voting advocates would blame ‘human-error’ on anything that went wrong (and a lot did go wrong, as we now have a representative from Florida who would not be serving, but for e-voting errors)

    But those so-called ‘human-errors’ are in reality machine-human society interface errors, and to place the blame for all that goes wrong at this interface on humans is wholely wrong. The machines should be designed so these errors can’t happen. If they can’t be designed to this constraint, they should not be used.

    Should we be designing machines for human needs, or should we change the way society works to meet the needs of machines?

    (insert “The future doesn’t need us.” by Bill Joy here.)

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Actually, I had predicted that those e-voting advocates would blame ‘human-error’ on anything that went wrong (and a lot did go wrong, as we now have a representative from Florida who would not be serving, but for e-voting errors)

    But those so-called ‘human-errors’ are in reality machine-human society interface errors, and to place the blame for all that goes wrong at this interface on humans is wholely wrong. The machines should be designed so these errors can’t happen. If they can’t be designed to this constraint, they should not be used.

    Should we be designing machines for human needs, or should we change the way society works to meet the needs of machines?

    (insert “The future doesn’t need us.” by Bill Joy here.)

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