E-Voting Critics as Luddites

by on March 29, 2007 · 4 comments

Another person who testified about HR 811 on Friday was disability access advocate Harold Snider. He makes some good points about how DREs improve the accessibility of elections to disabled voters, and raises concerns that the requirement for a paper trail will delay the arrival of fully accessible voting. But then he veers off into hyperbole:

I am very proud of the fact that I was able to complete a Doctorate at Oxford University in 1974, where I studied 19th Century British History. I learned that in early 19th –Century England, a group of people called Luddites attempted to destroy early industrial production machinery because they perceived it as a threat, and had no confidence in it. I believe that the same is true with those who favor H.R. 811. In the 21st Century there are still people who have no faith in modern technology and in its ability to deliver a secure electronic voting process.

This argument is extremely silly, and the supporters of DREs are only shooting themselves in the foot when they make it. The most vocal critics of DREs are computer geeks. Jon Stokes, for example, writes in-depth reviews of new computer chips for Ars Technica. The idea that computer science professors, free software enthusiasts, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are luddites doesn’t pass the straight face test.

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

    Well, it’s true we don’t have “faith” in technology. We insist on testing it rigorously and making sure it works. But it’s certainly strange to consider people “luddites” for that reason.

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

    Well, it’s true we don’t have “faith” in technology. We insist on testing it rigorously and making sure it works. But it’s certainly strange to consider people “luddites” for that reason.

  • relaxandhavefun

    It goes further, in that techies are divided between those who (looking at it solely as a technical problem) seek desperately needed improvements to a flawed voting process, and other techies who, applying also (and sensibly) the standards of democracy and elections to computerized voting systems, wonder how in the world having secret vote counting on the first counts released on election night can possibly be consistent with We the People being in charge of this Country, instead of the corporate vote counting software-makers.

    The ability of computers to replicate and multiply information with ease means that electronic ballots can be stolen or manipulated in volumes never before possible with paper. And the major danger comes from insiders (election officials) just as with embezzlement being a top risk in business theft. Traditional computer security protocols leave the keys to the firewall in the hands of “trusted insiders” but with elections there ARE NO trusted insiders: a successful election criminal becomes an election official or other official who makes election policy. Instead, american systems are based on checks and balances (institutionalized DIStrust) but trade secret software makes checks and balances impossible.

    In the end, computers make vote counting invisible and the magic election numbers that result we have no rational basis for confidence in. even the elections officials don’t see either the count or the code, regardless of whether its a touch screen or optical scan system.

    So, while computers are great for many things, and may be required to help the disabled vote, putting technology between a voter and their ballot is inviting fraud at unprecedented levels. Especially since control of the world’s richest country and sole military superpower is at stake with those ballots, there’s all the reason in the world NOT to be naive about the possiblities.

  • relaxandhavefun

    It goes further, in that techies are divided between those who (looking at it solely as a technical problem) seek desperately needed improvements to a flawed voting process, and other techies who, applying also (and sensibly) the standards of democracy and elections to computerized voting systems, wonder how in the world having secret vote counting on the first counts released on election night can possibly be consistent with We the People being in charge of this Country, instead of the corporate vote counting software-makers.

    The ability of computers to replicate and multiply information with ease means that electronic ballots can be stolen or manipulated in volumes never before possible with paper. And the major danger comes from insiders (election officials) just as with embezzlement being a top risk in business theft. Traditional computer security protocols leave the keys to the firewall in the hands of “trusted insiders” but with elections there ARE NO trusted insiders: a successful election criminal becomes an election official or other official who makes election policy. Instead, american systems are based on checks and balances (institutionalized DIStrust) but trade secret software makes checks and balances impossible.

    In the end, computers make vote counting invisible and the magic election numbers that result we have no rational basis for confidence in. even the elections officials don’t see either the count or the code, regardless of whether its a touch screen or optical scan system.

    So, while computers are great for many things, and may be required to help the disabled vote, putting technology between a voter and their ballot is inviting fraud at unprecedented levels. Especially since control of the world’s richest country and sole military superpower is at stake with those ballots, there’s all the reason in the world NOT to be naive about the possiblities.

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