E-Voting in the American

by on May 23, 2007 · 0 comments

I’ve got a new article on e-voting up at the American. The basic argument will be familiar to regular TLF readers:

The fundamental problem with computerized voting machines is their lack of transparency. In order to ensure that elections are conducted fairly and accurately, it is important that election officials, candidates, and members of the general public be able to observe and verify every stage of the election process. Computerized voting machines make independent verification of election procedures extremely difficult because important steps of the election process, including recording, tallying, and reporting votes, occur unseen inside a computer chip.

That’s not the only reason e-voting is dangerous. One of the important safeguards in the traditional election process is that it is extremely labor-intensive. Thousands of people are involved in the process of collecting and counting votes. As a result, stealing an election almost always requires a large, organized conspiracy that would be hard to keep secret. In contrast, e-voting can allow a single, well-placed individual to tamper with the software of numerous voting machines at once, potentially altering the outcome of an election in an entire congressional district or state. Indeed, this is more than a hypothetical scenario. Last fall, Princeton computer science professor Ed Felten obtained a widely-used e-voting machine and created a virus that could be used to steal an election. The virus would spread from machine to machine through the memory cards that install software upgrades…

The safest course of action is to return to a tried and true technology: paper ballots. There are a variety of ways to mark and tally paper ballots, but probably the best choice is optical-scan machines. These have a proven track record, and many state election officials have decades of experience with them.

I go on to discuss the Holt bill, which is certainly less than ideal, but which in my judgment would be a big improvement over the status quo.

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