July 30, 2003


“What we know is that the machines can’t be trusted. It’s an unlocked bank vault …, a disaster waiting to happen,” said David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor who has prompted more than 110 fellow scientists to sign a petition calling for more accountability in voting technology.

The researchers fear that problems with software systems will result in hacking and voter fraud, allowing people to cast extra votes and poll workers to alter ballots undetected. . . .

“Why are we putting our democracy on computers that aren’t ready to go?” added Rebecca Mercuri, a computer science professor at Bryn Mawr College and an expert on electronic voting.

Election bureaucrats dismiss this as “paranoid,” but (1) I trust professors of computer science more than courthouse hacks; and (2) Even to the extent that’s true, a voting system that inspires paranoia is hardly a good thing.

I suspect that fraud is a big problem, and that the Florida election, because of its closeness, just revealed a problem that had been there all along. I also think that there’s not enough pressure to fix it because most of the fraud is in local elections, on behalf of the local political apparatus, and there’s nobody with both the power to fix it, and a sufficient incentive to do so. The only good thing is that the decentralization of electoral authority means that it’s not systemic at the national level. To the extent that there’s fraud in national elections, it probably tends to cancel out.

But this is a real issue, and it shouldn’t be dismissed as tinfoil-hat nonsense. (Via TalkLeft).