Checks and Balances

Well, tis the season, so let’s start things off right by discussing voting machines. I’m not talking about the mechanical variety of the past such as the Votomatic. No, I’m talking about the digital variety. Go ahead and roll your eyes. Come on you say, how could this possibly be a bad idea. Think of the drastic increases in efficiency! (excuse me while I swallow a little puke in the back of my throat)

There exists no computer system in the word that is incapable of being subversively manipulated. Let me see a show of hands from all who would prefer to put the fate of our individual freedoms in the hands of a bunch of interconnected computers. I know, I know, I’m being overly dramatic. I mean its not like we scanned the bill of rights to some network attached storage using optical character recognition software and threw away the original! I’m probably just making a big deal out of nothing. That whole 2004 election controversy didn’t really sink in all that much anyway.

I have to admit, my first opinion on the subject was that any electronic voting in any capacity was ludicrous. After a little more research and contemplation, I’ve changed my opinion on the subject. Black box voting on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems is the real problem here.

By black box voting, I am referring to systems with proprietary operations to which there is no disclosure of their inner workings. These closed source systems have no peer review process. Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) is that which has no paper trail whatsoever. This makes the potential for a recount kinda low. Together, this volatile combination effectively eliminates the US system of checks and balances.

Bev Harris, founder of Black Box Voting Inc., a national nonpartisan, nonprofit elections watchdog group, discusses many of these concepts in her book: Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering in the 21st Century (which is freely downloadable online)

One of the more thorough reviews of modern day electronic voting systems was detailed in the EVEREST report (Evaluation and Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards and Testing)

The basic idea is this. Require that the schematics, firmware, application software and fully operational hardware samples of revisions consistent with those to be commissioned into service be put under professional peer review before every major engineering university and hacker conference in America. This would surely occur 1 year prior to election usage.

As always, the caliber of our reader dictates that I not preach into your eye for too long without giving you a little search adventure of your own. Here’s a little Google jump start…

Premier Election Solutions wiki
Princeton Diebold Virus Hack
Diebold security key picture


~ by thejaundicedmonocle on February 20, 2008.

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