Voting Machines – Missing the Point

The Washington Post writes a long article and misses the point. Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting,

The newer technology, such as touch-screen and optical scan systems, held the promise of making voting more secure, transparent and accessible. But as the new technology was implemented, voting rights activists raised questions about whether vendors had paid enough attention to security. Activists pushed for the use of technology that still provided a paper record.
Many of the criticisms of voting technology were originally dismissed as exaggerations promulgated by partisans displeased with election results. But the criticisms have been viewed with increasing gravity as prominent computer scientists have rallied behind them. Although it has not been shown that an election was compromised by a security flaw, several elections since 2000, including in this year’s primaries, have experienced problems with the technology that have delayed results.

The paper records are the point. Security of the machines does not matter, the code in the computers does not matter, nothing matters if the machines print a paper ballot that the voter looks at and puts into a ballot box for election officials to count. That is PROOF of how the voter voted. If you have the paper to count, there is no point in trying to rig the machines because you’ll get caught. You can still have instant election results that come from the machine. People will trust it if you can go to the paper and count it. If you can count it you can prove it. If you can’t count it, you can’t prove it.

Without a paper record that the voter has looked at and put in a ballot box the election is worthless. It is based on trust, not proof. Without a paper record you just have to trust what the operators of the voting machines tell you. You walk up to a computer, push a few buttons on a screen, and then later they tell you who won. Right.
Who do these voting machine companies refuse to provide printers, so the voter can look at a ballot and put it in a ballot box, so that later the ballots can be counted to verify – prove – the election results? This would increase their profits, but they won’t do it! Why?
Without a paper ballot printed by these machines, there is no way to prove what the voters wanted. There is no way to prove that the machine actually recorded your vote the way you voted. Assurances do not matter to the voter, who can just say, “Prove it.” If you can’t prove it you can’t prove it. And every single citizen has the right to demand proof, without being mocked and called names.

7 thoughts on “Voting Machines – Missing the Point

  1. Dave, you know what I’m going to say, and I’m surprised I have to say it to you.
    Although you do alternate confusingly between references to paper ballots and “paper records”, whatever they are, NEVER EVER SAY ANYTHING EXCEPT PAPER BALLOTS. Thank you.

  2. This WaPo article is a great example of shifting the universe of discourse to avoid a discussion of the real problem.
    First, the new technology never held any promise of greater security. Anyone with any experience at all with computer technology knows that. But we are told that only “activists” are concerned about security. Everyone with any knowledge at all is concerned.
    Even worse, the real question is finessed by the Post: What are private corporations doing counting our votes? That’s the real issue. There should be no, none, zero proprietary interests involved in any way whatever with vote counting. But the Post passes over that one without even a glance. Because they are a corporation and their interests are identical to those of the corporate manufacturers of the fraudulent voting machines.

  3. Dave,
    the WashPo aka ‘Pravda on the Potomac’ misses the point quite regularly. Thanks for this update!

  4. Go to the grocery store and use a debit or credit card and you are given…a paper trail.Proof of a transaction that has taken place.We go to a voting booth in this country that is capable of the same sophistication that a grocery store has and we don’t demand the same credibiity? What? I vote in a little old school house out in the middle of nowhere and let me tell you,my vote gets counted.Mostly it never makes much difference cionsidering where I vote but it at least gets counted.Maybe you all need to demand the same.Takes forever.Is subject to some human error I have no doubt, but then again is checked a few times..Seems to work.

  5. In addition to knras’ comment, I seem to recall seeing the name “Diebold” on my bank’s ATMs. If a Diebold-made ATM can prompt you for a receipt, why can’t a Diebold-made voting machine provide a receipt as well? (I’d note too that my bank’s ATMs automatically print a receipt if you select the “Fast Cash” option.)

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