Home > Politics > Great answer to the wrong question regarding e-voting

Great answer to the wrong question regarding e-voting

Thom Hartmann (twitter @thom_hartmann) tweeted today with a link to a paper with good, concrete suggestions on how to vastly improve communications among various election officials, with a particular focus on how to communicate various failure modes of e-voting systems. While the specific suggestions were great, they were apparently based on what I consider to be the WRONG answers to the following questions:

  1. Should we trust the integrity of our elections to equipment that isn’t required to produce a voter verifiable, hand countable (at the very least for audit purposes, but more importantly for recount) paper trail? The entire paper assumes that this question has already been answered: “Yes”
  2. Should we trust our elections by placing the recording of votes in the hands of private, for profit companies who won’t disclose their source code for analysis? Again, the entire paper assumes that this question has already been answered: “Yes”
  3. Should we accept “making the current system better” (through his proposals) as sufficient to “fix” our system. Yet again, the entire paper assumes that this question has already been answered: “Yes”

I submit that the answer to all 3 of the above questions is: “Not only NO, but HELL NO!”

Elections are the ultimate expression of the will of us, the humble voter. As such, accepting the impossibility of a true recount (Question 1) undermines destroys completely any faith we might have in the outcome! If we can’t guarantee that our vote is recorded as we intended, we can’t trust ANY outcome!

Voting is the essential act of Democracy. It’s the only time we, the humble voter, have where we can clearly, unequivocally and universally communicate our desires to our elected officials. If there is anything that is an essential function of any government, it is the counting and tabulation of the vote. I submit that there is no governmental action LESS suited to outsourcing to private companies (Question 2) than this function. As voters, we should demand the complete removal of the profit motive from any element of our voting mechanisms – which actually goes further than demanding a good form of  “communication” about election machine failures as outlined in the paper.

Making the existing system better simply cannot work to insure the integrity of our elections! (Question 3) While I would prefer that we return to hand marked, hand counted, and hand tabulated elections – with the latter 2 steps done in public view, I would accept a system where, should irregularities appear in a machine count or tabulation, it is guaranteed that we can do the latter 2 steps if necessary! But the only way I can see to accomplish the essential task of recording our votes while guaranteeing that our vote can be counted as we intended is to return to manual ballots.

I haven’t blogged much about e-voting prior to this, but I’ve been paying it a lot of attention! I heartily recommend that you visit Brad Friedman’s site: The Brad Blog — And here are links directly to his archives of Election Irregularities and Election Reform. Brad also has links throughout his site to others addressing these issues, so I’m not going to give a long list of OTHER links here, but one is worth highlighting: Black Box Voting.

That’s all for now! Looking forward to your comments,


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  1. 16 Sep 2010 at 01:15

    Steven –

    Thanks for your kind words and for this piece. Please KEEP making noise!


  2. NorthernNeighbour
    16 Sep 2010 at 01:42

    Is Brad in a future time zone? 🙂

    Yes thanks for spreading the word. I have been following Brad’s blog since 05 and we need many more of you out there fighting this most neglected , NUMBER 1, problem.

    • Steve
      16 Sep 2010 at 01:54

      My wordpress account seems to always use GMT. I never took the time to figure out how to fix it!

      It’s still the 15th as I type this from the PDT (GMT – 8:00) time zone!

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