Monday, October 30, 2006

Progress Sucks -- Particularly For Florida Democrats

Apparently there are voting problems in Florida already. According to the Miami Herald article linked below, early voting has revealed a glitch that is causing votes for Democrats to suddenly become votes for Republicans.

Hmmmm, does this sound familiar?

That's why I say, give me paper ballots. That's right, paper. With electronic machines, a simple hack can change thousands of votes. But if you want to stuff a ballot box with paper votes, you have to do just that, and it's an awful lot easier to catch.

I know, it's the Computer Age, but there is a reason why they still print books. They are portable and they can be permanent in a way that an electronic record can't be. Once the words are printed on the page, it is very difficult to change them without it being obvious. And you have to do each printed book individually to change more than one.

I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but until they figure out a way to make these machines work right and in a manner that is transparent and secure, give me paper. Hell, a hanging chad affects one vote, a faulty machine puts thousands in question. I'll take the chads any day.

Glitches Cited in Early Voting

1 comment:

doteffects said...

I agree. I have no problem with trying to make the voting process easier, but counting up paper ballots would seem to be the key. I hear many people talk about having a paper receipt for e-voting, but that just doesn't cover it because it is not used for the actual count.

As a programmer and I can tell you that it is pretty easy to stuff one value into a database and provide a paper receipt with a different value on it. Unless you are going to use the paper to do the actual counting it is pointless to have it. It is also easy to switch only some votes. For example, you could switch one vote for every 100 cast for a certain candidate or party. Let’s say that each candidate gets %50 in a dead heat and that there were 1000 ballots cast on the machine. You could take the tally from a 500 – 500 tie to a 505 – 495 win for one candidate (How close was Florida in ’04?). This is still a very close race and may not raise any eyebrows at all. If nobody sees it as out of whack, nobody will ever look at the paper trail. You take that kind of math and multiply it by thousands of machines across the county, state, or country and you take what was a close race and turn it into a landslide, or simply reverse the intended outcome. Suddenly, it looks like all of the polling data before the election was wrong and that the prognosticators don’t know what they are talking about. Hey, that sounds familiar too!

On the other hand, if you use the paper trail as the actual count in the scenario above you would get the original 500 – 500 tie. Every voter would have the chance to review their ballot before it was placed into the box. If they aren’t happy with the paper receipt they have, they just have an election official shred it, and they go back through the line. This would allow for the convenience of e-voting, but make it much harder to fix the outcome.