Can You Count on Voting Machines?

Clive Thompson in The New York Times, with a comprehensive look at electronic voting machines:

The earliest critiques of digital voting booths came from the fringe — disgruntled citizens and scared-senseless computer geeks — but the fears have now risen to the highest levels of government. […]

This has created an environment, critics maintain, in which the people who make and sell machines are now central to running elections. Elections officials simply do not know enough about how the machines work to maintain or fix them. When a machine crashes or behaves erratically on Election Day, many county elections officials must rely on the vendors — accepting their assurances that the problem is fixed and, crucially, that no votes were altered.

It’s a good story overall, filled with specific instances where electronic voting machines have either failed completely or simply failed to produce verifiable records for recounts (which is just as bad). But so the computer security experts who’ve been loudly critical of electronic voting machines all along are “the fringe”. They were kooks because they were saying the states were crazy to use these voting systems, because only kooks would argue that states were putting highly suspect and unverifiable voting machines into use; but, now that it’s become apparent from actual elections that these machines are, in fact, highly suspect and unverifiable, it’s just apparently some sort of coincidence that the kooks were right, rather than proof that the officials who put these machines into use were adequately and accurately warned.

Sunday, 6 January 2008