Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Electronic Voting Machines- Burned by a Bad Idea

I want to preference this by pointing out something obvious to anyone who knows me- I'm no luddite. I'm an early adopter of technology actually- from wireless networking to the iPhone, I'm on the front edge of this kind of stuff.

But I'm also a major privacy advocate, and I have always felt that electronic voting was at best a good idea with slipshod implementation, and at worst a dangerous undermining of democracy- yes, that sounds paranoid, but Diebold is the big player, and these gentlemen shouldn't be making cash registers for elementary school lunch programs. It's interesting that their ATMs rarely make errors, but I think that's because banks aren't not very tolerant of third-party mathematical errors in consumer transaction. Of course for me the big concern is that the underlying possibility that Diebold has a political agenda.

But this isn't a Diebold rant. This is a generalised rant. I went. I voted. Only my vote wasn't counted. That's right. I filled out my 'ballot'. I walked over to the machine. I put my ballot in while watching the total count. It was at 209 before I inserted the ballot, it stayed at 209 while the ballot was inserting. It stayed at 209 after it disappeared.

I went over and got a volunteer. Astonishingly, she took a key and opened the ballot box. That's right, opened it. One person, with no one but me watching her. She confirmed that my ballot wasn't jammed. I asked what happened next.

She took my name and phone number and told me someone would 'look into it.'

The monster that ate my vote, of course, just sat there, a big, dump, fraking box. My ballot ? Gone. And here at 11 PM,
the state has been called, my vote is still gone, and who knows if this particular machine will be audited. The sheet that my exception was written on was either the 3rd or 4th exception- it was hard to read them as they were hand written. That's between a 1.4 and 1.9 (or so) margin of reported error. Over 1% ?

Not acceptable, not at all.

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