December 22, 2003

One man, one vote

It works for the Patrician, why not for us?

Diebold's been in the news again, this time because the most recent California election (and Terminator references aren't really appropriate -- it seems more like something out of a Phillip K. Dick novel) that used machines whose software wasn't certified by the state elections board. (Most, but not all, of the machines met the federal standards, but that doesn't really matter as it wasn't a federal election. The state wins here) Including LA county, which last I heard has just a few people living in it. LA's machines were neither state nor federally certified, so arguably the election results could be called into question if someone with standing wanted to do so.

Like any self-respecting geek, I'm well aware of the problems with the current setup of electronic voting machines in the US. We've got machines whose internals can't be inspected (and therefore can't be verified), with hardware that allows external connections, sold by companies with strong political motivations, in some cases (Diebold in particular) with top executives who have strongly partisan positions, performing an activity that's arguably the single most important function in a republic. (It's not that machine-based voting's anything new--I'm from Connecticut and we've been using mechanical voting machines for somewhere around the past century, give or take a bit. With those, though, someone can look in and inspect the gears and cogs and see if they're in proper order, and tampering is both difficult to do and really difficult to do in a widespread way)

This doesn't, however, engender the expected moral outrage. Far from it. I've actually been waiting for the state to propose these, so I can go up and testify. Something like:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm here to testify in favor of the proposed electronic voting system before you. Not, I should point out, because I think it's trustworthy, accurate, and tamper-proof. Far from it. These systems are a piece of crap. Crap, though, which can be hacked en masse from a distance, and I figure at some point I'll feel the need to boot one or more of you out of office, and having these machines in place is the easiest way to make that happen.

So if you hear I've been arrested you'll know why. :)

If I can ponder that, though, so can other people. All the testimony and complaint I've heard has been in the typical condescending "You're an ignorant buffoon, let me educate you even though I know you can't comprehend the workings of my magnificent brain" way that geek arguments tend to have. Y'know what? That's a load of crap. I'll bet a dollar that not only have some folks in power not only realize this, but chose these systems specifically because they can be hacked into, queried, and altered with no audit trail left or record of the original votes. (I'd bet a dollar that it's already happened more than once, as well) Hell, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the lack of verifiable audit trail in the designs of at least one of the voting systems is on purpose.

This is politics. There's a lot of power and a lot of money involved. That tends to attract a considerable number of people who are, for lack of a better word, scum. Clever, suave, intelligent (yes, as smart as you, possibly more so), slick scum. Getting the right people in power, often not yourself, is a very good way to increase your score, build your empire, or get off making all the puppets and pawns dance to your tune.

Don't ever forget that. They certainly won't.

Posted by Dan at December 22, 2003 01:02 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20031211.html

Posted by: PaulT at December 26, 2003 01:03 AM

One thing I will never understand, how can
people listen to the government say:
"Trust us, we're the good guys. What, you
don't think we're good guys? What was your
name again?"
without getting serious shivers up their back.

Posted by: Kris at January 8, 2004 08:28 PM