Monday, January 7, 2008

SSC #49 Computers aren't for everything

by Jeff Smith

If you read my column regularly, (that is when I write it regularly) you no doubt know that I am a big fan of computers and electronics. In a word I am a geek. If I could do the dishes from the keyboard I would, and they'd likely get done a lot more often.
Bluetooth enabled refrigerator? Awesome. Battery operated self-warming socks? Very cool. You invented an electronic tomato? All I have to ask is "Does it get WiFi?"
That being said, there's one thing that I don't think should be computerized. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
That one thing would be voting machines.
Right now there is a lot of controversy surrounding electronic voting machines, and rightly so.
Voting machines in Ohio were found to be easily broken into and hacked. False information was able to be introduced via handheld devices that could easily be carried into the booth. Not only that, but they were susceptible to viruses and malignant software.
And its not just in Ohio. The machines in question, manufactured by Elections Systems and Software; Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold; and Hart InterCivic are used in multiple states.
The most popular machines, the Diebold TSx, Sequoia Edge, ES&S iVotronic, and Hart InterCivic eSlate were all found to occasionally flip votes to the opposite of what the voter had chosen.
The Hart InterCivic system is REALLY bad, it allows anybody with access and a passcode to modify vote totals from an election without leaving behind any record of the modification. And these particular voting machines are used in more than 16 different states.
You could be the most morally rigid person in the history of the world, yet your vote could be bought by someone with an agenda you may not approve of. The companies behind these machines do not instill any sense of trust in me at all. They all keep insisting that there is nothing wrong and that everything is fine. Conspiracy theorists! Start your engines!
With all of the recent political controversy, perhaps the Presidential election of 2004 has escaped your memory. In that election, Bush got a near landslide of votes from the inner city areas that turned the tide and narrowly won the election for him. Even though exit polls showed only hours before that he was going to lose. Even though the inner city traditionally leans Democrat. Even though... well you get the idea.
The lifeblood of our nations democratic process is our ability to vote. If our votes are not being accurately counted, then we really have lost all semblance of control over our government. When that happens, this ceases to be a government "by the People, for the People" and becomes instead something sinister and, quite frankly, frightening.
Are you a Democrat? A Republican? An Independant? It really doesn't matter. I don't care if you're in the WIG Party. This matters to all of us. If my personal pick doesn't win in an honest election, I will be unhappy, but if he doesn't win and theres a hint of vote fraud, how will I ever know who SHOULD have won? How will you?

The moral to this story is this: When you vote, double check everything. If there's a receipt, check to be sure that your votes were counted properly. And if they are wrong, DO NOT STAND FOR IT!

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