Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another voting scandal in Ohio

The people that make voting machines are in my back yard, almost literally. I drive past them every day to work in Canton Ohio (Diebold). As a fervent believer in automation and almost all things technical as progress I have to vote here (and I don't just mean in the elections) -- I have to say I'm completely and totally against Voting machines being used in our elections.

I'm completely serious.

It's time to go back to paper ballots and I'd even go so far as to say we need the U.N. to monitor our elections. Ken Blackwell, the chief of elections for Ohio recently (at least the 04 elections) -- and a republican (he ran as a republican candidate for governor last year, and lost) -- Ken Blackwell was in charge of our voting processes last round. Really sound question here -- how can we trust a voting process in a "two-party" system (some people call it a democracy, but they need to do some research here)? Answer: We can't these days if the machines are as complex as they are, the voting is done with machines made by people with dubious goals, and the people in charge of the voting at the polls don't understand the technology. For these and obvious other reasons, I say it's time we stopped using technology, as there's simply too much at stake, namely our future as a society where we have some choice in our government.

Toss the machines, bring in U.N. Inspectors and then let's architect a system that works -- process and technology -- and one that's transparent, auditable and owned by the people, and not some "party" -- democratic or republican -- the temptation to skew the results is simply too high and near as I can tell it's become something similar to the "re-district" game, whereby some new elected power shift occurs, and the latest party in power tries to move the district boundaries in a state around so that the voting goes more favorably next time. Again, a statistical approach that makes it seam like the real election process is working, but in reality, it's been titled on the board in someone's favor.

Voting machines and new technologies at the booth provide, near as I can tell, an infinite number of new possibilities in this arena. Paper ballots at least would remove the latest round.

The latest scandal involves candidates names dropping off the machine in question (and in many counties from the article). This is compounded by the fact that there's no paper trail on the Diebold machines -- this from a company that makes ATM machines that print a continuous log when you use them. So, let's get this straight -- the cash in an ATM is important enough to audit, but we're going to take away this capability for a process that effectively hands the keys to the world (and the buttons to destroy it as well) over to someone, a process *that* important, it handles *that* and it doesn't log a thing? Oh and we're going to trust a dedicated party member to oversee the usage of such a thing in a non-partisan manner.

Get real -- get rid of this insanity now. We can salvage the technology later if we can come up with a way to make it idiot and fool proof -- for now we have some serious election needs and yes, we probably need the U.N. to watch it all. Sad day...

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Good. So I'm not the only who prefers a more tactile method of voting. I felt comfortable punching chad and (this last election/primary) filling in the bubbles was satisfying as well. I could look at the candidate's name, look at the bubble and get a good sense that my vote would be counted.

And don't count me out as a Luddite, either. While I'm not a complete propeller-head geek, I do appreciate coding and other geeky subjects.

It's just that the "machines" haven't proven to provide repeatable results or be satisfactorily audited (lost cards, easily-broken schemes, etc.). I never got the sense that my vote was going anywhere when I used them in Cuyahoga County. The bubbles are a vast improvement in voter confidence (in my opinion).