easy to manipulate the underlying algorithms that do
the counting and analysis within the software."
Voting: The Potential for Cheating and Fraud and Solutions For Prevention
Posted May 15, 2003 thepeoplesvoice.org
Rob Kall email@example.com
published in Bucks County Courier Times Daily Newspaper and OpEdNews.com
use of computerized voting software has emerged so quickly. With some states
and the federal government banning punch card ballots, the explosion of
computerized voting will continue at a greater pace than ever.
an experienced software developer, it amazes me that there do not appear to
be any laws that consider the ways voting software can be inappropriately
manipulated. It is incredibly easy to cheat the system, for one bad apple or
rogue programmer to literally steal an election, or a lot of elections.
majority of election software programs are privately owned (with major
republican shareholders, like Senator Chuck Hagel, who appears to have
failed to disclose his ownership of shares in a private holding company
owning a substantial share of stock in the company that did all the vote
counting for his election, and which counts 60 percent of all votes cast in
the US. itís even stranger that this parent company bears the same last
name as Hagelís campaign finance director ) or subsidiaries owned by non
US companies (Sequoia Voting Systems, with voting machines in 16 states, is
owned by a UK company, De La Rue.)
ownership raises more questions about the safety of the integrity of the
ballot. But even if companies were publicly held or government owned the
risks of corruption are too great.
easy to manipulate the underlying algorithms that do the counting and
analysis within the software. Itís easy to add switches which can be
remotely turned on or off, converting a program from normal functioning to
cheating-- to distorting the data. It only takes one person who knows what
to do. And the nefarious switches can even be set to disappear after
theyíve been used.
a voting software company did allow corruption of the vote counting process,
what could we do? How would we even know, since these companies insist that
we trust them and then refuse to allow full inspection and checking of all
revisions and software "fixes."
by some miracle, illegal vote count modifications were detected, what
recourse would we have? Fine the company? Pursue civil litigation for
damages due to software malfunction? Most likely, a hacker would be blamed.
Just think about how many hundreds of viruses are created by people who are
never caught. The likelihood of identifying the actual person who did the
deed would be almost impossible, and catching anyone higher up in the
company who enabled the vote count corruption would be even more difficult.
How can we possibly entrust our election process to such risk, to such naive
trust in a system so vulnerable to criminal hijacking?
thereís a way to keep voting software honest.
each person register his vote selections on the computer. Then have the
computer print the selections out so they are easily readable.
voter, after checking that the ballot matches his intended vote, personally
inserts his one ballot into a reader, like the airlines now use when people
board a plane. Election officials count the votes from the printed ballot.
Then, they check to make sure that it matches what the computer reports.
then is the computer allowed to transmit its results to a central computer.
Afterwards, the state or county or city prints out final counts as reported
by all the computers. Local voting locations will then officially confirm
that the final count matches their hand count. If there are any
discrepancies, they will be publicly reported. This approach would provide
the precision of computer power and the trustworthiness of joint counting by
poll watchers from both parties. It would neutralize any possibility of
cheating, and, at the same time, insure that people actually get their votes
counted as they intend-- no more dangling chads or confused votes for the
wrong candidate because of poor ballot design. The voter will actually be
able to read his or her final selection before submitting the actual ballot.
Harris operator of http://www.blackboxvoting.com/ and author of the book,
Black Box Voting; Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, to be released in
May, offers these suggestions
Retrofit current machines and require new ones to print a voter-verified
paper receipt, which goes directly into a ballot box with the same
protections we've always had on the ballot box.
Because many states have (inexplicably) passed laws that prohibit election
officials from ever looking at the paper ballot -- in states like Nebraska,
EVEN IN THE CASE OF A RECOUNT-- we need to revise the laws, getting rid of
restrictions preventing humans from doing ballot counting. Allow ANY
precinct to volunteer to do a hand-count and compare it with machine totals.
Also, allow ANY citizen to pay for a hand-count (make it reasonably priced
and have universities provide the service as part of a political science
course). If the citizen's hand audit reveals a significant error, he does
not have to pay for it, since he's done a public service.
Require companies to disclose errors in sales presentations and to the
Require companies to disclose ownership and key people
If the machines show a large error, it needs to trigger a wider audit, and
if the machines elect the wrong candidate, the right candidate needs to be
installed in office when it is discovered. (Sounds
but right now these steps aren't usually taken.)"
are many ways where it is handy to replace human work with computers. But
for some sacrosanct activities, like the election process, computers,
working alone, are a bad idea. We can increase the accuracy and reliability
of voting by using computers, but it should always be done with inclusion of
real humans doing the double checking and counting. The vote is too precious
to trust to computer error or the risk of intentional or accidental software
corruption. Congress should pass a law banning any use of computers in
voting that does not include double checking by real humans. Anything less
endangers the integrity of the voting process.
Kall is Founder, publisher of OpEdNews.Com
President of Futurehealth Inc., and founder organizer of the Winter Brain
and StoryCon meetings. This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission
is granted for reprint in print, email, or web media so long as this credit