Technoparanoia and the future of Democracy

Are you afraid that technology could be used to

steal the USian presidental election?
I am.

Are you afriad that technology could prevent us from getting it back again? I am. (I’m thinking of surveilance technology, combined with data mining and the like–“Patriot Act, Orwellian stuff”– that could thwart a democratic counter-coup in the name of fighting “terrorists.”)

Suggestion: Let’s bombard our senators and congressmen, govenors, secretaries of state, newspaper editors and anybody else we can think of — before it’s too late.

Update: Futher suggestion — support black box voting, an organization that’s tackling this issue head-on.

One Comment

  1. One thing the article doesn’t mention is how important it is for an average citizen to be able to walk into a polling place and determine their portion of an election is fair:

    * That all eligible voters are allowed to vote.

    * That ineligible people are not allowed to vote.

    * That each voter is allowed to vote once.

    * That votes are not added, removed, or changed by the election judges.

    * That the votes cast are counted properly. (This includes the possibility of a fair recount in my book.)

    * That no individual voter can be connected with a particular ballot (…which would allow both goons beating up people who voted ‘wrong’ and people outside the polls buying votes.)

    That’s a tall collection of requirements, but my county does a pretty good job of meeting them, imho.

    A person walking into the polling place can look around for obvious signs of fraud — do people follow you around and look over your shoulder as you mark your ballot? Are there cameras overhead looking down into the voting booths?

    It’s right in more subtle ways, too. Pre-registered voters sign their names next to their listing in the big alphebatized book of voters — but nobody marks down what time you arrived … so nobody can corelate the order people voted with the order of the stored ballots. I don’t hear the whirr of a shreader when my ballot goes into the counting machine, so the ballots still exist to be recounted by hand. The election judges are from multiple parties, so there is less chance of collusion. And so on.

    The “self-auditing” machines can’t result in an election where it’s self-evident there is no behind-the-scenes ballot stuffing going on. As a private citizen, I don’t get to see the source code. As an ‘average’ citizen, I might not understand the code, particularly a subtle bias built into some minor routine. Even if someone shows me the code I can’t tell if that’s the version that’s running in the voting machine in front of me. A power failure or a crash at an unfortunate time might (or might not) result in the loss of the last vote — who can tell?

    Rebecca Mercuri’s “voter-verified paper audit trail” (first mentioned on page 3 of The Nation’s article) can give you fair elections. Bugs / trojan horses / fraud in the code will be revealled when a voter looks at the printed ballot or when there is a recount.

    VVPAT machines can also fix some minor problems. They reduce ambiguity … no dimpled chad with this system. It IS possible to vote for someone you didn’t intend to … but to vote wrong you need to be careless TWICE. At that point I’m willing to say IT’S YOUR OWN *#$# FAULT. And SOME disabled people can vote without an assistant … for instance, a synthesized voice can read your options to you over headsets … but that wouldn’t help a voter who is both blind and deaf.

    Really, though, it’s possible to run a fair election with a ream of paper, a box of crayons, and honest election judges.

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