E-Voting – Elections may be impacted!

28 October 2008 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

It seems like just yesterday that the 2000 election concluded with the US Supreme Court deciding the election because of hanging chads! So given the number of early complaints it seems that the 2008 election may also be decided in the courts....maybe not because of hanging chads, but some electronic voting glitch.

Were things better before E-voting?

Some voters wish for the old lever machines or paper ballots, but unfortunately most people don’t understand that the lever machines led to unreliable vote totals. Lever machines were simple in that each voter pulled a lever for their candidate and a wheel in the back of the machine added one more number to the candidate’s totals. However, if someone wanted to change an outcome, the wheels could be increased to help one candidate, and as long as the person changing the votes also reduced another candidate’s count no one would know. Or even paper ballots are not perfect since an enterprising person could replace ballots to change the outcome. As a matter of fact there are some elections that require voters to use pencils to complete paper ballots...how unreliable is a pencil vote?

E-Voting Systems are Pretty Reliable

In 1986, before there were any computer election system laws in Texas, I represented 6 candidates for City Council in Dallas who were concerned about the use of Dallas County’s computer election system since the only other county in the country using that particular system was Cook County, Illinois. So Dallas County agreed to a re-count mechanism to validate the count rather than deal with an injunction. The next year 1987, I worked with the Texas Legislature to create a computer election law which included a certification process by the Texas Secretary of State. For the next 13 years I was an Examiner for the Texas Secretary of State of computer election systems. During that I time Texas developed a very strict set of rules for certification and as a result it seems to me that the validation process of computer election systems in Texas means that the results of the 2008 election should be reliable. Primarily because in Texas there is a testing process before and after each election to validate the counting process, but what cannot be quantified in any election are individuals who may figure ways to change the election vote. However, that’s endemic to the election process and cannot be totally eliminated. As a matter of fact, every election requires human integrity to protect the actual votes, whether for President of the US or high school.

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