Sunday, April 24, 2005

First, Fix the Fix 

Forget the "message," forget the "values," forget the "framing." Forget Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Liberals?" As Zemblan patriot B.K. is fond of saying, there is one crucial issue that must be addressed if Democrats are to have any hope of recapturing Congress or the White House. From Susan Pynchon, in the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
I am appalled that Secretary of State Glenda Hood and state elections officials have been promoting touch-screen voting machines with all the enthusiasm of hired salespeople, in spite of mounting evidence that these machines have failed miserably in elections nationwide.

Hood stated recently that touch-screen machines are "not vulnerable to hacking." This is patently untrue. A government-authorized hacker recently showed North Carolina legislators how easily the state's touch-screen machines could be hacked. In Maryland, officials commissioned a computer-security expert to rig a fake election using the state's Diebold machines. The authorized hacker broke into the computer at the state Board of Elections, completely changed the election results, erased his trail and got out without a trace . . . a feat accomplished in under five minutes.

Both the optical-scan machines (used now by Volusia County voters) and the touch-screen machines (which Volusia County Council recently approved for voters with disabilities) are computers and are highly vulnerable to hacking through wireless technology or through access to the central tabulator. These machines also are vulnerable to faulty or malicious programming, human error, screen freeze-ups, breakdowns and other problems all too familiar to anyone who owns a computer. The important difference is that optical-scan machines have a fail-safe ability to independently recount paper ballots.

Hood needed only to look to Miami-Dade County to realize that her rosy analysis of touch-screen voting is somewhere out in la-la land. The Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections recently resigned, under pressure, due to lost votes on iVotronic touch-screen voting machines. In addition to 1,200 votes lost in one election, Miami-Dade officials believe that five municipal elections also were compromised.

Miami-Dade, after spending $24.5 million on touch-screen technology, is considering junking those machines and purchasing the far-more reliable and independently verifiable optical-scan machines. The sad truth is that, without independent paper ballots to verify election results, no one can accurately recreate what happened -- or didn't happen -- in Miami-Dade County.

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