Gunmen on the grassy knoll, AIDS, landing on the moon, chemtrails, UFO’s, CIA mind control and Waco are some of the well-known conspiracies. But what about George W. Bush’s re-election? This cynicism goes beyond political rhetoric and focuses on our ability to participate in a representative democracy. Developed by the ancient Greeks, one of the first voting systems involved dropping bronze disks into barrels. As technology progressed, the advancements in voting systems surrendered an unacceptable system that lacks accuracy despite public outcry for a paper-verified trail.
A voting system has four characteristics: accuracy, anonymity, scalability, and speed. Current electronic voting machines claim to posses these qualities, but to whose standards? Perfection is not reality and human errors are inevitable. Therefore, elimination of controllable errors becomes top priority. Each state must burden this task without national standards resulting in computer technology as a quick fix to a problem.
Maryland primarily uses Diebold Direct Electronic Voting Machines (DRE) consisting of a standalone computer with a removable smartcard representing each “voting booth.” A study found six percent of Maryland’s DREs malfunctions during the 2004 election relating to machine boot failure to vote swapping (votersunite.org, 2005). Definitely not perfection, but within acceptable limits if the story ends there. Nevertheless, it does not; the results plagued counties all over, especially the deciding state of Ohio. John Kerry demanded a recount in Ohio, but refused to emulate the “hanging-chad” crises of 2000.
A recount of votes in Maryland could only consist of re-reading the smartcards, even if the DRE recorded the vote improperly; there is no way to verify their accuracy. Avi Rubin (2004), a Computer Science Professor at Johns Hopkins University, notes on his weblog how he had many chances to manipulate the outcome at his voting poll. At one point, he held the entire precinct’s smartcards allowing him to swap...