The Hazards of E-voting
A democracy can only be effective when it runs efficiently, when the will of
the people is transmitted through the corridors of power. It can only hit its
zenith if the most important function of democracy, voting, is carried out
flawlessly. Although flawlessness has never been achieved, men have certainly
tried to keep the voting system as efficient as possible, with the least
possible amounts of votes being lost or mis-counted. Human error is of
course, uncontrollable. This error combined with the partiality of all
humans, prompted the development of machines that would register, store
and count the ballots which were cast. Electronic voting, or e-voting,
soon found advocates and lots of opposition. Many in the opposition thought
of this idea as ephemeral, how could one entrust democracy to an
A Diebold E-vote Machine
As the last election showed, e-voting has gained a strong foothold in the US.
Twenty-eight out of the fifty states1 in the US used e-voting machines in some
counties. This accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. voters on November 232.
Nevada and Maryland3 used the machines in all counties. Do the advantages of
using a machine, outweigh the potential hazards of using a device which can
be manipulated or hacked into?
Grant Gross, from IDG News Services discusses the shortcomings.
"Voting security advocates have raised dozens of concerns about direct electronic
recording machines. Among the complaints about DREs: Some of the back-end vote-
counting tabulators can easily be hacked; some smart cards that provide access
to the machines can be faked; and votes can be lost when machines crash, as
computers sometimes do."4 The security issues with these machines is one of the
many causes of complaint that e-voting’s detractors have. Election reform
advocates rallied in 19 states this summer, demanding that the machines be
retrofitted to produce paper ballots that could be tallied in the event of
a recount. Computer scientists from coast to coast have warned that the
machines sometimes err in counting votes and could be easily compromised
by hackers intent on disrupting elections. In either case, they say, a
manual recount would be meaningless if it was based on corrupted electronic data.5
A paper trail would be used to recount the votes if it were suspected that the
machine was not giving an accurate count of the votes. "Most machines cannot
print a so-called voter-verified paper trail, so when a politician demands a
recount, most DREs will simply spit out the same set of disputed numbers again
and again."6 Not only does this make it impossible to have effective recounts
that could help in the event of a serious computing error, it also puts vote
tampering into the spotlight. If a paper trail is non-existent then it would
be much harder to detect if the votes have been tampered with. This brings
into question the veracity of the...