hit counters

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Can I have a receipt with that?

Laura Donnelly writes in TomPaine.com:

"Electronic voting machines have received a lot of news coverage this election season—especially because they are being installed in important swing states, including Ohio and Florida. There are essentially two main concerns about electronic voting and touch-screen machines. The first is technical malfunctions. The machines can freeze, crash, display incorrect information and incorrectly tally votes. They’re also susceptible to bugs and viruses, just like any other computer. The second concern involves malicious activity by hackers or others intending to change voting outcome. Because the machines’ codes in many cases lack the encryption to keep them secure, a hacker could manipulate the machine to corrupt or delete certain votes.

The benefits that touch-screen voting offers—that’s it accessible for voters with disabilities, that it can accommodate non-English speaking voters, that it removes the hanging-pregnant-dimpled chad problem—simply aren’t big enough to outweigh the risks. Electronic voting machines don’t remove the possibilities that a Florida-like scenario will play out again. They simply transfer vote-counting problems from the low-tech hanging-chad variety to a higher-tech electronic variety. But in the case of another recount, the problems would be essentially the same. Electronic voting machines store data on electronic cartridges. If a recount was needed, all officials could do is review the electronic data—without being able to tell where it was wrong. And a recount of corrupted data is meaningless.

The good news is that there’s one immediate fix for both the technical malfunction concerns and the tampering concerns. It’s a printer. That’s right, a printer. Electronic voting machines are computers, and they can be retrofitted with printers for about $500 per machine. The printer prints a receipt that allows voters to verify that the name they touched on the screen is the same one that shows up on the paper. Election officials retain the receipts in case there’s a recount. If that happens, the paper receipts are compared to the electronic data cartridges to see if the counts match. In case they don’t, the paper receipts are considered accurate, since the voters verified them."

Full story here.


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