Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paper Vote Verification Now

Back in September, our Representative Scott Garrett took to the floor to argue against a voter-verified paper audit trail. The crux of his argrument was that it opened up the potential for votes to be sold, as if as a member of Congress he had a special understanding of how that worked.

Fortunately, most of us don't live in a world where that kind of activity is the norm. However, we all live in a world where the ability to verify the integrity and accuracy of a vote count is at the core of how we function as a society.

Now, we find out that Premier Election Solutions Inc. (Diebold) has confirmed people's fear about their electronic voting machines dropping votes and the validity of concerns about our electoral process in the electronic age.

From the AP:
At least 1,000 total votes were dropped in nine Ohio counties over the course of a handful elections back to 2006, including the March presidential primary, though the error was in all cases discovered and corrected within several hours. Premier Election Solutions Inc. previously had said complications with antivirus software caused the problem, but on Tuesday the company said in a product advisory that the problem is with the machines themselves.

And from the Washington Post:
Unlike other software, the problem acknowledged by Premier cannot be fixed by sending out a coding fix to its customers because of federal rules for certifying election systems, Rigall said. Changes to systems must go through the Election Assistance Commission, he said, and take two years on average for certification and approval -- and that is apart from whatever approvals and reviews would be needed by each elections board throughout the country.

We're heading into the biggest Election in modern political history, and the machines used in 34 states drop votes? And they happen to be more problematic in "high density" areas (read urban)? And the company has known about the problem for 10 years?

It's bad enough that the machines have been shown to be hackable, now we know they've had a known programing bug that drops votes. Our process is too important not to have a paper trail to audit.

My hope is, with yet another revelation of how at risk our process has become, Garrett and others who have opposed the efforts of Representative Rush Holt to provide simple vote verification might actually see the error of their ways. I doubt it, but one can hope.

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