Sunday, June 27, 2004

Media Ignored E-Vote Problems

KAREN CHARMAN, FAIR - If mainstream media outlets had devoted as much ink and airtime to electronic voting machines as they had to O.J. Simpson, Monicagate or even Janet Jackson's breast, the outcome of our next presidential election might not depend on machines that can be programmed to favor one candidate over another without anyone ever knowing. As it is, nearly one-third of the American electorate will cast their votes on one of the more than 150,000 electronic voting machines whose integrity is in doubt.

The manufacturers of touch-screen computerized voting machines--specifically, direct recording electronic voting machines--claim to be able to "do the impossible," says Stanford University computer science professor David Dill. "They are using conventional hardware and software, and given that's the case, they cannot make these machines sufficiently reliable or secure to be used in an election."

The biggest problem, according to Dill, is that there are so many ways to rig the machine by inserting hidden code. They can, say, lose one out of every 100 votes for a certain candidate, or switch votes from one candidate to another. The machines could easily be programmed to display one thing but record another, so the voter would be no wiser. By writing code to start and stop programming changes at specific times, "you could hide this so that nobody could see it in the program or catch it during testing," he told Extra!. Without a paper ballot that voters can verify, there is nothing to check against the accuracy of the machine tally. And recounts are no longer possible, because the machines can only restate their results.


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