The fancy electronic voting machines that millions of people used in the 2008 elections are really nifty. They make voting easier and faster. They have slick graphics and touch screens. They also make electoral fraud as easy as pushing a button. Sadly, in the world of politics, if abuse is possible, it must be considered actual.
As far back as 2003, the flaws in electronic voting machines were detailed in the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute Technical Report. The report identified a number of extremely troubling problems with the security of the voting machines.
The Johns Hopkins report on Diebold’s AccuVote-TS 4.3.1 electronic voting system found that “…voters can trivially cast multiple ballots with no built-in traceability, administrative functions can be performed by regular voters, and the threats posed by insiders such as poll workers, software developers, and janitors is even greater. Based on our analysis of the development environment, including change logs and comments, we believe that an appropriate level of programming discipline for a project such as this was not maintained. In fact, there appears to have been little quality control in the process.”
According to an article by Mitch Trachtenberg on Bradblog.com, “a public hearing in California, Diebold’s western region manager has admitted that the audit log system on current versions of Premier Election Solutions’ (formerly Diebold’s) electronic voting and tabulating systems — used in some 34 states across the nation — fails to record the wholesale deletion of ballots, even when ballots are deleted on the same day as an election.” Trachtenberg says that “An election system’s audit logs are meant to record all activity during the system’s actual counting of ballots, so that later examiners may determine, with certainty, whether any fraudulent or mistaken activity had occurred during the count. Diebold’s software fails to do that, as has recently been discovered by Election Integrity advocates in Humboldt County, CA, and then confirmed by the CA Secretary of State. The flaws, built into the system for more than a decade, are in serious violation of federal voting system certification standards.”
There is good news for voters on the horizon. In 2007, the We the People Foundation instigated a federal lawsuit in New York “seeking to hold election officials in all fifty states accountable for their deprivation of the People’s fundamental Right to Vote because of the use of non-verifiable electronic and mechanical machine-based vote counting.” The case was dubbed the “National Clean Elections Lawsuit,” (NCEL). According to WTP, the “complaint requests the Court impose not only a total ban all vote counting machines (mechanical and electronic) but to impose on state election officials a detailed manual vote counting and certification procedure based solely on the use of plain paper ballots, hand-marked, stored, counted and certified at each precinct level polling location, in full view of the public, at all times.” That case is now going to trial, (No. 1:07-CV-943). Judge Lawrence E. Kahn of the United States District Court, Northern District of New York, has ordered parties to the suit to prepare for a jury trial. The trial date is set for September 20, 2010.
With the heightened passions of public debate and discord, the security and integrity of the election process is essential to provide a peaceful expression of the public will. The court’s ruling can go a long way to help restore the credibility of our representative system of government.
The NCEL case is critical to the sanctity of one of our most precious rights. Its outcome, and how local, state and federal elections officials respond, will demonstrate our national commitment to free, fair and honest elections. The questions and concerns regarding the irresponsibility of electoral officials to verify the security of electronic voting machines may be less important if the NCEL suit prevails. If it does not, then the systemic corruption implicit in the machines’ built-in design flaws will be revealed for all to see.