Securing Our Elections

Yesterday The Washington Examiner posted a story about voting in the Netherlands.

The article reports:

Mickey Kaus notes that the Netherlands is going to go back to conducting its elections with paper ballots. “Dutch go old school against Russian hacking,” he notes, linking to a Politico Europe story. Kaus adds an appropriate shout-out to Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who has been calling for paper ballots for years.

Going back to paper ballots may strike many people, as it used to strike me, as retrograde. Isn’t it a lot faster to count electronic votes? Isn’t there a danger that paper ballots can be altered, defaced, and burned? Isn’t electronic voting cooler and more up to date?

As I have stated before, technical things mystify me. However, it does seem to me that having a paper record to verify voting totals is a good idea. It may not be necessary to go back to counting paper ballots by hand if we can scan them by machine and have the physical ballots to verify the totals.

The article concludes:

The fact is that sacrificing a bit of speed for reliability is probably a good trade. The strongest argument for paper ballots is that they can’t be hacked. The second strongest is that there is an independent record of each ballot cast, which some computerized systems lack.

It may take a long time to count ballots in some states where they include many offices and ballot propositions, but people can wait. And recounts of paper ballots can result in disputes over hanging chads and the like, but these are difficulties our republic has been handling for over 200 years. My vote is for paper ballots.

Good idea.

Confirmation Of Something I Heard In Passing

Yesterday I posted some audio from the Michael Savage radio show about a Spanish company that will be counting the votes in the 2012 election. I had no backup for the story, but also had no reason to doubt that it was true. Today I found the backup.

A website called the Western Center for Journalism posted a story about the counting of the election ballots in 2012.

The article reports:

When the Spanish online voting company SKYTL bought the largest vote processing corporation in the United States, it also acquired the means of manufacturing the outcome of the 2012 election. For SOE, the Tampa based corporation purchased by SKYTL in January, supplies the election software which records, counts, and reports the votes of Americans in 26 states–900 total jurisdictions–across the nation.

There are a few very obvious problems with this. The article points out:

Though much has been written about the threat of nationwide voting by illegals in November, it is still true that most election fraud is an “inside” job. And there now exists a purely electronic voting service which uses no physical ballots to which an electronic count can be matched should questions arise. Add to this the fact that the same company will have “first count” on all votes made in 14 US states and hundreds of jurisdictions in 12 others, and the stage is set for election fraud on a scale unimaginable just a decade ago.

It is scary to think that there will be no physical ballots if the results need to be recounted. This could throw the American election in 2012 into chaos.

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I Have No Other Source On This–I Am Posting It Because It Is Important If It Is True

A voting machine on display, Museum of the Cit...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday a United Kingdom website called The Register posted a story stating:

Computer scientists have demonstrated a hack that uses off-the-shelf hardware to tamper with electronic voting machines that millions of Americans will use to cast ballots in the 2012 presidential elections.

I checked a few of the sites I use for fact checking and couldn’t find anything on this story. It could be that the story is too new or it could be that the story is true. I am hoping that the story is not true, but I suspect it is.

The article further reports:

In a video demonstration, researchers from the Vulnerability Assessment Team at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois showed how the card could be used to briefly kill the power to the voting machine’s touch screen to temporarily black out what’s displayed so voters can’t see their choices being modified. Using optional hardware costing about $15, they showed how attackers can remotely tamper with machines from distances as far away as half a mile.

The article does point out that in order to make any large-scale changes to the machines results, you would have physical access to the machines and you would have to change a number of them. Theoretically, if the machines are properly watched, hacking would not be possible. The form of attack on the voting machines mentioned in the article involved modifying the inside of the machines to allow the results of the machine to be tampered with. The video at The Register website demonstrates how this is done.

The article reports that the particular machine described in this report is used in several states:

The AccuVote TS is used in several states, including Maryland and Georgia, although voting officials in some jurisdictions have phased out its use because the DRE, or Direct Recording Electronic, voting system typically offers no print out. That makes it particularly hard to audit results.

Honest elections are an important part of our government. This is a something that needs to be investigated.

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