Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Avoid “faith based voting” in Hawaii, cast a paper ballot
by Larry Geller
Are Hawaii’s voting machines safe to use? Should you trust them? Disappeared News believes not. It’s better to vote using a paper ballot. Although since those ballots are read by other machines, there’s still no guarantee of accuracy.
In 2009, Babson v. Cronin stopped the state, temporarily, from transmitting election results via telephone or the Internet. The Office of Elections had not bothered to put rules in place that either permitted electronic transmission or protected voters against problems, including the infamous “man in the middle” attack. Votes could be transmitted surreptitiously to a computer located anywhere in the world, then sent to the Office of Elections, and they’d never know it. See: Hawaii’s 2010 elections enjoined by Maui judge, (5/20/2009).
The state reacted to the lawsuit by belatedly putting rules in place.
So are we now assured that votes cast on the electronic machines are safe?
No. There is, in fact, no way that users of the machines can be sure that their votes were not “flipped” to the other party or otherwise changed.
How come? Each machine has a paper verification, right? I can check my vote to see if it is correct.
No, unfortunately you can’t. As blogger and election watchdog Brad Friedman pointed out in an interview with WBAI News last night, the paper printouts are not used in the voting process.
You can verify your ballot and the machine can still write whatever it wants onto the memory card.
In other words, you vote for candidate “A”, and the printout you are looking at shows “A” but the machine writes “B” to its memory card. And “B” will be the vote counted.
Friedman wrote last week:
Some DRE systems pretend to offer voters the chance to review a "paper trail" printed alongside the machine, which is supposed to show which candidates and initiatives the voter is hoping to vote for. But these paper trails are not actually counted by anyone. The numbers used to calculate winners and losers are recorded inside the computer hardware; tallies don't come from the computer's touch-screen, nor from what's printed on those little rolls of paper. [Slate, The Faith-Based Vote, 10/27/2010]
…when voters do bother to review the electronic summary at the end of the voting process, about two-thirds don't notice when the computer has flipped their votes.
Is this just alarmism? Friedman’s article begins:
You probably believe Delaware's U.S. Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell defeated Mike Castle in the state's August GOP primary. You may be right, but you can't prove it. The only thing that can be proved is that Castle trounced O'Donnell by about 55 percent to 45 percent in the paper-based absentee-ballot count. On the touch-screen voting systems used on Election Day, however, O'Donnell is said to have defeated Castle by almost the same percentages, reversed. But there is no way to verify that result.
In his WBAI interview, Friedman cited the situation of South Carolina four-term state senator Vic Rawl who was inexplicably defeated in their primary by newcomer Alvin Greene. Greene had no campaign website, no money, and no one had ever heard of him. But the machines declared him the winner in the primary. Rawl went to challenge the outcome, but there was no way that he could do anything. The machines could not prove that Rawl lost the election. In fact, the machines could not prove that Greene won the election. Hence Friedman’s use of the term “Faith based voting.”
I have personal experience, when the HART machines were first introduced, of turning the selection wheel back within the long Board of Education slate to vote for someone alphabetically before the person I just selected. The cursor jumped out of the BOE slate and when I pushed the button, it was in the US Senate section of the ballot. Imagine a blind or visually challenged person trying to deal with that. These “machines” are just computers, and they don’t work any better, sadly, than the machine I am typing this article on. Or yours.
Can this be fixed? Yes. But not today.
For those who value the integrity of their vote, it is better to stand for a few minutes in the voting booth and vote the old-fashioned way. It’s up to you.