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Computerized (DRE) Elections Are Not Trustworthy, p. 2C

Continued from p. 2B



Computer controlled elections are typically called "Direct Recording of Elections" or "DRE". Discussions of Computerized Elections usually focus on only one part of the process -- the "User Interface", the secret ballot (Anonymity), or how the votes are collected (Accountability). These discussions avoid dealing with the combination of Anonymity, Accountability, and Visibility.


The secret ballot, Anonymity of the voter, is a permanent problem for Computerized Elections (DRE) machinery. Computers are phenomonal record "keeping" devices. A voter would not know if a finger-print, picture, or identification tag is being observed and stored, along with his vote. Such a tag can be stored in a database, and then be used later to connect a voter with a ballot.

For example, the "Vote Now" button can include finger-print reading hardware. ( To receive a California State Driver's License requires giving a digitized thumb-print to the State. ) Computerized finger-print security hardware is readily available. Also, tiny cameras can be imbedded in the equipment -- ones like the camera found in many "cell phones".

Sequence numbers, RFID tags (Radio Frequency IDentification tags), or timestamps can also form a surreptitious link to break down parts of the voting process which were meant to ensure Anonymity. These identifiers can be held in a succession of tables, no single table sufficient to track a voter. But if collected together afterward, the tables would provide end-to-end tracking of a voter and his vote.
Alternatively, if Anonymity of voting is truly guaranteed, then enough "Anonymous", non-trackable, votes may be generated by the computer to alter an outcome, but not enough extra votes to raise suspicions.


Computerized Elections (DRE) leave a voter unsure of whether the ballot is being recorded, transmitted, and tabulated correctly.

If a failure in the process happens, the failure will not likely be detected, and if it is detected, it will not likely be corrected. If the failure is planned from within the the manufacturer, the chance of discovery is miniscule. If such a malevolent failure is discovered, it can be declared a "programming error". The effect, and any attempt to discuss the failure, can be summarily dismissed.

Generating paper copies of ballots AFTER the polls close does not help Accountablity. (Some electronic voting machines do produce paper afterward.) The changing of votes could be accomplished between the time the person voted and the time the printing is carried out. The printout would reflect the falsified version.

A "Voter Verifiable" voting machine produces a written record, which is checked and verified by the voter, and which is the only "official" ballot. The ballot then drops into a box, when the voter is "satisfied". But this process only partially solves the problem. If a voter fills out the ballot quickly, then the computer could print the ballot as requested. But if the voter works slowly, indicating confusion, then the computer could change crucial votes, unlikely to be caught during the "Verification" step. In any case, on a long ballot, many people would fail to catch a change improperly made by the computer. Verifying the ballot is difficult even if the voter has a sample ballot, filled out beforehand -- and even if it "looks" like the ballot which will be "Verified".


In a commercial (rather than a voting) environment, if computerized fraud takes place, the person or group defrauded has at least some chance of taking the matter to court. But so much is hidden by computerized voting that either detecting fraud or recovering from voting fraud is very difficult. At the
national level (and in some states) the winner of a top office (President or Governor) soon takes effective control of the "legal apparatus" -- the police and the attorney general. The winner can then assign his own appointees to (not) investigate and (not) prosecute.

Computerized Elections are NOT "transparent". Superficially, the computer may tell the voter what is happening. But as the voter steps through the voting process, it is NOT clear which activities ensure "Anonymity", nor which activities ensure "Accountability".

The voting process can be viewed as a series of colored boulders or stepping stones. Then, in this computerized environment, "Anonymity" and "Accountability" are no more than colored grains of sand, blowing about the voter's feet. In reality, even the colored sand can not be seen.

Visibility of the process is important. In the U.S. 2000 Presidental Election, the U.S. Supreme Court did the actual choosing of the next President. However, because details about the actual votes and the voter registration processes were available, people around the world could draw their own conclusions about the American "democratic process".

-> Continued on p. 2D: D) THEY WOULD NOT DO THAT, WOULD THEY?

Created by hdihuyen
Last modified April 09, 2007 05:51 PM

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