Oct 052006
 
Authors: Steve Bartholomew Nothern Star Nothern Illinois U.

(U-WIRE) DEKALB, Ill. – It’s shocking to think some people don’t take part in elections because they feel their vote doesn’t count. It’s even more astounding to realize they may be right.

The emergence of electronic voting has cast a dark shadow upon our electoral process. Faulty equipment, low security standards, no paper trail and private partisan companies exacerbate the gloom of this reality.

It’s true that election fraud and miscounts have occurred throughout history. With electronic voting machines, the potential for fraud is greater than ever before.

In the upcoming November elections, 80 percent of American voters will use electronic voting machines. Four companies – Diebold, Election Systems & Software, Sequoia Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic will tally these ballots. Three of the four companies have financially contributed to the Republican Party, according to the October 2006 Rolling Stone article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.,”Will the Next Election be Hacked?”

It’s scary to think private companies determine the representatives of our democracy. Companies with an agenda separate from the will of the people shouldn’t be trusted with our electoral process.

According to this same Rolling Stone article, statistical experts from the University of California studied Florida’s official tally of the 2004 presidential election. In a Nov. 18, 2004 press release, the experts concluded that electronic voting machines may have improperly given President Bush as many as 260,000 excess votes. The probability of discrepancies this large is less than 0.1 percent, meaning that it is unlikely this inconsistency occurred by chance.

In addition, the study found that counties which used paper ballots were less likely to vote for Bush than counties using electronic machines. Suspiciously, the counties with the most inconsistencies were also the most widely Democratic. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties all projected a decline in votes for President Bush, but conversely, electronic voting machines calculated an increased support.

In other parts of the country during the 2004 presidential election, electronic voting machines froze up. Some voters who pressed “Kerry” saw “Bush” light up, and after the polls closed, technicians discovered that memory cards containing votes were missing in some machines, according to the aforementioned Rolling Stone article.

Electronic voting simply is not trustworthy or reliable. A study performed by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan think tank at the New York University School of Law, states that all three of the most commonly used electronic voting machines have significant security vulnerabilities, according to their June 2006 press release at www.brennancenter.org. The study found that all three machines were most vulnerable to an attack involving the insertion of corrupt software designed to manipulate the equipment.

The Brennan Center for Justice did, however, propose a course of action that would enhance the security of electronic voting machines. They suggest paper receipts as a safeguard, if random and transparent audits are conducted. Unfortunately, many machines don’t produce a paper record.

Our electoral process has never been perfect. But when congress authorized $3.9 billion to ensure that the disastrous 2000 election would not be repeated, one would think election security would not be such a big question today.

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