Thank you, Mr. Amend, for giving the dangers of electronic voting
machines some much-needed press. The more people who are informed
about such a frightening threat to our democratic process, the better.
In an attempt to convince a complacently skeptical public of just how
much a problem that direct-recording electronic voting machines pose,
Jon Stokes of Ars Technica has written a guide, How to steal an
election by hacking the vote, which illustrates just how easy it is to
hijack an election conducted entirely over electronic media.
If nothing else, watch this video by the security researchers at
Princeton University’s Center for IT Policy, wherein researchers
demonstrate how to load a malicious payload onto a Diebold voting
machine in under one minute. Come election day, this payload, a computer
virus which spreads to other machines through normal memory card
exchange, silently skews the vote toward its preferred candidate; these
alterations are made untraceable by the fact that these voting machines
provide users with no voter-verifiable paper trail. Such a virus could
even delete itself once the election has concluded, leaving behind no
evidence within the machine itself.
In concluding his article, Mr. Stokes sums up the problem nicely:
- Bits and bytes are made to be manipulated; by turning votes into bits
and bytes, we’ve made them orders of magnitude easier to manipulate
during and after an election.
- By rushing to merge our nation’s election infrastructure with our
computing infrastructure, we have prematurely brought the fairly old
and well-understood field of election security under the rubric of
the new, rapidly evolving field of information security.
- In order to have confidence in the results of a paperless DRE-based
election, you must first have confidence in the personnel and
security practices at these institutions: the board of elections, the
DRE vendor, and third-party software vendor whose product is used on
- In the absence of the ability to conduct a meaningful audit, there is
no discernable difference between DRE malfunction and deliberate
tampering (either for the purpose of disenfranchisement or altering
the vote record).
Although researchers have been warning us of the dangers of direct
electronic voting for a long time, by now it is too late to change this
state of affairs before next month’s elections. However, afterwards - if
you are as troubled as I am about these challenges to the transparency
and verifiability of our democratic process - contact your
congresscritters and tell them to support voter-verified paper record