Machine politics: the real threat of voter fraud

While great effort is being put into meeting the supposed threat of voting by people without proper ID, a more serious threat of election fraud is virtually ignored.  About one in four American voters will vote on digital electronic voting machines without any paper record to verify the machine tallied the results correctly.  Furthermore these machines use secret proprietary software, so there is no way to check for possible flaws.

In the lead-up to the 2008 election, many people were concerned about the Diebold touch-screen voting machines.  Votes were miscounted or deleted in a number of elections, and computer experts showed that the machines could be hacked without detection.  Since then Diebold has been absorbed into Dominion Voting Systems which, along with Election Systems and Software, provides virtually all the digital electronic machines used in American elections.

These problems haven’t gone away.

Following a June 2009 election, officials in Pennington County, South Dakota, discovered a software malfunction that added thousands of non-existent votes to the county totals.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida, in March 2012, a problem with election management software allotted votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. The official results were only changed after a court-sanctioned public hand count of the votes.

In the 2008 Republican presidential primary in Horry County, South Carolina, touch screen voting machines in 80 percent of the precincts temporarily failed, and when precincts ran out of paper ballots, voters could not cast ballots in their home precinct.

In a test-run for an online election in the September 2010 Washington, D.C., primary, a hacker team was able to change all of the votes to “elect” their own candidates. The online voting system was days away from being launched in a real election for use by overseas and military voters. After the incident, the Internet voting system was canceled.

via CountingVotes.org.

Here is a chart from an organization called the Verified Voting Foundation that shows the predominant types of voting systems in the various states.

Click to enlarge.

Here is a simplified version from Mother Jones.

Click to enlarge.

The Verified Voting Foundation in a joint report with Common Cause and the Rutgers School of Law made these recommendations to ensure an honest count:

  • Require paper ballots or records of every vote.
  • Have a contingency plan if the machines break down.
  • Protect military and overseas voters by counting their marked ballots, not by tallying them on-line.
  • Institute a post-election audit to ensure the electronic report is correct.
  • Use ballot reconciliation practices to flag votes being added or lost as they are tallied.

The original argument for touch screen machines was that some physically handicapped persons could not work the levers on mechanical voting machines.  Here in New York state, the old machines have been replaced by scan-able paper ballots, which anybody can use and which are available for recount if anybody thinks the scanning machines made an error.

Click on Counting Votes 2012: Verified Voting Foundation for more from the Verified Voting Foundation.

Click on Digital Voting Machines: Still FUBAR? for more from Mother Jones.

Click on Counting Votes 2012: CountingVotes.org for a joint report and recommendations by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and Rutgers School of Law.

Click on Touch screen voting is not as safe as an ATM for an explanation of the potential problems by Philip Michaels, a board member of Missourians for Honest Elections.

Click on Leftycartoons for more political cartoons by Barry Deutsch.

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