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Electronic Voting
Kirt's Cogitations™ #223

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Electronic Voting

Like a lot of people, I have my reservations about the security of the electronic voting machines. With every new version of Windows and MacOS being hacked within a day of a new release, I simply do not have much faith in the system. It is not that either of those operating systems would necessarily be used, but the concept of equivalent vulnerability is applicable. So much is at stake in national elections that there unquestionably must be many forces at work behind the scenes to rig the machines and/or the computer databases that accumulate and report the results.

Just this weekend we got news of a major supplier of electronic voting machines being a Venezuelan company with ties to Hugo Chavez – the supreme dictator of Venezuela who went to the podium in the United Nations and called President Bush the Devil. Election officials tell us not to worry because with the checks in place, there is little chance that any foul play is occurring. Oh yeah, I will sleep better with that assurance. After all, these are the people that coined the term “hanging chad.” Here is the news story.

U.S. Investigates Voting Machines' Venezuela Ties

I am not an expert at touch screen physics, but I wonder if there is a way in which a device could be placed on or near the touch pad area to cause randomness in the recorded votes, or even cause a predetermined outcome a large percentage of the time. Even a random level of corruption could throw a local result by creating an even chance for two or more candidates where one might otherwise have a clear historical advantage. How difficult would such tampering be from a hardware perspective? Could a clear film with the right properties be developed that could be attached to the entire screen that would bias results? If the touch screen interface is capacitive, could a field generator of sufficient strength be placed nearby to alter the registration accuracy so that a voter making his/her selection at a point close to the edge of a defined region might achieve an ambiguous result?

Confirmation screens do appear for most if not all of the electronics voting machines, but how many voters who are intimidated by the very presence of the “newfangled” gadgets will simply accept the results without truly confirming that their votes were properly recorded? Remember that the vast majority of voters are probably fairly computer illiterate and have a hard time placing a CD in the driver drawer and playing a song from it. That is not a put-down; it is a statement of fact. Regardless of the image that the media portrays of every young person being a computer whiz that can master any computer and was born knowing how to program the DVD player, many of our young voting age folks are lucky to get a Play Station hooked up and turned on. Those people do not want to look stupid in front of a bunch of strangers and/or friends in the polling place. After writing the article, I found this related news item.

Glitches Cited in Early Voting

Even if no real rigging were done, the discovery of such implements on or near machines would cause entire groups of votes to be discarded out of an abundance of caution. The turmoil caused, particularly in close elections and in elections where an “upset” is pulled off, might be catastrophic. Both major parties are known to be standing by with teams of lawyers ready to challenge anything and everything regardless of the likelihood that any true tampering went on. Politics being the utterly dirty game it is, I do not need to be a conspiratorialist to suggest that there will be people and devices planted all over the country in strategic locations whose purpose will be to turn this election into a chaotic event.

Our deviants are not content any more to execute such low-tech misdeed as sending out troops to slash the tires of vans meant to transport voters to the polls and announcing on the radio that the polls are closed when in fact they are not. It no longer suffices to have dead people and family pets casting votes. No, they have evolved with the technology and will certainly exploit its weaknesses to maximum advantage. The bosses will have no trouble enlisting useful idiots to assist them for a few measly dollars or a drug score, only to be abandoned with no traceability if they get caught. Can democracy ultimately survive the onslaught?

Please vote on this issue here on the RF Café forums. By the way, I and anyone else can easily rig the outcome of any poll on RF Cafe, so none are considered reliable. Even though cookies are set to trace users who have already voted, there is a very simple way to negate that level of security.

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