Perhaps you have seen this story in the news. FOX News and Dominion Voting Systems Corporation came to an agreed upon settlement over an alleged defamation of Dominion Voting Systems Corporation by FOX News. FOX News has another potential lawsuit looming in their future from Smartmatic, another electronic voting machines company.
And with one lawsuit now settled the American populace might very well believe that the issues are settled and that whatever the outcome, they will just have to live with whatever voting mechanism their local precinct provides.
However, the question still remains, are electronic voting machines a danger to elections? This question has not been definitely answered in the arena of public debate. And given that free, open, and trustworthy elections are a bedrock to any democracy, it would seem important that we answer that question.
In order to answer that question, we should understand what a ‘voting’ machine does. Perhaps you have experienced the tables with the guides built into them that you slide your paper ballot into. The guides cause certain blocks to align with a voting booklet anchored within the guides of the table. You vote by either checking or filling in a box, or by using a small punch pin to puncture a hole in the ballot paper. These ‘voting machines’ assist the voter with casting a ballot during an election. And they are not without problems. Who can forget the hanging chads of the 2000 U.S. Presidential election? And one need not look very far in order to discover horror stories of ballots that ended up misaligned in the table guides resulting in invalid or wrong votes being recorded.
You may have also encountered the aforementioned electronic voting machines made by Dominion or Smartmatic. These machines also record your vote, and they may also transmit votes or a tally of votes.
Voting machines are thus used to either aid in votes being made efficiently and easily, and then counting those votes, or both. And at the end of the day, they are nothing more than capture and tabulating machines. They do not even require the sophistication of a desktop calculator (such as the Texas Instruments TI-84) which contains far more processing power than any voting precinct would require.
And when you introduce computers into a process that only requires a modest amount of simplicity, you introduce inherent risks. Technologies such as touchscreens, digital vote capture, and digital transmission of votes all bring risk to our election cycles unnecessarily. Dan Wallach has been a leading researcher of the use of electronic voting systems for several years (and full disclosure here, Dan is the son of Steve Wallach, the former VP of Engineering at Convex Computer Corporation. I worked for Convex in the early 1990’s. I do not know Dr. Wallach, I only worked in the organization his dad was the head of) and has led teams to study their vulnerabilities and strengths. Here are a couple of articles pertaining to his work: Texas 2020 Elections, and A Texas County Clerk’s Bold Crusade to Transform How We Vote | WIRED.
I would encourage every voter in the USA to read Dr. Wallach’s work on voting machine security and listen to some of the professional testimony he has given (linked here) in order to help educate ourselves on risks we may, or may not be accepting within our voting processes.
So, are these machines a danger to American Elections? From my perspective, I believe they absolutely are. And I also believe the American voting populace should be very concerned about them.
Cyber Security experts the world over will attest to the many vulnerabilities of digital equipment/software. Computers, cellphones, even modern-day cars may be hacked. And digital voting machines have the potential to be hacked and have digital results altered. And why would we risk our National elections upon machines that while they bring some convenience to the voter (which is also debatable in all circumstances), also brings greater security risks along with it?
Elections, no matter how they are conducted, are subject to fraud and abuse. The introduction of digital media into the process simply adds another avenue for the potential fraud and abuse to take place within.
One possible solution to this problem might be to build the machines as tabulators only. They should be completely hardwired, contain no digital storage, and be completely open source. These tabulation machines could read a bar code or QR code off of a printed ballot along with a voter marking. Set bar codes or QR codes could be permanently assigned to parties. Thus, the Democrat Party would have a well-known bar code, the Republican Party would have a well-known bar code, along with the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, even write-in sections would have their own unique bar codes. Voters would mark their ballots with an indelible ink or a magnetic ink. The tabulation machines would then simply read the barcodes/QR codes that had been marked. Dual marked ballots would be rejected. All others would advance a counter as appropriate.
At least with this method, the paper ballot would remain the voting mechanism as well as the voting record. Election disputes would be handled by the examination and recounting of the paper ballots. Only the number of ballots for registered voters in each precinct would need to be printed. Early voting and mail-in ballots should be eliminated completely. Military voting could be handled as its own district.
These methods will not eliminate election fraud/voter fraud, but they might help reduce it. The American people need to make some hard and fast decisions concerning election practices moving forward. Decisions to secure our elections, reduce voter fraud, eliminate illegal alien voting (eliminate any non-citizen voting), and return trust and faith in our elections. And we need to do this in order to preserve the honor and integrity of our democracy.
But these things will not come from our leaders. These changes will only come from the people. We must let our elected officials know that we require change, and then hold them accountable to that.
Additional Research/Reading Material: