Have you ever voted using an electronic machine? Did you vote in the last US Presidential Election using an electronic voting machine?
If you have, what assurances do you have that your vote was counted as cast?
Whether Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Green Party, or even if you just voted with a write in, you should be concerned with the integrity of elections, And if you voted on an electronic machine you should be very concerned as to how that machine is processing your vote.
In the recent US Presidential Elections at least 28 US States certified and used Dominion Voting Machines. There has been a lot in the news about these machines, their use, and their integrity within the voting system. And I believe a public debate on the subject is worthwhile and especially timely.
Today I’d like to share some of my thoughts concerning that debate and hopefully further the discussion on what should be expected as we move forward.
First of all it is my assertion that any voting system should be developed, maintained, and deployed by the country conducting the election. Countries around the world consistently and continually seek to influence the governments of other countries to include their election systems and how they place people in positions of leadership and power. This includes the United States of America and every other developed nation in the world. Countries always look out after their best interests and having like minded allies or world partners willing to work with them toward common goals is always sought after. And this influence extends to countries that choose their leadership via a public voting mechanism. It only stands to reason that at some point countries will try and manipulate the voting mechanism as well if they are given the opportunity. If a voting system is developed outside of the country using that system it is much more suspect and control is lost. Dominion Voting Systems states they are a private US owned entity that started in Canada on their WEB site. They also state their systems are used by several countries. However, in my opinion it would be much more palatable to have a not for profit entity that published its architecture and code.
Secondly, what the voting machine itself does is important as to how it should be treated or trusted. By this I mean that there are different stages to a voting process that should not be combined into a single step or handled by a single machine in order to maintain the integrity of the election. Think about how elections are generally conducted. Candidates for an office usually have to file with an Agency that they intend to run in a particular election. Those candidates that meet the criteria for that election then campaign against their opponents in order to sway public opinion and gain their votes. At election time, qualified voters need to be vetted and authorized to vote in the election. This usually occurs through a voter registration system. On Election Day, the voters are then verified against the voter registration as they cast their vote. This system is intended to verify that a voter only casts one vote in the election and that unqualified votes are not cast. The voter then has to vote through some mechanism. Either by marking a paper ballot, punching a card, or even selecting an option on an electronic machine. The cast votes then need to be counted and tabulated. The results then need to be certified and reported. All of these steps are checks and balances within the system and should not be combined. For example, if an electronic machine is used to record the voters intended vote, that same machine should not be the mechanism whereby those votes are counted. And throughout the process you should have total transparency and verification of the actual intent. Meaning that the voter should have every confidence that their vote is treated and counted exactly as they cast it.
Thirdly, the mechanisms used at each step should be repeatable and produce the exact same set of results each and every time. Think of the process of the voter casting a vote. If paper ballots are used, those paper ballots should have a strict chain of custody and we should be able to count those ballots repeatedly with the exact same results each and every time. The protections within the system should never allow for ballots to be added in or taken away from the set of actual qualified votes that were cast. We should be able to preserve the integrity of the election to the point that even years later, if one were to count the ballots, the same results would be returned as they were on election day.
Lastly, the machines used at varying stages within the process should not be alterable in any form. By this I mean they should definitely not be programable or accessed by any outside means (such as a network, digital media, or any device meant to enter data into the machine for the purpose of altering its intended behavior). Think of a basic desktop calculator (such as this model). Desktop calculators are generally hardcoded machines. Meaning that you should always be able to enter 2 + 2 and get the answer 4. And the machines are such that no one should be able to access that unit once its been manufactured and alter it in such a manner as to cause a different operation (such as causing 2 + 2 to return the answer 48). Any electronic (or electromechanical) machine used within the voting system should operate in exactly the same manner as the desktop calculator. It should be unalterable at the point of manufacture, and it should produce the exact same results for an operation each and every time, and it should be easily verifiable for correct operation.
These machines should be open architecture. Meaning there should be no proprietary components or software contained within them. One of the biggest problems with Dominion Voting Systems is their claim that they need to protect company proprietary information. That is all any authority needs to know to immediately disqualify their systems. Any electronic or electromechanical system used within the voting process should have all schematics publicly posted and any code (to include firmware) publicly posted. Any registered voter should have complete access to this information and the machines should be easily verifiable as deployed.
Dominion Voting Systems violate so many of these rules as to make them totally untrustworthy and they should not be used within the US electoral system. It is my hope that enough of a public outcry will be generated as to force those who oversee the election process in our country to stop using these systems and to secure our election process for future generations.