A reader responds to our postings about voting touchscreen in LA this election. LA has started phasing in touchscreen and had 20 such voting stations this time. By law, all LA precincts must have touchscreen voting by 2005.
His comments are based on hardcore computer geek analysis of the risks involved. As a computer programmer myself, I am quite aware of the dangers. Polizeros will be running more articles on touchscreen and Instant Runoff Voting in the next few days.
I’ve been reading your blog, and I’ve noticed a total lack of skepticism regarding electronic voting. Personally, I’m very disturbed by this trend: done right, there are small advantages, but done badly, it casts a shadow over the result of an election at best, or leaves the system open to attack at worst.
Bear in mind that it is a proven fact that you cannot guarantee a system against being subverted. The following speech is the classic
If you’re still interested, check out the following links:
discussions suggesting electronic voting isn’t ready yet: http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/22.34.html#subj1
Among the attacks that I can think of in the course of writing this email:
Damaging enough machines at the start of polling day. (How does anyone vote)
Stuffing the ballot box (where is the audit trail)
Buying the election by buying the machine company
Subtly damaging the machine so that it doesn’t record votes, while apparently working.
Programming a block list of people whose vote to ignore
Recording who votes for who
Simply spreading a rumour that Bill Gates/the Russians/the Carlisle group owns the machine company, and has already done one of the above
Spreading a rumour whenever a machine breaks down (and they will!) that “the other side” broke it to stop our votes being registered.