Electronic Voting Concerns

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Earlier today I took a half hour out to head over to the Webb Municipal Office Building here in Denver to vote, as I’ll be travelling the rest of the week and won’t be in town for the regular vote. The process was quite well organized, if on a shoestring budget; lines were queued up via folding chairs, the volunteers were working off laptops connected to the network by an exposed rats nest of ethernet cables, and the voting machines were somewhat less private that the full booth style units I’m familiar with from places like Boston or Maine.

What was interesting to me, however, was the almost unanimous disapproval of the electronic machines. Not the units themselves; the touch screens were legible, responsive and easily navigable. But the lack of paper. Virtually every person voting near me – probably a dozen or so fairly diverse individuals – explicitly asked the nearest official one or more of the following questions:

  1. How to get a paper copy of their vote
  2. What happened to the paper copy of their vote
  3. Could they get a paper copy of their vote? (no)
  4. If the vote was being recorded on paper, why bother with the machines at all?

Good questions all, I think. While I’m in the business of technology, and generally prefer technical solutions to manual alternatives, I’m with them: I have a deep and lingering mistrust of these devices. Not along partisan lines – I tend to think the parties are equally open to fraud and general mischief – but on principle.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that this lack of faith in the devices is entirely unjustified, but so far everything I’ve read about electronic voting from folks like Schneier leads me to believe potential issues exist. Either way, it would seem that I’m not alone.

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