Freethought Almanac

Lighting a candle in toxic air.

Quick Comment: Who Counts?

With all the attention the news media focus on what Republicans call Voter Verification (what with their voter ID laws and other restrictions), and what the rest of us call vote suppression, we who believe in freedom and liberty for all might reflect that our American electile dysfunction resides in too little voting, not too much of it. But if we focus too much on who gets to vote, we might be looking the wrong way when the other shoe drops: who counts the vote.

Electronic voting is not secure and is not auditable without a paper trail – yet most e-voting machines do not create one. For all its virtues, such as efficiency and handicap accessibility, electronic voting as it is currently implemented is so easily perverted for partisan purposes that I think it puts democracy in peril.

According to The Daily Bell, “In October 2010, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics encouraged outside parties to try to find security holes in their online balloting infrastructure… . A group of University of Michigan students successfully hacked into the system, commandeered passwords, doctored ballots and programmed audio of the school's fight song to play whenever an e-ballot was submitted.” And the “hacktivist” group known as Anonymous has shown that if you have official access to the computer system, altering ballots is even easier to do undetected.

Why would anyone want to steal an election by altering votes? Just look at the incentives in the War on Drugs – the lure of high profits for cheating – and you will see the incentives to cheat in elections. Does anyone have so much faith in technology that they would bet their republic – indeed, their very freedom and liberty – on it?

“No vote should be lost in 2012,” said Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “Technology exists to verify votes, and procedures could be in place around the country to make sure that every vote is counted, as required by the constitution.”

Our electoral system should not be hostage to a hanging chad or an elusive electron. Who counts the vote may turn out to be just as important as who gets to vote.

To hear an audio version of this Quick Comment, click on this link: Who Counts?

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Our Fearless Leader.

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