E-Voting: Something Broken In Need of Something New
Vendors assure us that security concerns about their e-voting machines are overblown and that bugs are a thing of the past. But the overwhelmingly evidence suggests otherwise and, at least for Premier (formerly Diebold), these claims ring hollow. Consider these recent events. Last week’s public hearing held by California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen confirmed that a coding error in Premier’s Global Election Management System (GEMS) tabulation software automatically deletes the first batch of tallied votes from optical scan paper ballots after they are fed into optical-scan machines. As testimony made clear, that software flaw erased 197 vote-by-mail ballots in the November election in Humboldt County, California. At the hearing, Premier representatives admitted that every version of its GEMS tabulation software fails to record significant events that occur on the machines, including when errors in the software deletes votes or when election officials intentionally delete ballots from the system. This problem is widespread as GEMS software tabulates votes for Premier’s touch-screen and optical-scan machines used in more than 30 states. Why are such audit logs critical? They record events that occur on voting systems to ensure the integrity of elections and to help identify the source of any problems in those machines.
These kinds of problems are particularly serious as vote rigging isn’t the unheard of occurence as vendors suggest. For instance, a 10-count indictment unsealed last week accuses five Clay County, Kentucky officials, including a county clerk and election officials, of engaging in corrupt tactics to obtain political power and personal gain in violation of the federal RICO statute. The indictment alleges that an election officer defendant marked votes or issued tickets to voters who had sold their votes and changed votes at electronic voting machines. Another defendant is accused of instructing election officers on how to change votes at the voting machines. Not suprisingly, Colorado’s Election Reform Commission has recommended that county clerks do away with e-voting and shift to all-paper ballot system by 2014. But is that the answer given our long history of fraud with paper ballot systems and the complexity of local voting ballots? Your insights are sorely needed.