Friday, December 1, 2006

US Gov't Agency: Voting machines can be rigged

Want more proof computerized voting terminals can't be trusted? Well then, how about this apple: The National Institute of Science and Technology, an agency of the US Government, says they can't be trusted. It's now recommending what critics of the US election process have for a long time: Scan sheets, plus a printout of each ballot so the voter can verify his or her selections were properly registered.

The problem is the smart card that is supposed to register all the votes then is retrieved and uploaded into another computer so they can be tallied. Without proper security, anyone can actually preload it to ensure the voting machine operators' favourite choice, not the people's choice, is selected. This is done simply by giving one candidate "X" number of negative votes and another the same number of "positive" votes and no one knows the better because it all balances out to zero.

Don't believe it? Click here to see the HBO documentary that Diebold Election Systems wanted banned.

The earliest the NIST recommendations (which are entirely voluntary) could be adopted is 2009, which just happens to be one year after the next Presidential election. Hmmm ....

The real problem aren't just the voting machines. It's that elections in the States are run by each jurisdiction's Secretary of State, a partisan official and who actively campaigns for his or her party. In nearly every other democracy around the world, the job is handled by an arms-length and non-partisan commission -- which takes its job so seriously that the person who runs it is actually often banned from voting at all. I know, morals are out of the NIST's jurisdiction, but it's something that ought to be considered too before the US way of voting really falls into disrepute.

The fact that this year's mid-terms and the 2004 Presidential election had to be monitored by officials from the body that administers the Helsinki Accord should be nothing short of an embarrassment for the United States. This is the kind of thng we expect for new and emerging democracies, not a country who's operated with the same essentially democratic system of government for 219 years.

What could be more essential in a free country than the right to choose one's representatives and to do it to ensure that the privileged has the same voice as the indigent? At least someone in the US Government has finally figured that one out.

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