Thursday, October 28, 2010

Something Truly Scary: Electronic Voting

As Halloween - and the midterm elections - approach, it seems that people everywhere are caught up in a game of one-upsmanship in the race to frighten us more. From political ads to scripted television shows, to the local news, it's a nearly constant stream of ghouls and ghosts and horrors.

For us, near the top of the list of truly scary things are those people who are heading to the polls and not thinking, simply voting the party line.

If they're attempting to vote via electronic voting machines, the thought gets even scarier.

We've warned for quite some time now that electronic voting machines - while a fantastic idea - are nowhere near secure enough for something as important as our elections. It's not an exaggeration to say that hackers from China and Iran, paid by undisclosed money from who-knows-where, could get into some of the electronic voting machines out there.

They've already attempted to do so in a controlled test.

Even so, millions of Americans, hypnotized by the bright screens and new technology, will march into their polling places over the next week, and like zombies, push the buttons for who they THINK they're voting for - and think everything is ok. Unfortunately, as polling stations open for early voting across the nation, voters and polling officials have discovered machines causing errors, switching votes, or simply losing votes altogether.

Not unsurprisingly, some political fanatics on the far right who have attempted to use the fear of nearly non-existant voter fraud in the past, have resurrected that tactic again this year with electronic voting.

Whatever you may think of the fanatics, like a broken analog clock in an old horror movie, even they can be right once in a while - though NOT in Nevada, as they're currently attempting to claim. While the nutcases may be paranoid about  electronic boogiemen, the danger to the voting system of unverifiable electronic ballots is sadly still very real.

In races all across the country, even the best electoral forecasters - including Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com - say that an unprecedented numbers of races could be decided by relatively small numbers of voters this year. As Nate tweeted yesterday, if Democrats outperform their poll numbers by as little as 2 points this year, they'll hold the House. If they underperform by two points, they'll give up 65 seats.

In the face of such terrifying basic uncertainty, we're almost certain there will also be a significantly greater than usual number of recounts - something impossible without verifiable paper ballots.

Our recommendation on how to fight the electronic voting zombies is simple: read the Daily Felltoon and the links we provide. Remain informed. And insist on a paper ballot, no matter what.

You might want to hang onto your sharpened pencil too - just in case.

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