Thursday, February 16, 2006

Role Reversal on Voting Machines?

Governor of Maryland, Robert Erhlich, may be unique among Republican politicians. He is, in fact, the only high level Republican expressing concern about the electronic voting machines that have been shown, over and over again, to be woefully lacking in security and easily hackable.
In a sharply worded letter to the chairman of the State Board of Elections, Ehrlich said he is concerned about the controversy over Diebold Elections Systems' electronic voting machines in other states, which use technology similar to that of Maryland's touch-screen voting equipment.

He said he wants the state to adopt a voter verification system, such as a paper trail, to ensure accurate and secure voting.
Now, this is news. The number of Republican politicos across the nation complaining about the security of Diebold machines is miniscule, if not smaller.

But let's make no mistake, Erhlich is not concerned about this because he loves democracy and the right to vote, fearing that the so-called DREs might be used to thwart the people's will. Ehrlich is in a rather delicate position, being a Republican governor of a notably blue state with a Democratic state legislature, a legislature that is constantly at odds with the governor and often overrrides his vetos. Erhlich saw to it that Maryland was one of the first states to mandate the use of electronic voting machines in 2003, spending $55 million on paperless Diebold DREs.

Erhlich had to have viewed his election to the governorship as somewhat of a fluke in the blue state of Maryland, the Democrats able only to put up an utterly worthless candidate in the form of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. At the time of DRE adoption, Republicans across the land were determined to installed electronic voting machines via the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and Ehrlich was simply one of many GOP politicians who had no qualms about elections being in the hands of private, partisan corporations. Diebold is, after all, a GOP partisan corporation and they make no effort to hide that fact.

In September of 2003, Ehrlich had signed off on the installation of the Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machines after an "independent study" by SAIC purported that
the Diebold machine and source code, if operated properly, can contribute to one the safest, most secure election systems available. Because of this report, Maryland voters will have one of the safest election environments in the nation.
As has since been demonstrated by a number of security experts who have personally and easily hacked Diebold machines, this statement and the report by SAIC was a complete white wash. In fact, the hack was so easy, security expert Harri Hursti rated the security breach a level one hack, a so-called "script kiddy" attack and something that could be performed "by an 8th grader." At the time, State Board of Elections chairman, Gilles Burger, called the SAIC study "robust."

But now, after favouring the installation of DREs and resisiting paper verification, Erhlich suddenly has a new found love of a verifiable vote. This is, to say the least, an highly unusual position by a Republican who initially had nothing but confidence in Diebold machines. Erhlich has been nothing if not a flip-flopper on the issue of paper vote certification. In fact, a few short weeks ago, Ehrlich had vetoed four election reform bills that would have provided for early voting, absentee ballots, tough new laws against voter intimidation and ... a voter verification system for electronic voting machines. Diebold electronic voting machines. Yes, Ehrlich was against paper verification before he was for it.

Does Ehrlich believe that the Dems have got their shit together enough to actually hack the vote themselves and foil Ehrlich's re-election? I suspect not.

In fact, Ehrlich's position is not backed up by action and state senator Paula Hollinger sees this as a purely political move: Erhlich has not provided funding for paper verification but he can claim that he supported voter verification, thereby providing a simulacrum of respectability on this issue. But at this point, that is all Ehrlich's position on the voting machines represents.


Post a Comment

<< Home