Friday, October 27, 2006

Glitches Brew

It can only be expected that, as election day approaches, more and more "glitches" are going to be found with all the flakey Diebold machines, the behaviour of which no one seems to understand. Indeed, reports from actual voters are surfacing, starkly reminiscent of details in the Conyers' Report, that their votes are being switched from Democratic or Libertarian candidates to the Republicans on the ballot. Here is a snippet of one such voter report in Missouri:
He voted for Claire McCaskill, but each time he, the election worker, and the election supervisor pressed the screen for Claire, the screen said he had voted for Jim Talent.
In the Arkansas governor's race between Democratic candidate Mike Beebe and Republican nominee Asa Hutichinson:
the machine on which Serge tried to vote hadn't been calibrated correctly so that when he touched the screen to vote for Mike Beebe the vote was cast for Asa!
That's quite a novel conceit: hadn't been calibrated correctly. As in, the machine is not supposed to show that it switched the vote.

In Texas, an independent voter makes use of a lot of exclamation points:
I DID NOT VOTE FOR ANY REPUBLICANS. I was very careful about my choices and watched as each X was placed in the correct box.

There were three names that offered me the choice of Rep and Lib. Three times in succession I choose Lib, but the machine gave my vote to the Rep !!!!!!!.

As the summary appeared for me to check it, Perry, Dewhurst and Combs all had an X WHICH I AM SURE I DID NOT GIVE TO THEM.
Anecdotal, of course. That similar behaviour is seen in three different states becomes problematic for any excuses by way of "error" or "mistake." And let's all just be clear about one thing here: computers do not make "mistakes." They do exactly as they are instructed. I simply cannot believe we allow this nonsense to be passed off as "mistakes."

How is it that Diebold is able to make perfectly functional ATM machines and yet cannot build a touch screen voting machine that behaves properly (and by "properly" I mean, of course, that votes are actually registered correctly)? Why is the act of pushing a touch screen on a bank machine perfectly predictable and yet the act of pushing a touch screen voting machine akin to some act of voodoo? Will we next be advised to come armed with some netherworld incantation, prepared to roll our eyes to back of our heads and wave a clutch of chicken bones over the screen?

The reason that voting machines behave this way is because they are allowed to. If that sounds like a tautology, it is. No one, at least no one in a position to do so, holds Diebold accountable for the appalling performance of their machines in the voting booth. This is one of the reasons why so many citizens voting rights movements have sprung up around the country in the last few years. Public officials are not only not doing their jobs to ensure fair elections, they are on the forefront of further installing these electronic abominations and resisting the obvious requirements of any nominal voting process; voting data are not proprietary.

If ATM machines performed in a manner even remotely resembling their voting box cousins, Diebold would be out of business within a week, if not sooner, saddled with any number of lawsuits and SEC investigations. But in the foggy world of the American electoral system, not only are badly behaved, insecure voting machines tolerated by the system, Diebold and others continue to enjoy ever increasing contractual awards for even more of these malign black boxes.

These reports are coming out during early voting. One can already get a sense of the sheer disaster awaiting the voting public on election day.

[stories via Bradblog]


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