Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Who remembers Diebold?

It must be the election season again.

Now from AP -
The demise of touch-screen voting has produced a graveyard of expensive corpses: Warehouses stacked with thousands of carefully wrapped voting machines that have been shelved because of doubts about vanishing votes and vulnerability to hackers.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. After the disputed 2000 presidential recount, Congress provided more than $3 billion to replace punch card and lever-operated machines. State officials across the country said the new systems would eliminate human error and political tampering.

But problems with the machines soon followed: vanishing votes, breakdowns, malfunctions and increasing evidence that the devices were vulnerable to hackers.

Beginning last year, states including California, Ohio and Florida abruptly ordered election officials to mothball their electronic machines. Over the last two years, the percentage of registered voters relying on touch-screen technology dropped from 44 percent to 36 percent.

In November, when the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain ends, an estimated 57 percent of voters will rely on paper ballots.
As of December, 30 states had spent more than $253 million on new voting systems, according to a report by the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that oversees spending of the $3 billion federal allotment.

But the agency does not know how many election districts have since abandoned those newly purchased systems.
Leading makers of voting machines have made similar statements [denying malfunction and interference] and blame poorly trained poll workers and human error for most glitches.

What price democracy?

Well perhaps the US could ask India. They poll for their parliament over a period of a week. The paper ballots are hand counted. And while there are the occasional accusations of "missing" votes, it does seem to work reasonably well.

Is it perhaps a reflection of the need for instant gratification?

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