Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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7/30/2007
02:27 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
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Hacking The Vote

Anyone following the controversy over whether voting machines promote or threaten our ability to determine who, exactly, has won a particular election was probably not surprised by the initial results of California's review of voting systems released last week. The question is: will this latest evidence that such machines can be easily manipulated force much-needed changes before the next major election?

Anyone following the controversy over whether voting machines promote or threaten our ability to determine who, exactly, has won a particular election was probably not surprised by the initial results of California's review of voting systems released last week. The question is: will this latest evidence that such machines can be easily manipulated force much-needed changes before the next major election?Although California's "top-to-bottom review" of voting machines from Sequoia, Diebold, and Hart identified numerous vulnerabilities--including the potential for gaining internal access to systems by undoing screws to bypass locks, overwriting firmware, and exploiting known vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system -- many opponents to the widespread use of these machines doubt whether legislation currently winding its way through Congress will be enough to reassure citizens that their votes are being accurately counted. Although a House bill would eventually require every state to keep paper records so voters could verify their ballots had been counted, most states will have until 2012 to upgrade paperless machines to ones with backup paper trails. This kind of delay is unacceptable given that the integrity and credibility of our very electoral process is in question.

An interesting anecdote: The last time I voted, about a dozen of us waited in line for our turn to mark our paper ballots in one of the private voting cubicles even through two electronic voting machines were standing by. The polling place manager kept inquiring if anyone wanted to use one of the machines; she got no takers. When asked how many citizens had opted to go the automated route, she ruefully shook her head and said "just three." This was at 4 p.m., after the polls had been open all day. And, being in the heart of Silicon Valley, it's hardly a Luddite constituency. In fact, one well-dressed man in his 50s spoke up. "We all know too much to trust technology," he said, and a number of other waiting voters nodded.

What do you think? Have you voted on a voting machine? How confident were you that the results were accurate? Do you feel there should be more safeguards in place before we depend on these systems? Let us know by responding to the InformationWeek blog.

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