Open Source: How E-voting Should Be Done
Computers Reduce Fraud
Yet in every industry, computers have reduced or eliminated human error and guarded against fraud. From banking to taxes to tollbooths, computers ostensibly provide a dispassionate third party to tally numbers, not as we might wish them to be but as they are. Voting systems are no exception, and they should be afforded far more protections, oversight, and regulation than those in most other industries as they protect the very foundation for our democracy.
The law has always trailed behind technical innovation. In the case of e-voting, Congress must act to close this gap, by passing legislation to provide grants for developing a single, open framework for all voting systems and to provide funds to states to retrofit existing hardware where possible.
This "Open Vote Act" should also enact laws that prohibit the use of any voting system that does not provide a paper audit trail, and it should mandate that companies use government-approved voting code without modification when building proprietary systems. If we can nationalize big banks and spend a trillion dollars to recover from the irresponsible actions of a relative few, we can certainly nationalize portions of our voting infrastructure. There's too much at risk to think otherwise.
Hanlon's Razor: IT's Call to Action
As we head into the 2008 elections, we all hope that there are no surprises come Election Day. The media will hang on every instance of voting-system inaccuracy, and we're sure to hear from voters across the country who have been inadvertently disenfranchised by malfunctioning e-voting systems.
Here, Hanlon's razor ("Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.") comes into play. If there are widespread problems with e-voting systems this time around, we have no one but ourselves to blame. We have seen the flaws of these systems, and we have not acted to correct the system that has given rise to them.
If voting irregularities occur during this election, let's hope the novelty of current e-voting systems will wear off for the population at large, giving way to meaningful voting reform in Washington. If everything seems to go smoothly, however, let's not just assume the issue of e-voting security has magically gone away.
Either way, those of us who know how computers work, who know how easy it is to slip backdoors into closed code, and who know how these problems should be addressed will always provide an undercurrent of distrust -- not just for our individual votes but for the entire elections system in general.
Isn't it time we put our knowledge into action?