A recent fad in many parts of the world has been the promotion of electronic voting systems. The government hires some company to put a machine together, then people go to the voting area, hit some keys on a computer, and leave safe in the knowledge that their votes have been recorded. This is a very tempting idea - instant vote counting! Error-free! No snafus like the Americans had in Florida! Unfortunately, it's nowhere near that simple. At this time, there are no electronic voting systems to which I would trust my vote. I'm writing this in an effort to convince you to feel the same.

What's the biggest thing that electronic voting removes? The paper trail. Rather than make a physical ballot that can be verified by a human being, electronic voting systems simply increment a number associated with one of the candidates. But what if a mistake happens? What if the system dies partway through the voting process? What happens to the people whose votes were lost? The biggest benefit to a paper trail (i.e. physical ballots) is that they are very difficult to lose.

Moreover, if something happens to one of the electronic systems, how do you know it? It could well be that the system continues to appear to operate correctly, even though it's sending everyones' votes to a single party. Ask yourself this: how difficult is it to tamper with the current, physical voting system? You have to either disenfranchise voters, corrupt the ballot counters, or find some way to insert your own ballots into the boxes. And while these are certainly doable, they're also relatively easy to trace and can be defeated through vigilance and good security at the voting center. In contrast, all you need to do to tamper with an electronic system is get access to the code in the system and make one or two minor tweaks. The machines are protected not by the public eye, but by corporate security, which is far more likely to be partisan or swayed by bribes. What's more, once the code has been tweaked, it affects every single machine. With a few minutes work, an entire state's votes may be made untraceably irrelevant. How tempting is that? Do you really believe that all of the candidates for Presidency of the United States can resist the desire to get a little "insurance"?

What it comes down to is trust. Can we make a secure voting machine? Sure, it's doable. But how do you, personally, know that it is secure? Are you willing to trust a machine to handle your vote for you? You shouldn't be. I know I don't.

All items on this site are copyright 2004 Chris Weisiger (a.k.a. Derakon). That's right - I made everything on this site. Reproduction of any of my work in whole or in part requires my express consent.