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Sunday, December 07, 2003
 
Flawed By Design

The always-insightful Robert Cringely strikes again, this time on the subject of electronic voting:

Now here's the really interesting part.  Forgetting for a moment Diebold's voting machines, let's look at the other equipment they make.  Diebold makes a lot of ATM machines.  They make machines that sell tickets for trains and subways.  They make store checkout scanners, including self-service scanners.  They make machines that allow access to buildings for people with magnetic cards.  They make machines that use magnetic cards for payment in closed systems like university dining rooms.  All of these are machines that involve data input that results in a transaction, just like a voting machine.  But unlike a voting machine, every one of these other kinds of Diebold machines -- EVERY ONE -- creates a paper trail and can be audited.  Would Citibank have it any other way?  Would Home Depot?  Would the CIA?  Of course not.  These machines affect the livelihood of their owners.  If they can't be audited they can't be trusted.  If they can't be trusted they won't be used.

Now back to those voting machines.  If EVERY OTHER kind of machine you make includes an auditable paper trail, wouldn't it seem logical to include such a capability in the voting machines, too?  Given that what you are doing is adapting existing technology to a new purpose, wouldn't it be logical to carry over to voting machines this capability that is so important in every other kind of transaction device?

Cringely promises to answer this question in his next column. While he's at it, I'd also like to know why Diebold and the other electronic voting machine manufacturers so stubbornly refuse to admit that auditability is a desirable attribute of electronic voting systems. If they were concerned with the bottom line, like, say, businesses, they could turn this controversy into whole new contracts to retrofit their machines to generate paper. If, as Cringely posits, the companies adapted voting machines from existing systems, every one of which already leaves a trail, it should be a very lucrative piece of cake. Why aren't they chasing this easy money?

via /.