From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Why is it so hard to count a vote?

February 4, 2004 8:51 AM

The San Jose Mercury News did an extensive investigation into the potential vote tampering during the recall election I mentioned last October.

For an unknown reason, the computerized tally program [in Alamenda County] had begun to award votes for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Burton, a socialist from Southern California. ... Alameda County officials still don't know why the computer program failed on election night. In fact, they only discovered the malfunction because they could compare the paper absentee ballots the software was counting to the computer's tally. The rest of the county's voters cast electronic ballots.

Nor were election workers aware at the time that their touch-screen machines were running unauthorized Diebold software in violation of California law, as a state investigation later discovered.

The fundamental problem? There's no paper trail of votes cast, and the software that counts the votes is a "trade secret" of a private corporation. So there is no way to verify that the software accurately counted the votes. We have to trust the corporation -- which is scary by itself -- but it's completely nutso considering all the problems that have already been identified.

If I was running Diebold, I would be so embarassed of these problems, and so eager to allay concerns about the fact that my product is screwing up elections, that I would provide my source code for independent review immediately. But that hasn't happened. Makes you wonder, huh?

In response to these issues, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has ordered that all counties use machines that provide paper trails by 2006.

More from the archive in Corruption, Elections, Tech.

Why is it so hard to count a vote? (02.04.2004)

Next Entry: Bush on Meet the Press this Sunday! (02.04.2004)
Previous Entry: Post mini-Tuesday delegate count (02.04.2004)

Jim Gilliam
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