Here is a first-class example of how not to serve the public interest. Note how the reporter frames the struggle over DRE machines: as an “already-cantankerous debate” between Two Sides, equally respectable. On one side, there’s “a coalition of voting rights activists and prominent computer scientists,” arguing against the use of the machines. On the other side, we have…. the manufacturers of said machines, “and many election officials.” In between the two are “state officials” trying earnestly “to strike a middle ground.”
God forbid the Post reporter should “take sides,” as that would violate the Golden Rule of “balance,” and the “debate” might turn still more “cantankerous”–or maybe it would get a bit more edifying, as real debate should be. A real debate would duly note the mammoth qualitative difference between that coalition and those interests pushing the machines on an electorate that doesn’t want them. (According to a recent Zogby poll, over 80% of the American people would much prefer going back to paper ballots.) That is, a real debate would not equate those “sides,” as only one of them, that “coalition” of reformers and computer scientists, is expert, disinterested and patriotic, while the other has only a vested interest in imposing the machines on us. Diebold and its corporate peers are not just out to make a buck, but also share a whopping partisan agenda, having long since been in bed with the Republicans. For their part, those “election officials” clamoring for DRE machines are, by and large, either agents of the GOP, or Dems who have been purchased by Diebold et al., and/or county bureaucrats who want their lives made easier. They like the DRE machinery primarily because it frees them from the tiresome chore of having to count paper ballots, just as their counterparts in Canada and Germany and France routinely do without complaint.
That isn’t a good reason for adopting those machines. In fact, there’s no good reason to adopt them, as they keep breaking down, cannot be audited, are easily hacked and cost (at least) about three times as much as other kinds of voting system. Add to all that the vendors’ partisan connection, and you have a system no-one wants, except for those who stand to profit from it. That the Post would treat such corporate flacks and party hacks as righteous witnesses, comparable to scientists and civic activists, tells us that democracy and journalism are both ailing badly here in these United States.
Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting
Test of Software in Machines Renews Security Concerns
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 30, 2006; A15
The already-cantankerous debate over high-tech voting machines, which have been installed in great numbers in recent years, is growing more intense and convoluted as primaries get underway and the midterm election nears.
A coalition of voting rights activists and prominent computer scientists argues that some of the machines are not sufficiently secure against tampering and could result in disputed elections, while voting machine vendors and many election officials say that view is exaggerated.
The latest dispute occurred several weeks ago after it was discovered at a test in Utah that someone with a reasonable knowledge of computer code could gain access to and tamper with the system software on a popular brand of voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. The developments prompted California and Pennsylvania to send urgent warnings to counties that use Diebold’s touch-screen voting systems to take additional steps to secure them.
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