Buying the Disability Lobby, and More

  • NY Times: The Disability Lobby and Voting. Some supporters of voter-verifiable paper trails question whether disability-rights groups have gotten too close to voting machine manufacturers. Besides the donation by Diebold to the National Federation of the Blind, there have been other gifts. According to Mr. Dickson, the American Association of People with Disabilities has received $26,000 from voting machine companies this year. The real issue, though, is that disability-rights groups have been clouding the voting machine debate by suggesting that the nation must choose between accessible voting and verifiable voting.

  • The voting-machine scandal just grows and grows. When the National Federation of the Blind accepts $1 million from Diebold, maker of the scandalously lousy machines that California recently banned, you have to shake your head in amazement at how putrid this entire situation is getting.

    The League of Women Voters’ support of unverifiable voting machines is another astounding situation. Barbara Simons, a California woman who’s an expert in computer technology, is running for president (AP) of the organization in a protest vote. I hope she wins and, with others who can’t fathom the league’s refusal to recognize reality, gets the organization to change its odd stance.

    The fact remains simple. There is no way anyone should trust to verify the validity of votes cast with some of these electronic voting machines unless we create a voter-verifiable paper trail and have frequent, random audits of precincts.

    Disabled people deserve a way to cast a fair vote, honestly counted. Some of the groups representing them — taking money from the voting machine lobby — would rather risk entire elections than make sure we do this right. It’s a shame.


    Posted by: K.G. Schneider on June 11, 2004 03:04 PM

    Thank you for saying this!

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 03:18 PM

    Since this issue usually provokes a reaction of “But a paper trail will let people sell their vote!” let me debunk that. Using public-private key encryption one can both encrypt the data on the receipt, and sign it with a different key to prove it is an authentic receipt. You encrypt the data on the receipt with one public key, sign it with another. You give one copy of the receipt to the voter, the other goes in a lock-box at the polling place.

    These receipts are useless unless you have the private keys to decrypt the receipt and check the signature. The private keys are tightly controlled, available only to an election official and a representative of each party. They are also generated anew for every election. You then use the lock-box full of receipts to audit the electronic counting of results. Any voter can also demand proof that his vote was counted by matching his encrypted receipt with the list of ones on record. But no one besides the voter knows which voter generated which receipt.

    This stuff isn’t magic, rocket-science, or even hard to use. You use it every time you visit a “Secure” website to perform a financial transaction.

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 03:25 PM

    The more companies like Diebold deny problems and try to buy their way out, the more Americans and their representatives should fear unverified voting. As the old business adage says, “the likelihood that customer concerns are justified is directly proportion to the vigor with with the company rejects their validity.”

    Posted by: Dave Kearns on June 11, 2004 03:46 PM

    Its not the League of Women Voters, or the associations of the disabled, that are wrong but those who persist in the untenable argument that electronic voting somehow has to be more secure – by geometric proportions – than any other voting method currently or recently in use. Electronic voting machines are safer, more accurate and more accessible than any other method we are currently using. That’s the bottom line.

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 04:21 PM

    Dave, if you have two systems and one allows you to verify that the count is accurate or not, and the other doesn’t allow you to do so, one is obviously not as safe. The electronic voting machines that are being most widely promoted and used fall into the latter category, although there’s no reason why they inherently should. Correcting that grave error in these machines is hardly trying to make them more secure than other voting methods — it’s trying to make them AS secure and accurate and verfiable, which can only be seen as good for democracy.

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 04:32 PM

    “Electronic voting machines are safer, more accurate and more accessible than any other method we are currently using. That’s the bottom line.”

    This is an out and out lie. Period.

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 04:41 PM


    Current US electronic voting systems have no audit capability. That means ONE LINE OF CODE can move 10% of the votes, or however many needed to throw the outcome. This may have already happened in Georgia and Nevada. We just can’t know. The manufacturers refuse to allow the code to be reviewed (protecting their “trade secrets”), even if reviewers are the government officials purchasing the systems and are bound by confidentiality agreements. The system smells rotten. Their “code signature” checks are worthless because there are too many ways to hide easter eggs in black-box code. I mean, if the Australians can do a decent open electronic voting system, why can’t we?

    With mechanical voting systems you at least have to hack each polling place; there’s no single black box where one person can throw the whole outcome.

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 05:02 PM

    Anyone who knows anything about goo goos [that’s good government groups], knows that they are always more corrupt than any crooked politician.

    Posted by: on June 11, 2004 05:25 PM

    There does exist an open source electronic voting system, used in Australia for parliamentary elections since 2001:

    Interestingly, they do not support a paper trail since their code is open to audit:

    There is no need to print a copy of any votes. The Electoral Act 1992 does not provide for a “paper trail” of electronic votes cast. This is not required as the software for the voting and counting systems has been rigorously tested, independently audited, and published for anyone to see on the internet. In addition, audit trails and security systems will be in place to verify that the software used in production is identical to the tested and a
    udited software, and to verify that the data actually counted is the data cast by voters in polling places. This approach is intended to ensure that there will be no way in which electronic votes can be tampered with. The system is intended to be more transparent and secure than the existing paper ballot method.

    Posted by: on June 13, 2004 04:01 PM

    Our most infamous voting state is having difficulty with its unaditable post-chad election systems:

    Voting Machine Software is Flawed (Florida)

    (sorry, I’d have linked to a K-R article if I could find one not requiring registration)

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