Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Good Idea

For over six years, our elections have been marred by irregularities. I tend to hang out in the camp that says the "irregularities" were deliberate attempts at sabotage, that elections were stolen as part of a nationwide campaign to install a Thousand Year Reich. Tinfoil hat aside, however, one way to fix one of the problems attendant to our election process is to demand that each and every electronic machine have a paper trail. Since 2005, the Democrats have been proposing bills that do just that. As in editorial in today's NY Times points out, another bill has been proposed in the 110th Congress, once again by a Democrat (Rep. Holt, D-NJ), and hopefully this time it will pass. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that this is an important first step in defeating voting fraud.

Electronic voting machines in their current form simply cannot be trusted. Just last week, a team of computer scientists from California released a study of three different voting systems that once again showed how easy it is to hack into electronic systems and alter the count.

The most important protection against electronic voting fraud is the voter-verified paper trail, a paper record that the voter can check to make sure that it properly reflects his or her choices. There should then be mandatory audits of a significant number of these paper records to ensure that the results tallied on the voting machines match the votes recorded on paper.

Rep. Holt's bill needs to be passed by the House and sent over to the Senate before the end of the year. But this is just a first step. The Democrats won the last election by the kind of margin that couldn't be manipulated via the machines. A combination of turn-out and general disgust with the Republicans over the Iraq War and over the corrupt malfeasance of several members of the GOP as the election neared ensured that victory.

However, massive voting-list purges, intimidation tactics against new citizens, and voter-fraud witch hunts by a politicised Justice Department also have to be stopped. Until the whole system is cleaned up, citizens will remain skeptical that their votes have any meaning, and tht means too many of them will just stay home.

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