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White House Watch: The question the candidates aren't asked and won't answer

By       Message Michael Richardson     Permalink
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Although 18,000 voters in Sarasota, Florida understand that software-driven voting machinery cannot be trusted, the presidential candidates don't seem to understand that voting technology has reached a level of unreliability that calls for an upgrade to paper and pencil.


After spending billions of dollars on electronic voting machines around the country, the candidates are now faced with a faith-based system.  While recent studies in California and Colorado confirm the security limitations of software-driven equipment and a growing body of academic research warns of dangers of election fraud by hackers the candidates go about their business trying to win votes that might never be counted.


Software designers and vendors rush to install "patches" and "upgrades" as they pile on increasing cost and complexity to voting machines.  Lost votes, flipped votes, blank screens, freeze-ups and other "glitches" are becoming common-place events in America's elections while the candidates look the other way.


Instead of making the voting machines more secure, the increasing complexity simply introduces more attack points for political hackers bent on altering election outcomes.  The "best evidence" rule of law no longer applies to electoral disputes and the public is left to trust the machines and the last person with access to the machine memory.


Election fraud, with today's technology, is now possible on a grand scale without detection thanks to self-deleting malicious software code.  As touch-screen voting machines lose some favor the software-driven optical scanners gain ground, yet both types of machines are subject to hacking and manipulation without detection.


Presidential candidates have much to lose with rigged voting machines and yet the silence about this homeland security threat is deafening.  In their efforts to not be seen as having kooky ideas or being outside the mainstream the candidates have imposed a self-censorship on a topic very important to their own candidacy, the honest counting of votes.


There is a ready-made solution to the software threat, hand counting of paper ballots.  However, three things stand in the way of hand counting: money, speed, and history.


Money is a barrier to honest elections because of the billions already spent on new voting machines.  However, throwing more money at the problem of voting security will only result in more money being wasted.  Hand counting keeps election administration funds in local communities instead of enriching some corporation or team of computer consultants. 

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Speed is a barrier to honest elections because of the media frenzy to count the votes instantly and report the results before the returns are in.  The mad rush to know the outcome of an election immediately dooms the results of the election for an honest count in this day and age of hackers.  Take the time to count the ballots and get it right.


History is a barrier to honest elections because hand counting can be rigged, and has been in the past.  However, this is a problem that can be fixed simply by allowing public observation of the count.


Public observation of hand counting paper ballots in the precinct is the most secure form of vote tabulation there is.  Public observed hand counting is the gold standard for an honest election.  It requires no expensive technology, cannot be rigged by a hacker, and would increase citizen interest and participation in the electoral process.


Why aren't the presidential candidates speaking up?  Why aren't the candidates demanding an honest count?


American voters deserve better than what we are getting.  Demand hand counted ballots with public observation; it is our only safeguard for our form of government.

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We need to vote in secret but count in public.


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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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