[E-voting] Framing Computerized Voting

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Wed Jun 27 21:56:51 IST 2007


    *June 22, 2007 at 14:19:07*

Framing Computerized Voting 
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/by Paul Jacobs <http://www.opednews.com/author/author5733.html> Page 1 
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"Electronic Voting" is the death tax of the election integrity movement. 
It is imperative that we change the vernacular to "Computerized Voting" 
to reveal that election systems are much, much more than simple electronics.

Recent news headlines warned of breaches in Homeland Security computers. 
United Airlines was grounded for 2 hours due to a computer malfunction. 
When was the last time you read about an "electronic" failure in 
mainstream news?

Most of us are familiar George Lakoff's books and publications on how 
framing is used to manipulate the public. One of the better examples of 
this ploy was the transformation of "estate tax" to "death tax." A tax 
that only impacts those with considerable wealth was repackaged as an 
evil monstrosity that sounds like it shakes the loose change from the 
pockets of dead people.

"Electronic" sounds innocuous and we are easily misled into believing 
that voting machines simply mark and count ballots, when the truth is 
nothing close to that. Computerized voting systems typically "define" 
your ballot on a touch screen and then "capture" votes by converting 
them into bits of data stored on a cartridge. A separate computer reads 
those cartridges and the "results data" is deciphered by software that 
tallies the votes. Described this way, computerized voting leaves few 
voters feeling warm and fuzzy about the machinery computing our elections.

Election integrity advocates must never utter the E-word again. It is 
computerized voting that threatens our democracy. Computers are 
programmable and prone to software glitches, while electronic systems 
are perceived as nearly infallible. We flip a switch and the light comes 
on. Most of us don't understand the science of electricity and the word 
"electronic" is equated with reliability.

Vehicles come with EFI – electronic fuel injection. If an automaker 
tried advertising computerized fuel injection, they would likely end up 
with a lot of unsold cars.

Computers offer many conveniences in life, but they are prone to 
problems. Most companies that rely on computers have stringent backup 
systems in place; otherwise United Airlines would have had their wings 
clipped for much longer than 2 hours. Election systems that are used 
maybe once or twice per year lack the troubleshooting that comes with 
regular use of computer systems. While banks routinely make backup 
information available for customers to verify transactions, the 
information contained within voting systems is treated as a closely 
guarded secret not available to the average voter.

Computers routinely suffer glitches, reboots, hacks and other 
vulnerabilities. There is no evidence computerized voting systems are an 
exception to the rule. In fact, because of their scarcity of use and the 
secretive nature of election officials and voting machine manufacturers, 
the computers that run and decide our elections are more prone to having 
problems that are never revealed to the public.

The battle to reclaim democracy also requires that we be armed with 
accurate words. Computers are prone to problems and computerized voting 
is a definite problem if we expect legitimacy from our elections.

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