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Voting machines with no paper trails

More on vote (mis?)counting machines, from Paul Krugman in today’s New York Times. As always with the NYT, hurry.

Opening paragraphs:

Inviting Bush supporters to a fund-raiser, the host wrote, “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” No surprise there. But Walden O’Dell – who says that he wasn’t talking about his business operations – happens to be the chief executive of Diebold Inc., whose touch-screen voting machines are in increasingly widespread use across the United States.

For example, Georgia – where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories in the 2002 midterm elections – relies exclusively on Diebold machines. To be clear, though there were many anomalies in that 2002 vote, there is no evidence that the machines miscounted. But there is also no evidence that the machines counted correctly. You see, Diebold machines leave no paper trail.

Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who has introduced a bill requiring that digital voting machines leave a paper trail and that their software be available for public inspection, is occasionally told that systems lacking these safeguards haven’t caused problems. “How do you know?” he asks.

What we do know about Diebold does not inspire confidence. The details are technical, but they add up to a picture of a company that was, at the very least, extremely sloppy about security, and may have been trying to cover up product defects.

I think if people are seriously about democracy, they should keep it all on paper. That way, onlookers and overseers can see fair play, and with luck they can spot at least some of the unfair play. Put your vote in a computer system, and who the hell knows where it ends up?

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