Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Voting equipment in Chicago and Cook County

We will soon be buying new voting equipment in Chicago and Cook County. For the best rundown on the different systems that the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners and the Cook County Clerk are considering in a joint purchase, check out deadlyearnest.blogspot.com

Archpundit.com argues that Chicago's rumored early move towards an Inkavote system is an indication that the Machine is pulling the strings and looking for equipment that will suppress the black vote (by increasing the fall-off rate of thsoe people who intend to vote but for whatever reason, do not have their vote count).

I don't buy it. I think the government employees trying to figure out what equipment to buy are honest people looking for the best possible equipment. They are constrained by what the private companies develop for governments to buy. I believe they all want to minimize fall-off.

I just wish some wealthy progressives would invest in a voting equipment vendor that could create a completely open-source, transparent system.

4 comments:

earnest said...

I fall somewhere in between you and Archpundit. I'm not sure anyone is trying to disenfranchise people with new voting machines.

Disenfranchisement is a possible outcome, even a likely one.

I guess you and I share a naive belief in the goodwill of most public officials.

But I'm concerned that, despite their goodwill, they may not have a clear picture in their own minds of how good voting machines should perform.

I'm concerned they haven't learned the lesson of the Kimball report -- that rates of falloff above roughly 1.0% or so are the result of bad voting equipment. They may not have added that up and realized that 20,000 votes could be the margin for Governor Topinka, or President Frist.

I'm concerned that they may have no criteria for the judgement, and instead, they're feeling their way in the dark.

earnest said...

I fall somewhere in between you and Archpundit. I'm not sure anyone is trying to disenfranchise people with new voting machines.

Disenfranchisement is a possible outcome, even a likely one.

I guess you and I share a naive belief in the goodwill of most public officials.

But I'm concerned that, despite their goodwill, they may not have a clear picture in their own minds of how good voting machines should perform.

I'm concerned they haven't learned the lesson of the Kimball report -- that rates of falloff above roughly 1.0% or so are the result of bad voting equipment. They may not have added that up and realized that 20,000 votes could be the margin for Governor Topinka, or President Frist.

I'm concerned that they may have no criteria for the judgement, and instead, they're feeling their way in the dark.

earnest said...

earnest also says that blogger servers don't work very well. I didn't mean to double-post. I clicked Publish, and waited for 5 minutes, only to get an error page. So the next time, I clicked Publish, waited a bit, then clicked Publish again, and now I'm up there twice. Sorry. Remove the comment if you can.

earnest said...

Open source is the Maginot Line of progressives interested in election reform -- a comforting idea that is ultimately useless.

The idea is that election equipment companies should publish the software that counts ballots.

The problem is that software is software. It's not hard-coded. It can be changed. There's no reason to think the software will remain loaded exactly as it's published. It's a moment's work to reload a few lines to change how a machine counts.

Closed source software is currently one of the best defenses against fraud. Right now, to commit any substantial fraud, you have to change the software in order to deliver a false result at the end of the day in the precinct, where the actual ballots are counted on a ballot tabulating computer, and then you have to replace the actual ballots with fake ones that match your fake count

(You have to get rid of the real ballots because of the possibility of recount: a few precincts are routinely re-counted, and if your false-count precinct wound up in the recount, you'd be found out; and close races are also recounted under court order, so you'd be at risk of being caught then too.)