Thursday, November 18, 2004

why worry, the machines are always right

The kindest thing I can say about this article is that it is smug and uniformed.
In ATMs, Not Votes, We Trust

Last weekend the New York Times published an editorial that found "no evidence" of vote fraud but called electronic voting "a problem" all the same. After all, the editorial noted, there is "no way to be sure" that votes weren't changed "by secret software" inside the machines. If you're tempted to believe that analysis is rational, just ask yourself this question: Are you really sure that your bank isn't using secret software to steal $9.72 from your retirement account every week? And if the answer is no, why aren't you up in arms about that, too?

The bank is an ongoing set of transactions that are repeatedly, multiply audited.
You check, the bank checks, and if it's wrong, it gets corrected.
Your transactions are information that is shared between you and the bank.
And probably to various auditing partners (the tax man, banking associations) beyond the bank.

A vote is a one-time transaction.
It's a secret ballot.
No information about it is supposed to be shared with anyone.
Now, tell me how you audit if a vote is correct, if you are supposed to have NO WAY OF KNOWING how someone voted?

The reason you need paper is you have a visible indication of a vote.
Inside a computer you have nothing but anonymous, unauditable bits.

Hey, article lady, how about we try this scenario.
You give me $972 and I will promise to deposit it for you.
But you don't get to check whether I deposited it.
You just have to trust me.

This (hmm, how to say this kindly) misguided article is by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post, November 17, 2004.

Now I want to emphasize: this voting conspiracy theory stuff gets us nowhere.
Talk about the FACTS of unauditable systems. Don't speculate about things that (by design) are impossible to prove or disprove.
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