Midland Daily News, September 28, 2004
One aspect of this country's political life has always been the right to vote, even though this right was restricted in the early days to men only. We have come a long way since then to enfranchise the former slaves and women. We finally lowered the minimum voting age to 18 and have allowed non-property owners to vote on millages. Poll taxes and strict voting tests have been abandoned.
It is a sad commentary on our democratic system that as more and more people obtained the right to vote, fewer and fewer people actually vote. We are excited when the voter turn out approaches 60 percent in a presidential election and are seldom appalled when that turnout for school board is a mere 5 percent or less. And that's a percent of the people who are registered to vote. Millions don't even bother to register. Those statistics are all the more reason why we need to vote and how important one vote is.
Americans are fascinated with technology. That technology is moving into the voting arena through Direct Recording Electronic voting machines (DRE or e-voting). In order to clean up the mess of "hanging chads" in the 2000 presidential election, companies are making machines so that it will be easy to vote by touching a screen for the candidates and proposals we favor. But hanging chads would be welcome compared to the dangers lurking in e-voting.
About 30 percent of the electorate - 50 million voters or so - will be e-voting in the coming November elections using paperless machines. Paperless voting means there is no verifiable way to count or recount the ballots. The election results depend entirely on the DRE.
In 2000, a DRE machine was taken out of service
According to verifiedvoting.org computer scientists are worried about the DREs because they know that a beginner programmer can make the machine record differently than what is shown on the screen. Even our everyday experience of using a computer tells us errors occur. That's why people tell us incessantly to back up our data. With paperless DREs there is no "backup" and no way to find or verify the information that was entered by voters.
Electionline.org has raised concern about hackers getting into the system. Another concern is the deliberate subterfuge of a disgruntled employee. Once again, paper ballot verification would alleviate these concerns.
The Help America Vote
Act (HAVA) was signed into law by President Bush on October 29, 2002 as
a result of the
The Michigan Secretary of State's
website, in describing the new voting machines for which
Let's be on guard to make sure our votes are recorded and counted in a verifiable way all over the country. Keep an eye on HR2239 and S2437.
Norbert Bufka is a Midland
resident and occasional contributor to the