Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Neo Luddites and Voting

From SiliconValley.com :
In the suit rejected by Cooper, disability groups argued that banning electronic voting will deny hundreds of thousands of people the right to vote in private, while the counties claimed they have already run several safe elections with the new technology.

Cooper, however, ruled the Americans With Disabilities Act requires only that disabled voters be given the opportunity to vote and doesn't require independent, secret voting.
I'm very much in favour of at least some of the precautions that caused the Blanket Ban on touch-screen voting. There should be no trade secrets, every line of code should be, has to be, exposed to public critique.
But in effect, the ban is total : there is not time for any e-voting system to comply with the large and ever-growing list of conditions. Should it manage to do so, there's nothing to stop more, and yet more conditions being added. Some of which are actually counter-productive.

The model for Secure e-voting that has been proposed is for the machine to print out a slip of paper, which the voter then checks to see agrees with his vote, and which is then deposited in a conventional ballot box.... which is then hauled off as landfill, and a newly stuffed ballot-box substituted. Wait, hang on, that last part... has happened in elections since time immemorial.

Electronic voting, if implemented improperly, is easily rigged. But not as easily rigged as paper balloting is! And the easiest of all is paper ballots printed, rather than marked by hand.

Such a Blanket Ban, regardless of relative (rather than absolute) risks, is nothing but Neo-Ludditism, clothed in the mantle of concern for security. The shamefully negligent behaviour of various electronic-voting manufacturers has encouraged this view. But it's gone too far for rationality or logic, it's now about emotion, being 'more security-conscious-than-thou'.

Now, even those who make a rational decision that an electronic voting system, however flawed, is at least comparably risky as conventional paper-ballot voting are out of luck. If you're blind, or otherwise unable to read a ballot paper, you must rely on a person not of your choice to ensure that your vote is cast correctly, rather than an impartial (but possibly improperly programmed) machine. And you have no right of privacy. It's that last part that obtains my hircine quadruped..

I think the judge is worthy of the abecedarian insult (invented not far from where I live - Peter Bowles is a resident of Queanbeyan).

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