Monday, February 28, 2011

The High Cost of High-Tech Voting

by Rebecca Wilson

This year, as in the past two years, a bill is making its way through Maryland's General Assembly that would delay the purchase of a new voting system until 2016. While the intention behind it is to save money, the legislation (SB21 and HB174) would accomplish exactly the opposite.

At a 2009 hearing on a previous version of the bill, the Maryland Association of Election Officials (MAEO) turned out in full force, protesting that they couldn't afford to pay for a new voting system while they were still paying off the purchase loan on the current one. One election official from a small county testified that his county already was paying $50,000 and they could not afford to pay any more.

"Does that include operating expenses?" asked a senator on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee hearing the bill. The man said that he didn't know.

The senator then questioned the second election official on the panel, who admitted that he had no idea what his county was currently paying.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quick! What's the difference between a voting machine and an ATM?

There are many, of course, but the most fundamental difference is: anonymity.

Many people have said to me, "I don't have a problem with electronic voting. I live my life online, I do my banking on my computer, why shouldn't I vote electronically?"

It's a fair question. I also do my banking in cyberspace. But what if there was no way to reconstruct a record of your transactions and you had to blindly accept the bank's statement of your balance? That's essentially the case with electronic voting.

American democracy is -- wisely -- built on ballot secrecy, which helps to deter intimidation, coercion, and the buying or selling of votes that could quickly corrupt our form of governance. But it also means that the only person who knows whether a vote was counted correctly is the voter. And once the ballot is cast, there should be no way to reconnect that voter with that ballot. So what kind of safeguard can we build into the system to help ensure that the ballot is interpreted and counted as the voter intended to cast it?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Passion for Democracy

The urge for freedom and self-determination beats strong within the human heart, as recent events in Egypt and Tunisia attest. But democracy is fragile and can fall prey to powerful forces that seek to suppress or undermine it. Those threats can ride in on horseback brandishing whips or they may come in more subtle guises.