I have heard about problems with voting machines before. Computer scientists, especially, are leery about them. I didn’t realize how extensive the problem really is. The HBO documentary Hacking Democracy shows, there are good reasons to distrust those machines. They are black boxes: Nobody except the manufacturers can look at the code – unless a grandmother stumbles on the code on a non-secured FTP site. Fortunately for us, that grandmother, Bev Harris, didn’t close her eyes and click somewhere else. She downloaded everything and got computer scientists to look at the code. Aside from using unsecured FTP sites, which in itself is a major security no-no that everybody who handles any kind of sensitive data knows about, the security experts uncovered major amateurish security flaws. Harris proceeded to create Black Box Voting to shed more light on irregularities and security flaws, hoping to get some answers for all of us.
Probably the worst security hole was uncovered by Harri Hursti: an executable file on the memory card that is supposed to only collect the data. That’s like leaving your front door wide open for anybody to walk into your home. Hursti showed how this can be exploited to manipulate the vote count. This Hursti Hack has some rather disconcerting implications for our democracy, putting everything into question, including whether or not the people in elected office have truly been elected by the majority of the voting public. Nobody claims that such fraud on a large scale has happened. It would be close to impossible to proof since there often is no machine independent evidence. Yet, there is enough evidence of inaccuracies that this is no longer the realm of conspiracy theorists.
If nothing else, there are a lot of unanswered questions. They are met with excuses rather than answers, which raises even more doubt about the election system. Just a few of these questions:
- Why did John Kerry concede in 2004 before the situation in Ohio was fully explained, essentially stopping that investigation in its tracks?
- Why did most members of Congress not support the motion contesting the 2004 results in Ohio?
- How can a candidate get thousands of negative votes?
- Why can nobody look at the code in the voting machines?
- Why can so many counties get away with violating election law?
Too many questions. Too few answers. This is seriously endangering our democracy.