E-Voting Critics Brushed Off As Wild-Eyed Activists?

from the way-to-win-support dept

Both the Heartland Institute and the Pacific Research Institute have long histories of questionable public policy positions. Both groups have been accused at times of being involved in astroturf or shilling campaigns for their funders, who usually remain anonymous. PRI, in particular, seems to have a habit of making really bad arguments in support of their position — such as making arguments against municipal WiFi and net neutrality while making it clear they didn’t actually understand either issue. Tim Lee has now pointed us to a bizarre defense of electronic voting systems by a researcher at PRI and published by the Heartland Institute. The defense seems to claim that e-voting was a tremendous success despite all of the problems we’ve pointed out here. All of the actual problems are simply brushed off as “user error” which shows a startling (but, perhaps not surprising, given the source) lack of knowledge about the complaints of the problems during the last few elections. Also, even if it actually was “user error,” that should say something about how poorly the system was designed. If they’re built in a way that user error is such a problem, they were built incredibly poorly.

The article continues along its bizarre defense of e-voting machines. Anyone complaining about e-voting system problems is called a “wild-eyed activist” or an “open source zealot.” It seems that without an actual argument, the researcher has fallen to simply insulting anyone who disagrees with him. He doesn’t explain how to solve the problems that e-voting has introduced, but does make sure to say that user verified paper trails are a bad idea — apparently because they could be just as susceptible to fraud. So, basically, if I understand his argument correctly, it appears to be that we should use poorly built, untested, problematic e-voting systems with no backup, because “that’s progress.” Can someone explain how having a backup system that would at least let you have a double check on the system could possibly be bad? Even if they are susceptible to fraud, you’ve now added two separate systems to count the votes, and any fraud would have to defeat both systems. It’s ridiculous to think that it’s just “ideological lions” pushing for better voting systems. This is an issue we should all be concerned about for the sake of democracy — but, unfortunately, it looks like less than scrupulous think tanks are joining in on the side of the e-voting machine vendors.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “E-Voting Critics Brushed Off As Wild-Eyed Activists?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Matt Bennett says:

“Never attribute to malice what can be explained with incompetence” or something like that.

I think it’s pretty obvious it was Diebold, or similar, who is just incompetent and still wants to make a buck. I do not believe or take seriously the idea that some politician or organization is purposefully making an unaccountable system, so they can one day seize the reigns.

It’s unwieldly and requires too many people to be in evil colusion. Most people are incompetent, many are greedy, few are evil.

That way lies madness.

Keith Douglas says:

The article continues along its bizarre defense of e-voting machines. Anyone complaining about e-voting system problems is called a “wild-eyed activist” or an “open source zealot.” It seems that without an actual argument, the researcher has fallen to simply insulting anyone who disagrees with him.

I’m surprised your surprised Mike. Ad hominem attacks are usually the retorts of first resort in political debate. Whilst your may be primarily focused on the technical deficiencies e-voting machines it is important to remember

TheDock22 says:

Coporate Amercia

This really bothers me. Since when did the election of governmental officials become a billion-dollar industry? If I have to use the E-voting machines to cast my vote, I damn well better be allowed see the source code! Who are they kidding? That us tech savvy individuals will just sit around when we know how horribly wrong software programs can go?

Until I see the source code, I will continue to use a paper ballot. That’s all.

Reed says:

Just goes to show....

This whole debate just highlight how when major problems arise in our political system it is so fragmented because of greed and individuals desire for power that it can accomplish NOTHING.

Voting is a joke apparently and so is our so-called democracy.

Can’t wait to spread our “superior” political system to other countries like Iraq, lol.

Lee Amberson says:

Why Vote

After watching the Hacking Democracy documentary on HBO who would want to vote when the systems are so broken that it will let you have a negative number of votes. I’m a Republican and I will no longer vote until this is resolved because Diebold is donating large sums of money to Republicans, so who can prove that the Diebold unprotected Access databases are not starting with a negative number of votes for Democrats or that some unscrupulous county and state employees are not just going behind and changing the votes to favor their party.

CharlieHorse says:

#2, #8 100% correct

nail on the head, here, Mike.

e-voting is simply currently (imho) built deliberately to be … errr … adjustable per highest bidder. I’m not at all surprised by “research” such as this … of course the pols want a broken system – else how can they manipulate it for their corrupt ends.

building an e-voting system that is secure and reliable is, well, not exactly trivial, but certainly within our reach. we have the technology and the talent – but not the will – the government/media complex is far too powerful at this time to allow anything close to true and fair elections.

and sadly, since the two parties in power are both disturbingly corrupt – this is something that will have to take root at the state level with massive grass roots efforts to do this on state by state level. feds will do everything they can to stop it, but I think it is possible to win this fight. If enough states adopt a fair method, then feds will have to accept it – of, yes, we expect to see some asinine legislation saying things like, oh, you have to use diebold, or other crap, but if states and localities simply ignore it, yeah, the feds will try and say the votes don’t count – but this is where we can win this fight – remember the furor in the last two elections over “disenfranchised voters”? well, imagine if not just thousands and tens of thousands are disenfranchised- can you imagine the backlash if feds try and discount an entire state’s results ? with luck, it will wake up enough people from american idol to actually start caring again about their country and what is happening to it.

tek'a says:

The most frustrating part is the way Diebold is seemingly so incompetent. They still make those shiny automated teller thingamajiggers, right? and those work, right? If they can build machines to shuffle around bank numbers, PINS and cash, why does a simple “bob smith voted for x, please take your receipt and have a great day!” transaction cause such trouble?

I usually agree with that “Never attribute to malice what can be explained with incompetence” line, but its getting silly.. in a very unfunny way.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...