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.

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  1. identicon
    tek'a, 23 Jan 2007 @ 9:02pm

    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.

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