Chad 2.0

Computer voting was supposed to revolutionize elections. But has it just updated old problems?

The lessons of Florida's 2000 election debacle were painfully clear: Butterfly ballots and punch cards are no way to run an election. Vowing never again, Congress pledged nearly $4 billion to fund voting modernization, and tech firms rushed computerized voting terminals to market, promising modern convenience and digital accuracy.

But a closer look at electronic voting finds the new machines far from fail-safe. Tech experts say voting-terminal technology lags years behind the state of the art in both encryption and design. Not only are the machines susceptible to the kinds of voting mishaps--undervotes, misvotes--that produced Bush v. Gore, but they also may be vulnerable to hackers bent on stealing an election.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Voting companies claim that scenarios involving serious fraud are theoretical and nearly impossible to pull off: Few people have access to the source code or the machines. But the call of "trust us, we're experts" took a blow this summer when the Cleveland Plain Dealer outted Diebold chief executive Walden O'Dell as a major GOP operative. In addition to hosting a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser at his Columbus, Ohio, home, ODell sent out solicitations boasting that he's "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

Meanwhile, the appeals for greater oversight of computerized voting are growing. "We're very concerned about the software, about the security of the ballots," said Governor Perdue of Georgias voting terminals. "If they turn out to be not reliable or can be tampered with, then they're--frankly--useless."


Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.