This CNN story, Gaffe casts doubts on electronic voting, is a bit dated but important. In a nutshell, Diebold Election Systems Inc. is the leading vendor of electronic voting machines, particularly touch-screen voting machines. Diebold’s machines have already been hacked (not in an actual election) and, as CNN reports, Diebold recently posted the results of absentee votes for an election in San Louis Obispo, CA hours before the polls were closed.
The odd part in all this is that Diebold, for some reason I’ve never heard explained, is opposed to having its system keep a paper record of the votes-for example, a simple step like having the machines print and store a hard copy of each voters’ selections (or maybe the voter would review the hard copy and drop it in a box, though that increases the likelihood of a discrepancy). At the end of the day, the number of hard copies at each machine should equal the number of recorded electronic votes. If so, then electronic tabulation can proceed. If not, then the print-outs are counted manually. ATM machines have been doing something similar for decades. Has anyone heard why voting machine makers oppose this?
The Diebold FAQ does not address this question. However, it does say that “[The Diebold software’s] process eliminates the need for the generation and storage of paper ballots for use with provisional voters,” which leads me to suspect that the Diebold marketing people fear that states and municipalities would see little reason to buy Diebold machines if they still produce paper. I think that’s misguided because, paper or not, touch-screen voting would still prevent over and under votes while also dramatically increasing the speed and accuracy of the count. But if a hacker breaks into the system, or even alleges to have done so, there needs to be a hard copy of all the ballots. It’s so common sensical that it’s sure not to happen.