TELECOM Digest Editor noted in response to Scott Dorsey :
No. You cannot EVER trust a black box. Computers are designed by humans and humans are flawed. As long as systems are designed by humans, they will have errors in them.
Because we know all systems have errors, it's important that critical systems be open so that those errors can be seen and dealt with.
I'm not just talking about fraud ... although fraud is an issue, there is also the substantial issue of error. Things go wrong in complex systems. When things go wrong, we need to be able to figure out what went wrong and figure out how to deal with it.
The possibility of fraud is ANOTHER reason why systems need to be open, but computerizing election machines doesn't inherently do anything to prevent fraud or to make fraud easier.
Locking up the design of voting machines, computerized or not, DOES make fraud easier. It also means that inadvertent errors either are never detected or cannot be dealt with when detected.
You would never accept a mechanical voting machine that was a proprietary system that was sealed by the manufacturer and could not be looked inside, checked, verified, or repaired? Why should you accept a computerized one?
I have nothing against Diebold per se, other than the fact that their systems are sealed boxes that nobody can look inside, and that this is bad and is something they need to remedy.
--scott -- "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Here you see an example of where the two of us were talking in different directions, with different goals in mind. I was thinking in terms of fraud, Scott was thinking about the possibility of errors. Chicago, with which I am familiar, has election fraud galore. They've had it for many years. Therefore, it seemed to me that a relatively 'fraud proof' method of voting would be a welcome relief. But Scott's issues are equally important, at least to people who do not live around nor endure Chicago politics. Now, there are a lot of voters who contend that Diebold -- Mr. Diebold himself is a staunch Republican I am told -- is not above and beyond some shady tricks. Yet who else has offered that sort of software for the administration of voting? I do not know of anyone. I'd like to see a system where a truly non-partisan commission was in charge of voting; one of their duties -- and I would force Diebold to go along with it if they wanted to be allowed to bid for the contract -- would be (a) a full inspection of their software/hardware _only_ by employees of this non-partisan commission (who would be sworn to secrecy as to the workings, etc), if you will, sort of like the old-style election judges who sat as observers in the polling place. Any voter who asked for assistance or asked a question, then a judge from each party got up to answer his questions, etc. and (b) staggered voting hours so that everyone voted in essentially the same absolute! time frame as everyone else, i.e. polls on the east coast open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and in California from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Voters in Alaska/Hawaii would vote on Monday night from 8:00 PM to midnight and again on Tuesday morning from 6 or 7 AM to around noon. (As it is currently configured, voters in Guam and that area wind up voting [if they bother at all] on 'their' Tuesday anyway, before the rest of us have gone to bed on Monday night.)
I also happen to think voting could be done from home computers if security precautions were taken, but that would require some effort to _carefully identify_ voters AND assure that voting remained anonymous like it is now. A number of years ago, I wrote a paper on this very topic and submitted it to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, but there were a couple things wrong: (a) computers and the internet were not nearly as advanced as they are now, and (b) who is going to listen to anything an ignorant old man in a tin-foil hat has to say anyway. PAT]