tallies can't be trusted
First published: Sunday, July 26, 2009
Marge Acosta's July 10th argument ("Paper ballots an
accurate system") rests on the unproven assumption that computerized
ballot scanners will count those ballots accurately. Many of our nation's top
computer scientists would take exception to that notion.
Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and
Technology have advised the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and Congress,
that computer voting systems cannot be built to high levels of reliability or
security. This leaves full or partial hand counts of paper ballots as the only
way to ascertain the true winners of elections.
New York's rules for manual auditing of paper ballots are
being written, but the standards that the state Board of Elections so far has
agreed to are woefully inadequate. The state seems unwilling to look for
vote-counting discrepancies that could easily change the winners of elections.
Instead, it would have us all trust the unobservable computer software.
Unlike lever voting machines, certification and
"accuracy testing" of stored-program computers is unreliable. Even if
a computer passes such tests, we can not predict how the system will behave the
next time it's used -- in a real election.
Software-based vote counting is fraught with potential for
error, wildly more so than our lever voting system now in danger of being
discarded. This immense yet subtle potential for error requires rigorous audits
designed to find miscounted votes -- with the paper ballots under continuous
observation. Without such auditing and observation, there can be no confidence
in election results.
E-Voter Education Project
New York City
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