It’s no secret that I love technology. My job involves selling and repairing PCs and Macs. I am a regular listener to two podcasts on the This Week in Tech (TWiT) network online. I spend many hours in front of a screen.
I am a tech geek.
That being said, I have never understood the fascination that some people have with trying to introduce technology into the voting process. To me it seems that it is an unnecessary use of technology. Voting isn’t broken, we need not fix it.
Case in point. Yesterday, the province of New Brunswick held an election. Apparently they were using vote tabulating machines. Apparently polls closed last night and results started coming in quite fast, which of course should happen when using a computer to count votes. Theoretically, if polls close at 8:00pm, you should have a result by 8:01pm; computers are very efficient at this kind of counting. This did not happen last night in New Brunswick. Poll results came in until 10:30pm and then stopped… for over two hours.
— Brad Wilcox (@bradleywilcox) September 23, 2014
As a student and a user of technology, I know that it is possible to build a perfectly secure vote tabulating machine. I also know how hard perfectly secure would be. You need code reviewed by multiple people, checked and rechecked, secured against unauthorized changes, and a reliable and accurate paper trail created for each vote cast.
The first problem with electronic voting is that often it involves machines designed by private companies and the code is considered intellectual property and is not subject to public scrutiny. You need the code to be open to know that it is actually correctly written, bug-checked, and that no “secret” routines are included in it. The anchors on last night’s New Brunswick election coverage on CBC were very concerned about so-called “missing” memory cards in last night’s election. I understand their concern, however the cards were most likely just in transport and there are ways programmatically to ensure the cards have not been tampered with. If those precautions have been taken by the tabulator manufacturer then they need not worry. Unfortunately, how do we know that those precautions were taken?
As a proponent of a preferential or weighted ballot system, I am one of the first to realize that in such a system, computer counting may be needed to get a result in a timely fashion. I am not against the use of technology. What confuses me though is how some jurisdictions are relying solely on the machines. For example, last night the Progressive Conservatives were pushing for a hand recount of the votes; mostly because they were on the losing side of the count. My question however is why would you not hand count the votes anyway, every time? The computer should be used to make results timely (the machines should be faster most times, unlike last night), leaders can make their speeches, everyone can go home. But the paper count should always be done, with everyone acknowledging only the paper count as the official one.
Most people who understand technology realize why its a bad idea as the sole way of counting votes.