Monday, December 20, 2004

A Christmas Update on the Elections

I will try to insert "Christmas" into everything I write for a while. It's a difficult word to type for some reason, at least for me. I wonder why?

In any case, the New York Times has a very good editorial about the rotten state of the American election machinery. Some snippets:

In San Diego, the No. 2 choice of the voters for the mayor's job may be headed to City Hall. Donna Frye, a write-in candidate, came within 2,108 votes of defeating Mayor Dick Murphy. But Ms. Frye's vote total does not include more than 5,500 ballots on which voters wrote her name, but failed to darken a bubble next to it. There can be no doubt that those voters, who would easily give Ms. Frye a majority, tried to vote for her, but were tripped up by poor ballot design. The voters' intent should be recognized.

In Ohio, where a recount of the presidential election is under way, it is becoming clear that as important as recounts are, they are not enough to ensure the integrity of our elections. Representative John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, has charged that an employee of a company that makes vote-counting software used across the state may have tampered with one county's vote tabulator after the election to make the recount come out right. If people other than election officials have free access to the tabulation software, it can make a recount an empty gesture.

Thus, what we have is the wrong person for San Diego's mayor and an Ohio recount which is a total farce. This needs much more attention and discussion than it has received so far. In fact, this issue is the very lifeline of all democracy. Just ask yourself this question: Suppose that ATMs were created so that you could cheat on how much money you're taking out of your account. Would you really expect that not a single person will take advantage of the design flaw that allows stealing?

Yet this is the current situation in the United States election practices. Anyone with good computing skills and a couple of good connections could turn the elections. Maybe this anyone already has? Why are most politicians treating this issue with total nonchalance?

The best thing that might happen is for a real hacker to hack the 2006 elections so that Donald Duck wins every single one by a vast majority. Maybe then we'd get some change.