Thursday, May 28, 2009

American Idol, Hawaii, and Internet-based Voting

American Idol Finale - Coming SoonImage by stevegarfield via Flickr

While many of us are working to save the integrity of our election system by defeating New York's move to software-based vote counting, Hawaii and the NYC Department of Education have moved in the other direction -- internet-based voting. James Pinkerton has written an interesting commentary on the politics of vote counting, anticipating what he thinks is an inevitable move to the internet.

I include some excerpts from his piece. His questions and comments are as relevant to software-based vote-counting machines as the internet, but his solution seems as flawed as the current "certification" process.
JAMES P. PINKERTON: Will Democrats Become a Permanent Majority Thanks to Internet Voting? � FOX Forum � "So if vote fraud is already a problem, what will happen when the “vote” is simply an electronic pulse, that could have come, potentially, from anywhere in the US–or around the world? Who will oversee the e-voting process? And who will oversee the overseers?"

...But of course, the high-tech nature of digital democracy adds a new layer of complexity, as well as mystery, to the voting process. In theory, the technology is completely neutral. But theoretical technology and practical politics are two different things. Diebold, a leading manufacturer of traditional voting machines, has come under repeated fire for alleged pro-Republican bias. But the complexity of a voting machine is nothing compared to the complexity of computers and the Internet.

...So what’s needed immediately is a completely fair and transparent process to examine all facets of the transition to Internet voting. And the only way to achieve that fairness and transparency is to create a rigorously bipartisan outfit to oversee the implementation of such technology, modeled after either the Federal Election Commission, or the private Commission on Presidential Debates.

Voter fraud has always been a problem, and always will be. The integrity of our election system is based on the voters' belief that the system is impartial, observable, and secure.

A bipartisan commission of Washington lackeys sitting in a hearing room can never assure voters that a software based system -- local or internet driven -- is secure or impartial, never-mind observable. I cite the recent American Idol vote as a silly, but relevant example.

My Google Alerts for voting news were full of articles this week about the groundswell of fans who believe that AT&T manipulated the American Idol vote and that's why their favorite lost.

Just try to convince them they're wrong.
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