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The voting machines America is currently using need to go. They breed mistrust, and there’s a reason for that: They are not trustworthy. They are also inherently undemocratic.
No, I’m not talking about 2020–well, not as such. I’m talking about all the past elections since we started using these machines, as well as all the future ones until we come to our senses.
These Machines Are Antithetical to Democracy
Let’s do the second problem first. Here’s a question that pretty much answers itself:
Can a system be democratic if the people are not permitted to know how their votes are counted?
It’s not a democratic system unless the people have freedom to vote and have some understanding of how their votes are counted. So why are we using machines that have secret coding to count the votes? That’s one reason why the voting machines need to go: Their coding is kept secret. Get rid of those machines, and replace them with paper and pen, or with machines that use open-source software.
A related question also pretty much answers itself:
Can a system be democratic if the people are not even capable of knowing how their votes are counted?
Again, it’s not a democratic system unless the people have freedom to vote and have some understanding of how their votes are counted. Under the current system, only people with years of training in just the right areas of computer science are even capable of understanding how votes are counted. So why are we using machines that use fractions to count votes, instead of just simple arithmetic?
And why are we using machines that condemn us to ignorance about how a vote-count is going until the software is updated? Why are we using machines that guarantee an election cannot be run smoothly unless election workers are properly trained in the new technology? These aren’t online Trumpy conspiracy theories, mind you–this is the New York Times!
And why are we using machines where you can’t know how your vote is being counted–or understand much of what anyone even says about how they’re counted–without understanding what a router is, whether it’s connected, what a LAN is, what a firewall is, what a batch is, what packets are, what packet captures are, what an IP address is, what logic and accuracy tests are, what a client is, what a server is, what domain controls are, what computer logs are, and how to read those logs?
That’s another reason why the voting machines need to go: Their workings are an inherent mystery to the voters.
Get rid of those machines, and replace them with paper and pen, or maybe with machinery no more complex than the Scantron machine you remember from high school. Use open-source technology that doesn’t need a lot of software updates, doesn’t require any fancy training, and isn’t a mystery to anyone–or, at a bare minimum, that isn’t a mystery to your neighbor, uncle, or friend who at least knows computers and engineering enough to program a machine to count. I don’t know how to do that, but it makes a big difference that people I know can understand such technology. But no one I’ve ever met knows what’s going on inside these voting machines.
They Are Not Trustworthy
To some extent, you need only read the above.
To a greater extent, the massive untrustworthiness of these machines is best understood by carefully reading what Dominion Voting Systems actually says about their machines, reading an important report from a committee in the Michigan State Senate, and letting G. K. Chesterton remind us what sanity looks like.
Hath it not been said by Dominion Voting Systems?
Voting systems are, by design, meant to be used as closed systems that are not networked (meaning not connected to the Internet). It is technologically impossible to “see” votes being counted in real-time and/or to “flip” them.
Were the machines incapable of online connectivity, would Dominion not simply say that?
Well, many vote-counting machines really do have online capabilities, including some but not all Dominion machines and not only Dominion machines; see this NBC News story, for example. But, more importantly, see page 22 of this report from a committee of the Senate of Michigan:
A report from the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee:
Upon completion of the election, tabulators print the final results on paper. Clerks then connect a modem and transmit by secure, cellular connection or transfer by flash drive the unofficial results to the county clerk.
The Report then says the second-most important thing I’ve ever read about voting machines, consigning it to a footnote in miserably small font size: Voting machines (not including Dominion products in Michigan, apparently) have internal modems, but don’t worry:
…they are not turned on until the polls are closed and tabulation has concluded.
So first the machine counts the votes, then it prints the results on paper, and only after that is it allowed to access the internet for the fast, electronic reporting of provisional results. Or, for some of the machines, to be accessed by a USB drive for the same purpose.
In other words, the technology is secure if we keep all the modems off till the right time. Our elections are secure if we use the technology correctly.
Hence some wisdom from Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton’s mystery-solving priest in a book named after his wisdom, is the most important thing I’ve read about voting machines. Father Brown is explaining “The Mistake of the Machine” in a story bearing that name, and he says this:
“You always forget,” observed his companion [Father Brown], “that the reliable machine always has to be worked by an unreliable machine.”
“Why, what do you mean?” asked the detective.
“I mean Man,” said Father Brown, “the most unreliable machine I know of.”
The voting machines are not safe if they are not used properly. The only way for them to be used properly is for there to be safeguards in place–starting with something on the order of rules in 50 states saying no such machine may be used to count votes until poll observers from both parties plus government officials swear in writing that the modems are switched off.
If those rules were in place, we’d have had their existence and important drummed into our skulls by every fact-checking punk from CNN to the state governments. But that hasn’t happened. Therefore, the voting machines are not trustworthy.
We should listen to the feds–if only just this once. Specifically, we should listen to the Election Assistance Commission, a US government agency, laying down VVSG 2.0 standards–“Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0”–right here. Those rules require “systems to be air-gapped from other networks and disallows the use of wireless technologies.”
That’s right–not only do voting machines with online connectivity exist, but even the feds recognize that this is a problem, and they tell us we should get rid of them.
A broken clock is once twice a day, and once if it’s a federal government clock on military time that broke down in the afternoon. But now is that time.Published in