Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming Part II

Will wonders never cease?

Lookee here! From San Diego's North County Times, extended excerpts, and a tip of the frozen cap to Paul Lehto).
Paper ballots necessary to preserve democracy

By: KEN KARAN - Commentary

In a dramatic move, Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified San Diego's Diebold electronic voting machines. While that move brought relief to defenders of democracy, those not so enamored with the will of the people found some relief in her offer to recertify the machines once conditions are met. [...] Because the machines were not designed to be secure, and because election officials refuse to implement procedures necessary to mitigate the risks of that design, meeting the conditions for recertification will be difficult, if not impossible. This means that San Diego County officials must decide whether we will return to the use of touch-screens to cast and secretly count votes, vote on a tangible ballot that is also counted by secret software whether mailed in or not, or return to the most transparent and democratic method of elections and hand-count tangible ballots. Whatever direction we take regarding electronic voting after Bowen's decision, the bloom is off the rose. The emperor has no clothes.

Bowen's review of Diebold's products has revealed that they cannot be trusted with our votes. The decision to remove the risk of tampering from our elections is forcing San Diego County citizens to re-evaluate whether the convenience of computers justifies the risk to liberty. More fundamental than whether the machines can be made secure is the revelation of what can happen when elections are outsourced to the highest bidder or biggest campaign contributor. In a market-based model, elections are a commodity to sell. While the deal-makers profit, citizens are removed further and further from the process. Eventually, citizens come to believe that their right to participate in the tradition of self-government is limited to showing up at the pre-appointed time to press a button.

Secret vote-counting concentrates power in the hands of those who own the counting process. Removing citizens from the process of verifying elections undermines the very underpinnings of a democracy, which require that power must be dispersed to citizens. The alternative is tyranny.

The e-voting experiment will not end quietly. [...] If the decertification of Diebold machines means the end of secret vote-counting and a return to paper ballots counted by hand, the sky will not fall, chaos will not reign and the terrorists will not follow us home. Instead, printers will print ballots, voters will mark and verify them in one simple process, and they will be counted in view of citizens. Any concern that a system of paper ballots is more prone to tampering than electronic voting is wishful thinking on the part of Diebold's supporters. Imagine a top-to-bottom review of a paper ballot system. How many secret processes would have to be investigated? None. How many worse-case scenarios would have to be imagined? About five, compared to the 120 ways to rig e-voting. All that's needed with paper ballots for security is to keep your eyes on them, and to create an impregnable chain of custody.

E-voting forces citizens to abdicate responsibility for the functions of a free society. Thomas Jefferson taught that, "the qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training."

The right to self-government is unalienable, but the act itself must be practiced. [...] The people must take responsibility for the one institution that renders all other institutions subservient, our elections. It's a burden, but it's a burden unlike any other because it makes us free. Secretary Bowen's decision to listen to reason and not special interests is our invitation to reclaim our place in government as the nation's founders intended by taking responsibility for our freedom.

Ken Karan is an attorney in Carlsbad and co-founder of Psephos, a local elections watchdog group.