December 4, 2003
Bev Harris on the Perils to
Democracy by Electronic Voting
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
The complete article is currently (3/28/04) available
on the BuzzFlash website at-- http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/03/12/int03323.html
Excerpts from interview--
BUZZFLASH: There is a bill addressing
black box voting in Congress (H.R. 2239), sponsored by Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey? What are the key features of the
bill and do you support the bill?
HARRIS: I support the bill, with
qualifications. It does two of the three things that are absolutely necessary, if we are to use voting machines at all. It
requires a voter verified paper ballot -- however, we must make sure all four of those words are in there. It must be verified
by the VOTER, it must be verified, not "verifiable"; it must be PAPER not digital; and it must be called a BALLOT, which has
legal standing, not a "trail" or "receipt." ...
The problem area, and it is a whopper,
is that this bill doesn't attack the crux of the issue, which is proper auditing -- and that is something that is needed for
any computerized system, including optical scan machines. Right now, we pretty much throw the paper ballot in the toilet.
It gets locked in a box that no one can look at -- and we don't use it, even when we have it.
And this leads to the heart of the problem
itself: Our voting issue is, at its heart, an auditing problem, not a computer programming challenge. When we designed these
systems, we neglected to get input from the accounting industry. We have computer scientists using statistical models to recommend
audit procedures, but these models -- many of which have already been passed into legislation at the state level -- would
fail if used to audit financial transactions. ...
... The most important
thing that we keep forgetting is that the founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, felt that it was critical -- not "important,"
but CRITICAL to democracy, to keep the vote directly in the hands of the people themselves. Any solution which requires us
to trust a handful of experts will, sooner or later, result in the demise of our democracy.
That means we need to retain (and enforce)
policies to tally the votes at the polls, in front of observers. ...