PAPER BEATS ROCK AND SCISSORS – Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit makes a case for the return to paper:
I’ve been talking about the importance of protecting against voting-machine hacks since 2002. And now, finally, people are starting to take me seriously.
The move to paperless voting started in response to the Florida “hanging chad” fiasco in the 2000 presidential election. Some people (like me) thought this was a mistake, but such concerns were often dismissed. Now, apparently, you can’t be paranoid enough. As Politico’s Bob King noted, while 10 years ago critics of paperless voting were called paranoid, now both parties are worried…
In some ways, paper and ink is a super technology. When you cast a vote on a voting machine, all that’s recorded is who you voted for. But a paper ballot captures lots of other information: Ink color, handwriting, etc. If you have access to a voting machine that’s connected to the Internet, you can change all the votes at once. To change a bunch of paper ballots takes physical access, and unless you’re very careful the changed ballots will show evidence of tampering. Paper ballots aren’t fraud-proof, of course, as a century of Chicago politics demonstrates, but they’re beyond the reach of some guy sitting at a computer in a basement halfway around the world. And there are well-known steps to make Chicago-style fraud harder.
There is no shame in admitting that the older solution is a better solution and in going technologically backwards for the sake of considerations like integrity and certainty, which are in this context more important than speed and efficiency.
As an Australian, who has spent his entire adult life voting with a pencil on a piece of coloured paper and who has spent many an election night as a scrutineer watching over the shoulders of election officials manually unfolding, grouping, counting and recounting the said paper ballots, it still amazes me that anyone would opt for an electronic system, which is so open to general attack and manipulation. The traditional way might be more time and effort intensive, but on a national scale is virtually fraud-proof (the fraud connected with eligibility to vote is a separate issue), unlike the IT infrastructure, which will inevitably attract hackers, either opportunistic or malicious. This is what worries me about the whole rush towards “the internet of things” and the increased networking of everything. Connected heart pace-makers, fridges or cars are nice ideas, until they get hacked – and they will. Some things – elections, among them – are too important to open them to this sort of a risk. If the Americans were still going to their polling booths pen in hand, no one would be talking now about the Russians “hacking” the election. This alone is worth the change back.