Monday, October 30, 2006
"Fox and Friends" worries about electronic voting
Imagine my surprise to see Bev Harris of blackboxvoting.org in an interview on "Fox and Friends"! (Fox seems to have posted every other segment of the show online, but the only mention on their website is the text "Plus, just how secure is electronic voting?") The occasion was the upcoming airing on HBO of "Hacking Democracy," in which Harris is featured. The film premiers Thursday night at 9 eastern time (full schedule).
The interview revealed that the documentary contains the only known footage of voting machines "flipping" the vote from one candidate to another. It shows a Republican candidate from Louisiana having her vote switched to her Democratic rival.1
As I watched I wondered, "Is it the propaganda value of the Louisiana incident that has attracted Fox's interest in the electronic voting problem?" I'm sure that didn't hurt, but a bit of current news seems more likely—that President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela might be part owner in Sequoia Voting Systems and parent company Smartmatic, which is owned by three Venezuelans.
A federal "investigation" is underway, undertaken by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). This is the same obscure agency that let the Dubai acquisition of American port operations go through. Suddenly those unhackable voting machines look mighty vulnerable from a right-wing perspective.
The friends at "Fox and Friends" picked up the AP story on the Venezuelans and wondered why foreigners were owning our voting equipment—
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said Sunday she welcomed the formal review after she asked the government in May to examine the Sequoia takeover.
"It's a national security issue," she said in a telephone interview. "Having a foreign government investing or owning a company in this country that makes voting machines could raise a question about the integrity of the elections."
Actually, forget foreign governments. The question is why any private company, domestic or foreign, should own the voting software and keep it secret from the rest of us. If we are to have electronic voting (and we already have it), the software must be available for public scrutiny.
In any case, it's good to see Bev Harris getting a bit of media in the media. She's the person who first exposed the problems of electronic voting and is still doing work that we can trust. Other organizations have come along—some creditable, some not—to piggyback on what she did. But even the best of them wear a patina of business interests and cooptation.
Harris has an excellent citizen's tool kit for people who want to work on the issue.
Blackbox voting update (8/27/04)
"Watchdogs demand vote accountability" (11/15/04)
Bev Harris vs. Keith Olbermann (12/3/04)
Voters' rights organizations questioned (12/21/04)
Bev Harris: The Carrie Nation of Blackbox Voting (1/21/05)
1Unfortunately, many people will see this as an instance of "hacking" and conclude that the Democrats did it. Instead, it is almost certainly an instance of bad programming. You don't hack a vote by displaying the result on screen unless you are unutterably stupid. Well ... nevermind. [back]