Sunday, August 17, 2003

Maryland is the proud owner of thousands of Diebold touch-screen voting terminals, and plans to buy a whole bunch more. The security of such terminals has recently been questioned (for lots of scary material on Diebold, see here and here and here - what is most striking is that Diebold doesn't really seem to care whether its machines are secure or not, and is attempting to bluster and bluff its way past recent criticisms), and some have even wondered about the whole business of voting machines, particularly given some recent extremely peculiar election results in the United States. Maryland has now ordered an independent, third-party audit of the software for Diebold's touch-screen voting machines. This sounds like a good thing, except for one tiny problem. The company chosen to do the audit: Science Applications International Corporation (for more on SAIC, see the links in item 2 here; as an aside, SAIC's foray into the Iraqi television/propaganda business has not been a big hit). If the real deep problem with Diebold relates to its unusually close ties to one political party which tends to represent the interests of one group, appointing another company unusually associated with that same group and that same party to do the audit is worse than useless. The report that SAIC produces is likely to be kept from the public, and the only indicator of what the report says may be whether Maryland in fact buys more Diebold equipment. How is any resident of Maryland supposed to feel comfortable about this? How is any resident of Maryland supposed to feel that his or her vote will be fairly counted? I have but five words on voting: Paper Ballots, Counted In Public. Anything less is a dictatorship.