In 2016, voting and who you’re voting for are hot topics. However, the question, “How are you voting?” doesn’t always reference one’s party affiliation. Voting machines will be how the majority of us cast our vote and this begs the more important question of, Do these things really work? The following essay, written by a professional essay writer, is devoted to the topic of the crisis of voting machines.
Voting machines and technology
More and more essential services and structures are being trusted to technology. However, blind faith in technology is a mistake, and knowing where to maximize technology is as important as knowing where it is not needed. Currently, the American democracy is facing such a crisis with relying upon voting machines. The majority of voting machines are outdated and faulty, putting one of the most essential aspects of the nation into jeopardy. The issues with voting machines, how to manage this, and the best future course of action is the focus of this research paper.
Planned obsolescence of voting machines backfires
The awareness that voting machines are nearing the end of their shelf life was gained through a presidential order to analyze and prepare a commission report on election issues (Keller). The report found that:
Existing voting machines are reaching the end of their operational life spans, jurisdictions often lack the funds to replace them, and those with funds find market offerings limited because several constraints have made manufacturing new machines difficult. (Keller)
It appears that maintaining effective and just election practices is an underfunded aspect of the democracy, and research has found that due to a lack of commissioners in the Election Assistance Commission, federal standards for voting are lacking (Keller).
The process of preparing voting machines, which the budget is not currently set up to support, is involved enough that it takes at least four years to get the machine from induction to implementation. Once machine standards are created it takes one year to develop the technology which matching it supported by certification and testing, while contract negotiation and manufacturing eats up another year. The last two years of the process are taken up by deploying the machines, testing in the field, revisions, and finally larger scale development (Keller). The process of equipping the entire nation with the most up to date and functional voting machines would be an expensive and time consuming endeavor.
The foundation of this problem began when short term fixes were chosen to solve the voting issues of 2000 when punch card machines mixed up votes in Florida (Keller). At that time,
“After further issues in the 2002 midterm elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that fall. HAVA gave states millions of dollars to replace punchcard machines and created the EAC, charged with establishing standards for voting systems” (Keller).
However, this motion did not require the standards to be established before states purchased their machines. Based on blind faith in technology, “many jurisdictions to replace punchcard systems — whose faults were largely known — with electronic, paperless machines — whose faults were unknown and whose reliability was untested” (Keller). The results of this trust were shown in the Bush election debacle.
Glitches and gremlins in voting machines
During the hotly contested close presidential race of 2000 the office hinged on the result of the voters of Florida, but while the news reported the voting tally with no difficulty, the voters in Florida reported another experience. From their perspective,
On Election Day, callers to a Florida radio talk show complained of “broken” ES&S Votronic touch-screen voting machines, according to the Drudge Report. “I voted for McBride, but the machine counted it as Bush. It did this three times. The polling worker finally said, ‘We have to re-program this machine.’ Another person was having the same trouble while I was there,’ a voter told Neil Rogers on his highly rated AM radio show. (Bollyn)
The media represented the new voting machines in a positive light. Such buzz terms as “limited snags,” “glitches,” and “gremlins” were used to shew away the faulty machines.
Of this experience the Florida secretary of state said the machines helped get the monkey off their back of voting irregularities. However, “The ‘monkey,’ however, reappeared when ‘a computer glitch’ was found to have ‘misplaced’ 103,222 ballots in Broward County, causing them not to be counted on election night” (Bollyn). In that county, that was 25% of the total votes cast, going uncounted in one of the closest presidential races of all time. For the media to play it off which such aplomb is highly suspect.
One of the tactics the media used to shadow its real bias was claiming the voters were not technology savvy, and must have made mistakes. However,
Inspectors and regulators have discovered dozens of security flaws in different types of machines. In 2008 a Princeton University group found that it took only seven minutes ‘using simple tools’ to hack into an AVC Advantage, currently used in over 90 counties, and plant malware to steal votes from one party and give them to another. (Keller)
This is incredibly alarming considering that the right to vote in elected leaders is one of the cornerstones of American culture. However, important to consider in Florida, voting machine error or tampering was only one of the many tactics used to keep certain people from voting.
Organized corruption regarding voting machines
Many people got out to vote in 2000 who had not been a regular voter before, as lower income and minorities were beginning to understand the power they had to turn elections. Here is a list of some of the tactics used to keep democracy from happening:
- Some 36,000 newly registered voters were turned away because their names had never been added to the voter rolls by Florida’s secretary of state Kathleen Harris (Parenti).
- Mailers were sent out to poorer and minority neighborhoods encouraging people to get out to vote on November 5th (the day after voting).
- Other voters were turned away because they were declared–almost always incorrectly–“convicted felons” (Parenti).
- In several Democratic precincts, state officials closed the polls early, leaving lines of would-be voters stranded (Parenti).
- Under orders from Governor Jeb Bush (Bush Jr.’s brother), state troopers near polling sites delayed people for hours while searching their cars (Parenti).
- Some precincts required two photo IDs which many citizens do not have. The requirement under Florida law was only one photo ID (Parenti).
- Uncounted ballot boxes went missing or were found in unexplained places or were never collected from certain African-American precincts (Parenti).
- During the recount, GOP agitators shipped in from Washington D.C. by the Republican national leadership stormed the Dale County Canvassing Board, punched and kicked one of the officials, shouted and banged on their office doors, and generally created a climate of intimidation that caused the board to abandon its recount and accept the dubious pro-Bush tally (Parenti).
With these types of overt practices of corruption it is not challenging to see how easily corrupted voting machines can be co-opted by those who will cheat to win.
Evidence of voter machine cheating
One huge red flag in the investigation of the viability of voting machines is the simple fact that only two companies make voting machines: Diebold and ES&S. However, both of these companies are run by brothers who are staunch Republicans. As such, “They both have refused to tell anyone how votes are tabulated/counted. And there is an overwhelming mountain of evidence of fraud and manipulation of these machines” (True Democracy). Since all too much intimacy exists between corporations and the Republican Party, this association is alarming.
Even more alarming when the information is known that Diebold was indicted by federal prosecutors for bribery and falsification of documents in 2013. In 2010 Diebold settled an SEC fraud suit admitting they had misrepresented division revenue in hopes of manipulating stocks. As well as,
As earlier as 2004, thanks to documents leaked by a whistleblower, it was discovered that Diebold had illegally used uncertified certified hardware and software in California election systems and planned to lie about it to state investigators. The e-voting systems, repeatedly found over the years to be easily hacked, were decertified for use by the state at the time (though they are still used widely around much of the country today.) (Sloan)
Those who participate in business in this way must never be trusted with something as vulnerable and valuable as the democracy of the nation. It is time that citizens begin waking up to the levels of real disempowerment being manufactured in the nation. This appears to be happening in the current election as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both talk about how their parties are rigged, and no one can win the presidency with popular vote thanks to the delegate system. This is the type of information which must become widespread to reform the system into a real democracy of and for and by the people.
However, it appears the Republicans are not the only ones willing to play it dirty. Recent evidence has shown that a voting machine in Chicago was programmed to only register Democratic votes (Kosar). This was discovered when,
While using a touch screen voting machine in Schaumburg, Moynihan voted for several races on the ballot, only to find that whenever he voted for a Republican candidate, the machine registered the vote for a Democrat in the same race. He notified the election judge at his polling place and demonstrated that it continued to cast a vote for the opposing candidate’s party. Moynihan was eventually allowed to vote for Republican candidates, including his own race. (Kosar)
Researchers emphasize that voters should check the print out from their vote to double check the results, but this does not bring comfort especially considering that the newer models of machines do not give a printed copy (Frankel)
Bottom line: the democracy is not as secure as it must be to function flawlessly. Corruption is rampant, and the regulatory bodies established to withstand such corruption do not appear up the challenge of standing up to big business. Technology is not always the best choice, and more options must be made available to ensure the viability of the choices made about who will represent the nation.
Bollyn, Christopher. “Voting machines and the bamboozling of America.” American Free Press, 16 Nov. 2002. Retrieved from: http://www.rense.com/general31/machines.htm.
Frankel, Judy. “The black box: Voting machines.” The Huffington Post, 3 Sep. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judy-frankel/the-black-box-voting-mach_b_8082384.html.
Keller, Michael. “Voting’s ‘impending crisis.’” Aljazeera America, 15 Sep. 2014. Retrieved from: http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia/2014/9/voting-s-impendingcrisis.html.
Kosar. “In Chicago, a voting machine was pre-wired…to vote for Democrats only!” The Political Insider, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.thepoliticalinsider.com/chicago-voting-machine-pre-wired-vote-democrats/.
Parenti, Michael. “The stolen presidential elections.” Michaelparenti.org, May 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.michaelparenti.org/stolenelections.html.
Sloan, Jacob. “Voting Machine Manufacturer Diebold Charged Over Bribery, Fraud, And ‘Worldwide Pattern Of Criminal Conduct’.” Disinfo.com, 30 Oct. 2013. Retrieved from: http://disinfo.com/2013/10/voting-machine-manufacturer-diebold-charged-bribery-fraud-worldwide-pattern-criminal-conduct/.
True Democracy. “Voting Machines.” TrueDemocracyParty, 2016. Retrieved from: http://truedemocracyparty.net/voting-machines/.