On Voting Machines

My voting precinct uses paper ballots. Odd paper ballots, to be sure–you use a black sharpie to connect two halves of an arrow to indicate your voting preferences–but still, paper ballots. With a paper trail. As my experience a year ago when I was nearly disenfranchised would indicate.

But not all of North Carolina uses paper ballots. Some precincts use touch-screen voting machines. Like the ones made by Diebold. Which caused a major problem in one election earlier this year–the machines indicated that votes were made but gave no indication of what those votes were.

And one election, for State Superindentent of Schools, dragged on for months because those “missing” votes could have made the difference for one candidate or the other. (Yes, the election really was that close.)

As an aside, I have no idea if that election dispute was ever resolved. I think the State Legislature got involved in some fashion, but don’t quote me on that.

Anyway.

The state decided that faulty voting machines were Not A Good Thing. They passed a law. If a company provides a computerized voting machine to the state, that company needs to also provide the source code of the software that runs on the machine so that the state can audit the software and be assured that the software does what the company says the software will do.

What does Diebold do? If that’s the cost of doing business in North Carolina, they would rather not do business in North Carolina.

Paranoid sorts think that this move by Diebold proves their wildest conspiracies, that the computerized voting machines are rigged. I think Diebold’s move is nothing of the sort–Diebold certainly considers their voting machine software a trade secret and would want to protect their code from the prying eyes of competitors.

Their software is buggy–the events earlier this year in Cartaret county certainly show that–they’re willing to write off a lot of business to cover up that fact, all to avoid really does seem like a reasonable request–open up the software to an independent audit. Diebold’s actions may not lose them business in just North Carolina–other states, doubtless, will question what it is Diebold has to hide in their voting machines and may reconsider doing business with them. Diebold is clearly in a lose-lose situation.

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