Sunday, December 07, 2003

Accountability flew out the window

Diebold, a company known for making huge Republican campaign contributions, has been awarded several lucrative voting-machine contracts by an administration that has, if you recall, already shown considerable scorn for the actual counting of votes. Many people are upset that the company is making machines that cannot be audited and that leave no paper trail. The interesting bit is that Diebold's primary business is making machines that can be audited... so why are these machines different?

Bob Cringely writes:

Diebold makes a lot of ATM machines. They make machines that sell tickets for trains and subways. They make store checkout scanners, including self-service scanners. They make machines that allow access to buildings for people with magnetic cards. They make machines that use magnetic cards for payment in closed systems like university dining rooms. All of these are machines that involve data input that results in a transaction, just like a voting machine. But unlike a voting machine, every one of these other kinds of Diebold machines -- EVERY ONE -- creates a paper trail and can be audited. Would Citibank have it any other way? Would Home Depot? Would the CIA? Of course not. These machines affect the livelihood of their owners. If they can't be audited they can't be trusted. If they can't be trusted they won't be used.

Now back to those voting machines. If EVERY OTHER kind of machine you make includes an auditable paper trail, wouldn't it seem logical to include such a capability in the voting machines, too? Given that what you are doing is adapting existing technology to a new purpose, wouldn't it be logical to carry over to voting machines this capability that is so important in every other kind of transaction device?

Curiouser and curiouser... they actually have to go out of their way to make a special hardware that can't be audited. I'm thinking of requesting that the UN send in people from actual democracies to make sure this next election is fair.