March 19, 2009 - Accountability necessary in voting software
Paper: Times-Standard ( Eureka, CA)
Title: Accountability necessary in voting software
Date: March 19, 2009
Author: The Times-Standard
On Tuesday, the California Secretary of State's Office held a public hearing on the faulty software, provided by Diebold (or Premier Elections Solutions) that led to a mistally of Humboldt County's votes in the most recent election.
During that hearing, we were once again reminded of a cavalier attitude held by some of those in that company that frankly makes us concerned for the welfare of the U.S. electoral process.
During the hearing, an official from Premier Elections Solutions hinted that our county elections officials were partly to blame for the mishap, because they weren't recounting every vote every time they added a new batch of provisional, absentee, or otherwise late-arriving votes to the system.
Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich was at the hearing, and set the company representative straight. That any software designed to accurately tabulate votes has a flaw that would allow votes to be erased without leaving a record is frightening, and doesn't do much to add to the responsible company's credibility.
Even more troubling was a Premier representative's testimony at the hearing that the company, even in the latest versions of the software, hasn't ensured that system audit logs record important events, such as when an operator deletes ballots from the rolls.
We ask that the Secretary of State's Office do everything within its power to make sure that Diebold revises any and all of its systems to make sure that the erasing of votes can't happen without a paper trail. Any adjustments made to vote counts or tallies should be clearly recorded to prevent inappropriate tampering.
Systems that can't ensure this level of accountability need to be decertified immediately.
This is not to say that Humboldt County officials are blameless. Former Elections Officer Lindsey McWilliams violated the public trust when he failed to pass on information necessary to ensure that the county's votes are properly counted. Unfortunately, it is no longer in the power of county officials to hold him accountable.
But in the end, any system that requires such a work-around is flawed to begin with. Given human nature, it's only a matter of time before that step gets forgotten and votes get miscounted.
This is an area where there should be no wiggle room. The counting of votes is the most sacred of government responsibilities, and there should be a paper trail left behind to prove to the public that it's been done accurately and honestly.
Record Number: 11948676
(c) 2009 Times-Standard. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.