Voting machines may be convenient and save paper, but they are vulnerable to attacks and data theft. Some jurisdictions only have electronic voting, with no paper backup. Electronic intrusions may be impossible to detect.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Harvey Wasserman states, “electronic voting was used to steal the presidential election right here in Ohio in 2004. John Kerry was the rightful winner in 2004 over George W. Bush. The secretary of state at the time, J. Kenneth Blackwell, and the governor, Robert Taft, used their power of electronic vote count to flip the vote to George W. Bush from John Kerry.”
Wasserman co-wrote the book, What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election. His recent book is The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft. In the interview, he adds, “this year, about 80 percent of the vote nationally will be cast on electronic voting machines. There is no verifiability.” Source: “Could the 2016 Election Be Stolen with Help from Electronic Voting Machines?” February 23, 2016 <democracynow.org>.
All electronic voting in elections for government offices should be abolished. Let’s use paper ballots only.
Corporations use web sites for their elections for the board of directors and ballot propositions. One can vote by mail in corporate elections, but the shareholders are also given unique pass codes so that they can vote on a web site such as proxyvote.com. Such voting is subject to unauthorized access, but usually such elections are not important enough to justify a switch to expensive mailed paper ballots.
The great powers of government do make voting important overall. A single vote seldom determines the outcome, but the total vote determines the fate of the world. The only secure voting method is paper ballots. The counting can be done by machines, but the paper ballots provide a backup for hand-counting if necessary.
Cheating and manipulations and errors can take place with paper ballots. The polling place can run out of ballots, or lose boxes of ballots in transit, and punched ballots can be misread. But as a whole, paper ballots are not vulnerable to intrusions that cannot be traced.
Electronic voting is done because of mass democracy. When there are millions of votes to count, software is quick and less costly. The problem is that a typical ballot has many candidates and propositions to vote on.
The whole concept of people voting for many candidates and issues is inherently flawed. Very few people will spend the time to be informed on all the choices. Few voters understand the implications of bond and tax measures, and their knowledge about the candidates is based on media advertising and a few debates.
The more sensible way to conduct democracy is to vote only for a council of a small group. In a neighborhood district with a population of a thousand, the voters could personally know the candidates. It would be inexpensive to distribute literature and hold meetings. The knowledge problem would be reduced to knowing the candidates’ character and positions.
Direct democracy for propositions seemed like a good idea when the alternative was corrupt legislatures giving privileges to special interests. But voting on propositions was a treatment of the effects rather than a cure for the cause: mass democracy.
Mass democracy exists when very few voters personally know the candidates. In ancient times, when people lived in villages or small bands, the leaders were well known. Now we have large bureaucracies and chiefs whom the typical voter never meets. Yes, candidates hold rallies where thousands cheer. Then people complain about how rotten is the political system.
The remedy for voting dysfunction is to only vote in small groups and only for council members. In an election with about 500 ballots, the votes can be counted by hand, witnessed by several interested residents. After the counting is done, they can have a party with cakes and drinks, and congratulate the winners.
With electronic voting, we no longer have a genuine democracy. There is doubt as to the authenticity of the elections. The foundations of government are on quicksand.
Human beings evolved from small bands, and we need to return to our origins. But that is a hard sell. How much corruption will we tolerate until society stumbles into the effect solution?
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FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.
Foldvary is the author of The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.
Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.