Opinion: Curse of the e-vote machine

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Steve Kline

True story: I’m walking up to a perfectly ordinary ATM to make a deposit. When my bank card is mere millimeters from the slot, the machine’s screen goes blank; then some sort of Matrix code starts scrolling up the screen and it flashes all sorts of error messages that make me feel as if I’ve done something wrong – even though I have yet to push any buttons. Someone walks up behind me and I say, “Sorry man, I crashed it.”

In light of my technological curse, maybe I shouldn’t vote in this election. I could cause havoc with electronic voting machines.

Because these machines are, you know, responsible for the course of history, I’d like to believe they’re a little more secure than every other gadget I’ve telepathically destroyed. Some conspiracy theorists, such as “computer scientists” at “Johns Hopkins University,” are afraid that e-vote technology has massive security flaws and bugs.

Monitors and bright colors? Choosing the leader of the leading-world superpower will be like a video game! What could go wrong? Some places have used these machines before, so all troubles are unfounded, right? Right. Right?!

Case study – New Mexico, aka, Mexico 2.0, Home of the Dinosaurs From Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Electronic voting machines lost 678 votes because of an inexperienced staff in the 2000 presidential election. This number seems small for a state, true. However, former vice president Al Gore won New Mexico by only 366 votes. Sidenote: Even if all those votes went to Bush and New Mexico turned a nice, bright red on CNN’s big map, Gore still would have won the election. Just think of this as a big old warning-warning-beep-beep-beep flashing lights Mayday-Mayday warning we’ve ignored.

That’s not the only mishap. After a quick search, it’s easy to find numerous reports of staffers who have no idea what they’re doing with the newfangled machines. A whistleblower faced a court for posting memos from Diebold, the corporation who made the voting machines. My favorite quote, “I need answers! Our department is being audited by the county. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16,022 when (voting information) was uploaded!”

Which brings us to the conspiracy theories. Crazy theories about Republicans rigging elections based on little mishaps are appearing everywhere. Just because Walden O’Dell, Diebold’s CEO, sent a memo to Republican backers that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president” doesn’t mean he actually meant it. He just, you know, was trying to get his people pumped up.

The 2002 gubernatorial (You’re never too old to laugh at the word “gubernatorial,” by the way. It’s like ” onomatopoeia.”) elections in Comal County, Texas, doesn’t really help squash rumors either. In that election, three Republican candidates received the same number of votes: 18,181. This doesn’t mean elections are fixed, it means either hardcore coincidence or (my theory) the apocalypse is nigh and we must repent! Repent! Repent!

With all the computer crashings, mysteriosities (I made the word up), hubbub and whatnot, many people are calling for a paper trail to occupy the voting machines. In fact, the very people who dismissed the paper-trail idea as too expensive are getting a little antsy. A letter sent by the Florida Republican Party to its constituents said, “The liberal Democrats have already begun their attacks and the new electronic-voting machines do not have a paper trail to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today.”

So, as I said before: vote. Vote as often as you can. Ballot it up, people! If anything, the more you vote the better your chances that at least one of them actually will count.

In two weeks: Beyond Diebold – the bastards who are fixing to fix the elections and other shady shenanigans. Complete with alliteration and numerous parenthetical statements.

Steve Kline is a senior in LAS. His column runs alternate Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected]