|OK, my first new thread on Barbelith. I haven't posted much at all so far, and not at all outside of the Conversation, so we'll see how this goes.|
Basically, as it says on the tin, many countries are increasingly using voting machines - in the Netherlands 90% of all votes are cast electronically, in Germany about 2 million people voted electronically at the last general election, Brazil uses them almost exclusively, and then there's the whole Diebold debacle in the US.
What's worrying about this is that people don't seem to even notice. Other than in the US, and that was because many people didn't trust Diebold - what most don't realise is that there are fundamental, unfixable problems with voting computers that go well beyond some sleazy corporation with too much lobbying money building insecure machines. Yet various countries are going ahead with moving to using these devices, with next to no media attention.
The Wikipedia article on the subject gives a good overview, but briefly, the fundamental problem with electronic voting is that several of the basic requirements for a truly democratic election are sacrificed for very little gain.
Unless a paper trail is used, there is NO way of verifying the result of an election. It's easy to argue that that's fine - you don't need recounts because the computer doesn't make any mistakes while counting. But that means you have to trust the computer, and therefore you have to trust the people who put the computer there (manufacturer, programmer, the local authority running the election), in stark contrast to a paper-ballot-based election, where any member of the general public can observe and thus verify EVERY step of the voting and counting process.
The voting computers being used at the moment in most places, particularly those used in Dutch elections, are horribly insecure, and physical security of the machines is being neglected in a way that boggles the mind. But even if that were fixed, the fact remains that there is no way even in theory to make the results verifiable and the machines trustworthy. And what are the advantages of giving up the core principles of democratic elections? Oh, we save a few trees by not printing paper ballots, and we get the results faster.
Some more links:
wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet - the Dutch campaign against electronic voting, slowly gaining momentum.
Petition against electronic voting (for Germany only) - all Germans here please sign this!
Chaos Computer Club - the German hacker organisation, which is campaigning against computer voting (and they know what they're talking about).