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Can Voting Machines Ever be Secure?

Computer-style voting machines make a lot of people nervous, since we know how easy it is to hack into computers. If this was done, votes could be changed and the next Presidential election could be rigged in an undetectable way.

Will Knight writes in New Scientist that a U.S. manufacturer of electronic voting machines is trying to calm these fears by making its proprietary computer code public.VoteHere has put the software used to control its e-voting machines on its website for free downloading. A "voting machine simulation" is also included that lets programmers see how the code works. Company founder Jim Adler says, "You can actually program it to cheat, and you can watch where the protocol detects where your ballot was changed." VoteHere is trying to reassure us that votes cannot be tampered with on their machines without leaving an electronic trail.

But some researchers say the only way to catch voting machine fraud is to have a paper print-out of each vote that can be checked by the voter and later used for a recount, if necessary. Voting expert Dan Wallach says, "The paper trail is the only way we know to work around the risk of someone tampering with the code itself." Wallach, along with other scientists, has detected serious flaws in the computer code used to operate the most popular Diebold voting machines.

VoteHere was inspired to post its code voluntarily after Diebold's code was taken from the company's website and posted online without permission. The Pentagon recently cancelled an online voting research project after researchers concluded that no internet-based voting system could ever be completely secure.

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