Posts Tagged ‘US elections’

Electoral Stupidity in the USA

November 1, 2012

Today I voted in the US presidential election. When I selected my candidate, I was surprised to see that the entire process was electronic and that there was absolutely no paper trail of my vote. I was only offered the option to vote electronically. This is an attack on the most basic common sense. One thing is to have an electronic process to ensure speed and efficiency and another very different one is that we blindly trust that system and can’t corroborate the final results with another source of information to confirm their legitimacy. This is not only ridiculous but very dangerous and I would even dare to say, stupid.

The US systematically insists that many countries hold transparent and reliable elections, but are US elections held to the same standards? Is cyber fraud completely ruled out in the US? Could even a simple and unintentional mistake alter the results? Is the electronic voting system 100% reliable? Is it possible to think that in the future a US president will make it to the White House not because he or she won legitimately the election but because of imperfections in the electronic voting system?

I was a communications consultant to Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal during the 2011 presidential elections. Guatemalans voted on paper ballots but the voting sites electronically transmitted the voting totals to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal so that the votes could be tallied more quickly and Guatemalan voters could know who would be their next president as soon as possible. However, after sending the tally electronically, the ballots were taken to the Tribunal to be counted one by one and to verify that the electronically-transmitted tallies were correct. This was done before representatives of the different political parties to guarantee the impartiality of the process. This is an example of adapting a process to the times and using cyber/electronic transmission systems in a reasonable and intelligent way, but at the same time using common sense.

If we are electing the US’ leader for the next four years, wouldn’t it be necessary to take all the necessary precautionary measures to ensure that the results reflect the voters’ choice? Why can Guatemala use paper ballots to tally and the United States not? What is so inconvenient about doing this to cast aside any doubt about the possibility of fraud or error? And isn’t this especially important when a presidential election in the US can be lost by 537 votes, as happened with Bush-Gore?

This year, Austrian police arrested a 15 year old and accused him of having breached the cyber operations of 259 companies. This is just an example of a long list. Every kind of international corporation has been breached by so-called hackers, including those companies that are experts in the matter. And add to that list government institutions. The Pentagon itself has admitted that it has been hacked several times. And if the Pentagon, with a budget in the hundreds of billions of dollars and a special elite division that specifically works to prevent hacking of the Department of Defense, is penetrated, how can it then not be possible to alter the results of an election in the same way? And if it were an enemy country of the United States who wished to do it? It could use its unlimited resources to achieve it.

When dealing with an issue as important as elections we must use common sense and, at the end of the day, it’s necessary to count paper ballots to ensure they match the electronically-transmitted results. I’m in complete agreement with electronic voting for the reasons outlined earlier, but voters should have a paper record of their vote to be able to turn it in at the voting sites so that there can be a reliable vote recount. There is no other way to ensure that the voter is certain that his or her vote truly counted. It’s the very legitimacy of the election that is at play. It’s truly incredible that the federal government has a budget of over three trillion dollars and that it hasn’t invested what would amount to a ridiculously small amount of money to have a system that would clear any doubt about the legitimacy of the election of the next US president.

I voted today and when I saw that there wasn’t a paper trail of my vote, I couldn’t help but think that the Guatemalan election could actually be more reliable than ours.