There are many controversial topics in this politically correct world. There are topics about morals, standards, and personal ethics. One of the newest debatable subjects however, is the one concerning this new centuries way of casting an individual's vote, through electronic voting. Electronic voting is a way to cast a person's ballot using an electronic voting machine that is touch screen. There are many advantages to using these machines during an election but there are also many disadvantages to using them as well. Before a person can make their own judgments on this subject it is important to understand and view both sides of the argument.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been put forth to upgrade voting systems all around the country, and most of the money going to going to paperless e-voting systems. A study by Election Data Services indicates that 50 million voters, or about 28 percent of the voting population, used such electronic voting systems in 2004. This is about twice as many more than voted electronically in the previous election (Boyle). These numbers are important to understand the experience that this new way of voting has been used. Not even half of the voters have used the machine so before our country changes the system of voting they need to know how this small percentages voting is affected and how accurate and safe it truly is. Many people, who support the newest electronic voting machines, are people who remember the year 2000 elections.
In those elections there were many problems, tons of the paper ballots had not been punched through properly, and so could not be counted. The lack of a clear cut winner made it even more controversial throughout the country. According to the Voter Technology Project six million votes could not be counted because of the errors. Many elderly people reported having had trouble putting the holes in the proper space while voting. Another problem found while voting in that particular election was the voting places made it difficult to cast a persons vote. There were also numerous rumors going around that poll workers were involved in fraudulent activities to support the candidate of their choice.
All of these reports and rumors brought on the idea to start voting electronically and eliminate paper technicalities. Supporters understand that electronic voting is not flawless but it is still more perfected than the old way of voting on paper. One person believes that electronic voting is the safest way to vote today. No ballots can be misplaced and there is no need for poll workers to help a voter out by looking over the voters shoulder, then making changes where necessary (Voting Technology Project).
People are looking to protect their privacy and make sure that there vote is one of the votes that really count. The problem is that it is not safe to have a paper or receipt type thing printed out for a voter, this type of thing could lead to a wide spread buying of votes by the separate sides. Buying votes is obviously something neither side wants to see happen. Many groups opposed to electronic voting want a paper print out like a receipt that could be used for recounts. The request does not seem absurd but returning to this paper system introduces some new complications, among them: What happens on Election Day if the printers fail, as printers often do? How do poll workers and voters prevent tampering with the paper ballots?
These questions do not have strong enough answers to make companies add printers to the machines. The main reason there is a demand for the electronic voting system is because of the rumors of fraud with the older paper ballots. The government has passed the Help America Vote Act, after the 2000 elections voting problem occurred. The act set aside the money to help fund the purchasing of new and improved voting equipment (Voting Technology Project). Some of the major improvements with touch screens or simple dials and buttons also known as the electronic voting system, is that they allowed people with disabilities to vote in private, without an election worker doing it for them, as the paper ballot way had required. In addition, electronic voting machines also made it easy to produce ballots in multiple languages in areas with large immigrant populations.
Orange County, in California programmed their electronic voting machines with five different languages. With so many improvements many were able to vote for the first time (Ladendorf). One of the most important benefits of electronic voting is that votes would be counted much faster, and it would eliminate room for the human error factor, which on paper ballots is inevitable (Ladendorf). The strongest support and example of the electronic voting comes from the recent elections. This year, 2004, had some of the highest voter turn out in a long time. Although so many people voted and many on electronic voting or touch screen machines, there was one clear cut winner and there was no problem in the voting.
Both sides agreed that President Bush had won a fair and competent election. Electronic voting may not be perfect yet but it worked well enough, and did not have hacking or bug problems as skeptics had predicted it would (Ladendorf). In fact the 2004 elections were some of the smoothest and most clear cut elections that the United States has had in recent history, to many that should be proof enough. Electronic voting is one of the most current controversial subjects to date, so as such there are two sides both with their own excellent points. Both the supporting and opposing sides should be examined before a person can say which one they believe in.
There are many groups endorsing these causes they each propose that there is way is the right or best way. The opposing side has come up with a very strong campaign. What the opposing side is concerned about is that the electronic voting machines do not have the adequate security procedures or auditing procedures in place at this time, and it is something that needs to be improved. With the machines, especially the ones that do not even produce a paper ballot; there is really no way to make sure that the voting machine recorded the vote accurately and that it will be counted. Added to that there is also wide spread knowledge of the machines having security flaws that are significant and would most likely lead to tampering of the votes that had been cast in the machines. Another problem is the involvement of programmers involved in the company who was in charge of Georgia's electronic voting has criminal backgrounds tied to their name (Boyle).
So when you put all of those things together, the opposing side is asking for improved security and auditing procedures to make sure that the people's votes are counted as they are cast it. Before the most recent elections in 2004 a group of women put up about seven billboards all over Austin, Texas, declaring that the new electronic voting system is "easy to hack", (Ladendorf). Many of the doubts involved including the women's group, feel that the systems made by Diebold Election Systems, based in McKinney, are not of the high quality that a person would expect from a machine that carries such important information on. Computer scientists that have studied the new voting machines have reported to have found various inadequacies in the company's touch screen systems. Some of the problems listed in the report included software that was infested with bugs and even sometimes blurry screens that could possibly translate to the votes were miscast or there was some tampering of the individual person's ballot many of the doubts involved systems made by Diebold Election Systems, based in McKinney, this is the same company that sent out fund raising letters in Ohio that said they were 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes' for President Bush. This obviously caused an intense suspicion among critics of the electronic voting spread before the elections, and for good reason.
Another major issue is the fact that quite a few computer scientists have found numerous shortcomings in the company's touch screen systems, including bug-ridden software and sometimes blurry screens that could mean votes were miscast (Ladendorf). A major concern for people is that conspiracy to change votes will be much easier and even cheaper to act out on the digital systems. The other main problem is that the security level is nowhere near what it should be. There are problems with the cryptography, the network has numerous vulnerabilities, and poor software development processes. All of the difficulties listed means that a person without any insider contacts can manipulate the outcome of a poll stations election. It was found possible to cast an unlimited amount of votes without alarming any of the systems protective programs.
This is just what regular people are able to do, poll worker insiders are able to go far beyond that. In a study called Analysis of an Electronic Voting System, they were able to show poll workers could match votes that were put into the machine and also manipulate the votes according to the party they were tied to (Analysis of an Electronic Voting System). These things were all found in a laboratory setting which the supporting groups say is not the same as seeing it in a real election atmosphere. Although both sides of the electronic voting debate have strong and even supported arguments, they often say they have proven two opposite things. This makes it very challenging for a person to determine who is speaking the truth or who has the most precise and accurate studies. Each person needs to understand, that when reviewing all this information that there are two sides to everything and there is always information to prove and disprove both opinions of a subject.
The truth is never easy to come by and needs an objective eye to decide on which side of this argument an individual can support and trust the most. When I first heard of the new touch screen electronic voting it sounded so perfect. Now that I have thoroughly researched and come to understand both sides of this ever controversial subject, I find it is important to understand both arguments because this is a matter of national security, in my opinion. I feel electronic voting is much more modern and after the past two elections it seems to be the lesser of two imperfect methods of casting a persons vote.
Electronic voting may not be the perfect solution to eliminate fraud, but I feel it is safer than the old paper ballots. It is far too easy for poll workers to manipulate paper ballots without any seed of suspicion. I also am certain that as far as most electronic devices go they will be improved by a great deal with each passing year. Paper ballots are dated and it is time to upgrade to a more secure way of doing things, most poll workers do not have the know how or desire to manipulate electronic votes. This topic is a matter of trust, do we trust humans or do we trust the machines.
I prefer to trust a machine that has no personal motive and has the ability to be encrypted and secured to prevent fraud in the voting system that we rely on. The next step should bring both sides together and learn to compromise to make a system that will satisfy the needs of as many people as possible. Electronic voting is the way of the future, nothing we do uses old paper systems. This is the digital age so to not progress the American voting system seems slightly absurd. There are stronger benefits to having the ballots on a digital medium and I believe it is important for change to occur in this aspect of our democracy..