Thursday, August 17, 2006

McKinney Unqualified But Distrust Of Electronic Voting Valid

Many people in Georgia, the House of Representatives and the Democratic party are breathing a sigh of relief now that Rep. Cynthia McKinney was defeated in her re-election bid last week. After her much publicized run-in with a Capitol Hill police officer earlier in the year, on top of her previous accusation that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, it was inevitable that the voters of her district decided that the embarrassment of her antics was too much to take anymore.

Her odd personality was on full display in her concession speech where one was left wondering what she did with the money her mother gave her for singing lessons. In addition, once again there was an incident with people in her "security" detail scuffling with the media.

But McKinney is actually on target when she speaks about the problems associated with electronic voting in the United States. "You won't know who won as long as we have those electronic voting machines, with the problems that have been manifested by them," she said in her concession speech. McKinney has been highly critical of Georgia officials for not requiring that paper records be kept of all votes.

Although the issue of a close contested race was not a factor for McKinney, it is without question that it will be a factor soon somewhere in the country, and the accuracy of electronic voting will be called into question. In Ohio on Tuesday, a company hired by Cuyahoga County, the largest county in the state, released a report detailing significant problems with the May primary where electronic voting machines were used for the first time.

Improperly formatted machines, disappearing memory cards, machine vote totals not adding up correctly were just some of the issues associated with electronic voting in Ohio. "The election system in its entirety exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election," wrote Steven Hertzberg, director of the study by the San Francisco-based Election Science Institute.

In 2004, the Election Protection Coalition, an umbrella group of volunteer poll monitors that set up a telephone hotline, reported some 1,100 problems with electronic voting. With more locales now using electronic voting, those numbers are sure to rise in 2006. Unless election officials can assure voters that electronic voting systems are secure from hackers, have reliable hardware and software and can verify votes with a paper trail, distrust in electronic voting will rise and people will long for the days of paper ballots again.

McKinney may not be the best poster child to lead the charge for accuracy in electronic voting, but unless it is done soon, and accuracy can be verified, the possibility of electoral fraud grows by the day. With election 2006 around the corner and 2008 looming, the United States can ill afford to let the public's distrust grow. Otherwise, it may be us who needs to have a foreign government come in and monitor our elections.

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