November 6, 2012


Casting a vote in an election is one of the most important things a U.S. citizen can do. Not only is it your right to vote, it is your duty to vote. Democracy works best when everyone lends their voice. It is very unfortunate and disappointing if you choose to be silent by not voting.

When Earl and I go to the Town Hall later today to cast our votes in today’s elections, it won’t feel the same as it has in year’s past. Ever since New York State mandated the use of Electronic Voting Machines, voting has become a mediocre experience at best. In the past, the voter would enter a voting booth, which was basically a large machine with a wall of levers and cards next to the levers to indicate which each lever was for. One stepped in front of the machine, swung the handle to the right, which shut a curtain around you and gave you privacy, which in turn, gave you a sense of the importance of casting a well thought out, responsible vote. You pushed the levers next to the names of the people you wanted to vote for, or you answered yes or no for the various laws and such that were being voted on that particular day. When you were done, you swung the big lever back to the left, whereas the levers went up and your votes were tallied and the curtain swung back so that you could step away from the voting machine.

It was a pretty simple system and it worked.

With today’s electronic machines there’s no lever. There’s no privacy. You sign in and are handed a sheet of paper and a pen and told to color in the dots over there on the card table. There’s no curtain, there’s no light, there’s no clunk of your votes being counted. You simply sit at a table that might have a makeshift barrier so that you don’t cheat on the test and you color in the dots. When you’re done, you make your way over to a big fax machine like device and feed in your card and you see either a green or red light indicating that your card was scanned properly.

What happens after that is anybody’s guess, because it is a trade secret.

Here’s where I get really angry. With the voting machine with the curtain, anyone qualified person could take it apart and see exactly how it worked. You could look at the mechanics and make sure that flipping level A1 didn’t end up casting two votes when it should have been only one.

Most electronic voting machines are written using closed-source or proprietary software. It’s like purchasing a car where you couldn’t see the engine, only where you put the gas and the oil. You feed it stuff and stuff happens. But you don’t know why it’s happening, how it’s happening or even if it’s happening properly. Open-source software, which of course I am a huge proponent of, is when the actual code is available for anyone and everyone to see. They can see under the hood and see if there’s something in there that might be a bug or something shady that might make votes not tabulate correctly. With closed-source software we don’t know what the hell is going on, we just have to trust that the company did their due diligence and that no one influenced the code in either direction in any way.

I’m a pretty naive and trusting guy, but I do not trust closed-source electronic voting machines AT ALL. If there’s nothing to hide, then just make the code available for any and all to see. We don’t need proprietary secrets involved with our election process. Plain and simple.

That all being said, please do your patriotic duty and if you haven’t already please cast your vote today. Make your voice be heard.