People who have been following the debate surrounding electronic voting -- Salon and other tech and political outlets began covering the issue in 2002 -- might find much of "Hacking Democracy" a rehash. But if you're new to the dangers of electronic voting, the film is sure to blow your mind. In a nutshell, the case against touch-screen voting systems -- on which about 40 percent of Americans will cast their ballots this year -- boils down to this: You can never really know what's going on inside. In most other voting systems -- even those that use computerized counting machines, like punch-card and optical-scan machines -- paper acts as a record of last resort. If officials ever need to recount the vote, they can always examine the ballots by hand (provided, of course, that Antonin Scalia approves). But paperless touch-screen machines store their votes on hard drives and memory cards, rendering recounts impossible. If the computer hasn't recorded people's votes correctly in the first place, or if someone has weaseled into the database and shifted around the totals, the true count will be lost to all forever.We should be thankful that HBO has had the courage to ask questions that the rest of the media has tried to avoid like the plague. Our Democracy is threatened on many fronts but this may be the most serious since it eliminates our only redress - the ballot box. There is another danger here as well. Over at The Huffington Post Russel Shaw explains:
Computer security is not an easy topic to explore on film, but "Hacking Democracy" conveys the danger in a remarkably simple manner. It does so by focusing on the slipperiness of one company, Diebold, a leading provider of touch-screen machines that has long been Harris' chief target. Diebold has all you could ask for in a corporate enemy -- ties to the Republican Party, a history of both lying to and currying favor with officials, a brusque and secretive posture in its dealings with critics and the press, and, worst of all, a pattern of technological ineptitude so startling you sometimes wonder if the people who work there are trying to sabotage the vote. The problem, Harris makes clear, isn't just that electronic voting technology is inherently untrustworthy -- the scary thing is that we're getting bad technology from people who act oblivious to the danger. Either they don't know how vulnerable their equipment is (which they should, as various studies have discovered alarming security flaws), or they know and aren't admitting it. Neither scenario inspires confidence.
I seek to counterbalance the notion from some of my friends - and maybe some of yours too- that "the vote will be rigged anyway, so why bother?"It is even more important that we vote this time because of techno-fraud. Fraud does have limits. The bigger the win the less likely it can be successfully "hacked". If there are too many races that the Democrats should have won but didn't it will force the media to investigate. I think the Democrats can take the House. With all of the pre-election talk of a tidal wave it will be difficult for the Republicans to steal it. The Senate is close enough that a fraudulent election is possible. It is important to vote and observe so that voting irregularities can be brought to the attention of the American people before 2008.
I fear this alienation will only get worse after more people with a proclivity to the "hacked vote" mindset watch HBO's "Hacking Democracy."
I fear that if what I call this "what's the use" meme spreads this weekend- at the same time the GOP's vaunted get-out-the-vote operation hits the phone lines, malls and Evangelical church parking lots- the results could cost we Democrats several races that are bound to be very close.
Enough of this "what's the use" toxin, and the Republicans could remain in control of one or both chambers.