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The obsolete Voting Machine

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The Obsolete Voting Machine
By Michael Richardson

America has been in love with technology since the Industrial Revolution and the romance has allowed our nation to prosper. Inventors have led us into the modern world where the growth of technology is dizzying and gadgets come and go as they get replaced with newer, better, smaller, smarter, cheaper replacements.

The Technology Revolution has taken us to the moon, split the atom, peered into the previously invisible. If angels were there, we could now see them dancing on the head of a pin. We can pinpoint our location in the world within a few feet and talk with someone else almost anywhere on the planet.

It was inevitable that voting machines would replace paper, pencil, and the old-fashioned way of counting of ballots - by hand. At first, it seemed good. Faster and more accurate was the promise. Ending human error was the plan. Our love affair with technology could now help us in the voting booth.

The first machines were mechanical and we didn't even consider they might be rigged. Breakdowns and slowness were our only concerns. Then came the computer age and the maddening rush of technology that instantly began changing American life. Now electronics was the future and it was already here.

However, warning signs loomed as identity theft took on whole new dimensions with the age of the Internet. Computer viruses came into being and spread like a contagion. But still blinded by love we upgraded. The solution to problems with voting machines was to build newer, better ones. Security a concern? No problem, a technological fix would take care of it.

Congress even caught one of Cupid's arrows and passed the Help America Vote Act awarding billions of dollars to buy yet newer, better voting machines. Today's voting machines are state-of-the-art. They glisten and gleam. We love them.

But away out of sight, hidden from the lovesick public, are the hackers. Maybe they are foreign agents, or Republican operatives, or Democrat hackers, or just 15 year-old kids. We don't know and will not be able to catch them. The hackers know something the public does not. The shiny new machines can be rigged with self-deleting code. They can be programmed to steal votes without detection. The machines are untrustworthy.

The voting machines still look okay, seem to run without problems most of the time, and we paid a lot. But by using the machines we pay a price many times more than we know. We pay with the future of our country. We pay on trust. We want the technological fix to protect us. We want honest elections and we want the machines to help. But the machines are obsolete. They can be rigged without detection and that problem can't be fixed. We cannot trust the machines to give us an honest count, ever. We can hope they give us an honest tally but we will not know unless we count the votes by hand.

Hand counting paper ballots is old-fashioned, time-consuming, and needs close monitoring but that is the way to fix the obsolete machines.


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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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