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Why Elections Do Not Matter

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Why Elections Do Not Matter

By Michael Richardson

Before you banish me from polite company for asserting elections no longer matter let me acknowledge that they should matter and some do matter. Elections represent the changing of the guard in America. This past election the control in two state legislatures, Pennsylvania and Montana, passed from one party to another by narrow margins in a single district. Meanwhile, the nation waited anxiously for the outcome in Virginia to decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Elections still matter in those jurisdictions where the votes are counted openly and honestly. Elections are important; however, elections where electronic voting machines record or count the votes no longer matter. To be sure, the election "results" will still control who is in office. Candidates will still campaign and money will still be raised and spent. People will still put bumper stickers on their cars and debate with their neighbors. The TV ads will be broadcast, doorbells will be rung, and the news media will dutifully report the outcomes. But the elections with electronic voting machines will no longer matter because the voters have lost the sanctity of the ballot box.

There is a good chance the vote totals will be honest and accurate but the public will never know. They will be told--but they will not know. No one will know. Sadly, technological advances in computer design have crashed up hard against the brick wall of security capability. Hackers, using self-deleting malicious software code, can alter the outcome of an election without detection. The public does not know, and can never know, without handcounting ballots, if the electronic voting machines have been rigged or not.

Your vote does not count if it is not counted. The machines may look like they are recording votes but it is impossible to peer inside the circuitry and determine if the electrical impulses coursing through the microchips are doing what they should. The only way to know what is running a computer, and that is what electronic voting machines are, is to install an original program, run the program, and examine the output. If someone else writes or installs a program, only they know for sure that the input matches the output. The user, or in this case the voter, does not know and can never know. Election administrators do not know, unless they write the programs and observe the operation.

If a hacker rigs an electronic voting machine and uses self-deleting code to do the rigging, no one but the hacker will know. Computers are fine things to do many tasks. Voting is not one of them. Elections require a degree of certitude that the exploitable machines cannot provide. Adding ever more sophisticated programs and gadgets will not fix the fact that the machines cannot be trusted.

This brings us back to the business of elections not mattering anymore. If we are going to let the machines, and their unseen hackers, control the outcome of our elections then we have surrendered our democracy and the elections simply do not matter. Why vote if your vote will be stolen or changed?

There is a solution. Take back the control of our voting from the hackers. Hand count paper ballots.

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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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