Election Day hash


Last week, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie held a news conference to reassure voters that the state is free from the intentional or unintentional shenanigans in some other states that have roiled the confidence in the voting process.

Today, the New York Times’ lead editorial said voting rolls maintained by local officials “are one of the weakest links in American democracy and problems are growing.”

CNN today is carrying a report of a problem in West Virginia, where a touch-screen vote for Barack Obama is really a vote for John McCain.

This is one of the reasons I called Dan Wallach at Rice University this week (hear a portion of the interview on MPR’s Future Tense). Recently he gave his students some voting machines that he built based on the source code he’s seen from the commercial voting machines. He encouraged them to try to hack into them to make the results favorable to their candidate. They did it, and apparently, easily so.

Wallach says it’s possible to build a safe voting machine that works because he’s built one and he’s offered it — free — to the voting machine companies. They’ve never called.

At last summer’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, I attended a lengthy seminar on voting problems. It featured the secretary of state of voting-challenged Ohio as well as representatives of the voting machine industry. By the end of the day, it was clear we have a nutty system — or, rather, 50 of them.

Take North Carolina, Wallach says. There, voters have a choice to vote the “all Democratic ticket” or the “all Republican ticket.” But what many voters don’t know is the “all” option in North Carolina doesn’t include a vote for president. So people may not know that they really didn’t vote in the contest.

Wallach is sure there’s going to be a major polling place problem in the United States on Election Day. He doesn’t know where, although he says if it’s North Carolina, he won’t be surprised.

“Why not have one method of voting for the entire country?” I asked.

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” he said. ()

What arguments against it outweigh an accurate vote?