On this election day, I’ll be looking at a map. Not of swing states that could go red or blue, but a map measuring states’ voting technology, and which have the best and the worst chances of messing up the count. For instance, Wisconsin: Good. Georgia: Not so good at making sure votes are recorded in a way that can be audited or recounted if needed. David Dill is a computer science professor at Stanford, and he’s been paying close attention to electronic voting issues and security for years. Dill’s been watching a few states in particular.
“Virginia has a lot of electronic voting and in general has an election system where it’s very hard to get recounts,” says Dill. “So I might worry about Virginia, depending on how close it is. Pennsylvania is another state that I worry about, because they have a lot of electronic voting and have sometimes been in contention in the presidential race. And we shouldn’t forget about all the congressional state and local races that maybe in contention in states that don’t have voting systems.”
Dill is also founder of a group called Verified Voting, that pushes for transparency in election systems. They’ve been ringing the alarm about electronic voting systems because there’s a security issue — computers aren’t always so great at providing proof behind the numbers.
It’s a lot easier to modify electronic records than to modify paper records which is why banking and a lot of other critical activities like that still rely on paper when there’s an ultimate disaster and electronic records are lost or corrupted.
There is some good news here. A few years ago, states adopted electronic voting before real backup counting systems had been developed. Now many electronic voting machines have ways for us to verify vote tallies. Professor Avi Rubin, at Johns Hopkins University, wrote a paper on problems with electronic voting that helped to draw attention to the issue. He says things are a lot better, but that there may be too many different varieties of electronic voting.