You might be forgiven for thinking John Washburn is paranoid. Plenty of people do, Washburn admits with some humor. … “Quite frankly, I’m not really concerned by (being called paranoid), because it’s highly correlated with how much people have checked my claims,” he said. Washburn’s fears — that Wisconsinites and, really, voters nationwide, are putting too much faith in a questionable voting system — may be unfounded. But he’s not the only one worried. As part of a University of California-Santa Barbara study in 2007 that reviewed electronic voting machines similar to some used in Wisconsin, researchers designed software they said “developed a virus-like software that can spread across the voting system, modifying the firmware of the voting machines. The modified firmware is able to steal votes even in the presence of a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail.”
In March, using machines like some used in Wisconsin, Palm Beach County in Florida mistakenly declared the wrong winners in two city council races due to a computer glitch from those machines. Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, the state’s elections watchdog, said Palm Beach officials didn’t follow the correct procedures, and he isn’t worried about the Wisconsin voting machines. “They caught the error after the fact,” he said. “They should’ve caught it beforehand if they (were) doing the required” testing.
Wisconsin is on the cusp of unprecedented recall elections of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four state GOP senators — elections the Wall Street Journal recently called “perhaps the second-most important election of 2012.” Can Wisconsinites trust the machines to correctly tabulate their votes? “Everything is fallible,” said Jim Mueller, an attorney with the nonprofit Wisconsin Citizens for Election Protection. Are vote-machine companies operating on the up-and-up, or are they programming and installing machines that, when necessary, could do their political bidding? “Are they? Possibly not. Could they? Yes,” Washburn said. “But the more disturbing part is that there’s no evidence to say that it is or is not happening.”