There's been a lot of discussion in the opinion pages about electronic voting lately. Some think it's the best way to facilitate elections, while others are of the opinion that electronic voting is fraught with peril. I happen to belong to the second camp.
Not only can computer voting be affected by fraud, things can also go wrong that no one even thought of, leaving people without a means of voting or people voting for the wrong candidate because the computer programmer(s) made a mistake. I ought to know; I'm a computer programmer. I've written voting systems, and I know how easy it would be to make a mistake in the program as well as to defraud the voters by manipulating the results.
The only way to ensure confidence in our elections is to have paper balloting. It takes a lot more time to count the votes, but in the long run it is well worth it. The paper balloting that we have used in the past, however, is still somewhat prone to fraud. This process should be enhanced.
As it has happened in our recent past (until we decided to get all fancy while lining Diebold Corporation's pockets by paying for their untrustworthy counting machines) each ballot can be individually numbered.
In addition to providing uniquely numbered ballots, it should be the requirement of all voting precincts to
- provide a carbon copy of each voter's ballot, including the unique ballot ID, to the voter.
- post in a conspicuous place, such as on the internet, the voting results of each ballot, so that each voter can verify the accuracy of his or her votes, and so that it is easy to determine that all votes cast add up to the tally results that are reported at the end of the election.
In this way, everyone could know how everyone voted, but there would be no way to relate each unique ballot number to the person who cast that ballot, except that each voter would have a copy of how he or she voted.
Every voter would be able to compare his or her vote(s) with the official ballot postings to determine if they were represented correctly. If they were not, the duplicate copy of the ballot could be furnished as proof that a mistake had occurred.
With a great deal of effort, computers can be made fraud-proof in this way. I suspect that all of the necessary measures have not been taken in this regard. Our experience with them thus far has given us a bad taste in our mouths. Paper-ballot voting instills much more confidence in voters that the process is sound.