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Friday, November 11, 2016

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Chanson de Roland

One of the greatest and most sinister dangers of DRE (direct-recording electronic polling devices) is that they can be interfered with to fraudulently alter votes in ways that can't later be discovered by an audit, when there is no paper ballot or printout that corresponds to the vote cast. Quite a few years ago, when the vulnerability of DRE systems to fraud in polling votes came to public notice, senior computer scientist faculty at Princeton John Hopkins universities et al. demonstrated beyond peradventure that with not much more sophistication than would be common in a first-year graduate student in computer science, a person could design software that would fraudulently alter the outcome of an election, as stored in DRE computer memory, and then erase itself, leaving no trace, much less evidence of the fraud. These professors further determined and opined that the foregoing was an inherent flaw of any DRE system, which would be best remedied by eliminating them in favor paper ballots which would be counted by high-speed optical scanners or, at the very least, DRE systems that printed out a paper report of the vote, which the voter could inspect while still in the process of voting and challenge, if he found it inaccurate, and which, if not so challenged, would then be securely retained by election officials so as to provide a paper audit trail.

Both of these means, either the preferable optical-scan paper ballot or DRE with a faithful and accurate printout of each vote, would provide a paper audit trail that could be used, when a recount is permitted or required, to provide a paper audit trail that would be independent of computer memory, which is the only way to secure polling against electronic fraud, which can easily be designed so that it is undetectable.

Recognizing the danger of polling fraud occasioned by DRE systems, Congress was to fund replacing DREs with either high-speed optical scan ballots or with at least DREs that would provide a printout of a voter’s vote for him to inspect and challenge if necessary. Congress began and them inexplicably and irresponsibly stopped funding replacing DRE systems, whose polling could not be confirmed with a paper audit trail. Congress must resume the funding of replacing of DRE that don’t provide a paper audit trail, and it must do so immediately, and we must urge it to do so with our votes, our petitions, and, if necessary, our protest.

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