So, ballot counting is no longer the exclusive purview of election officials, who are often constrained by budget problems, not all that familiar with the inner workings of most computers, wary and harried. Diebold, which is more accustomed to that state of affairsone common before the 2000 presidential election and the comedy of errors that was ballot-counting in Floridais under a new and newly intense kind of review in venues it doesnt know and likes even less. The result? Some name-calling. "Its what I call the technology-political information gap that Ive been staring at for years," Alexander says. Like many people with political experience, shes less worried about operating-system hacks and other computer security problems envisioned by the tech cognoscenti. To read about Kerrys vision for the tech industry, click here.
Diebold machines can provide paper trails, Bear says. And they are set up to be examined before and after votes are cast to ensure officials that theyre accurate and safe. But Alexander wants moreand recently got it in California. The state passed a law requiring machines such as those Diebold makes to provide more detailed paper auditing ability. This is the sort of action that all communities should consider, Alexander says. "No matter what voting systems we have, people will cheat," she says. That has to be anticipated not by better engineering but by better oversight, with examinations that everyoneeven the less computer-savvycan understand, Alexander says. "The county elections officials are in over their heads." eWEEK.com Technology and Politics columnist Chris Nolan spent years chronicling the excesses of the dot-com era with incisive analysis leavened with a dash of humor. Before that, she covered politics and technology in D.C. You can read her musings on politics and technology every day in her Politics from Left to Right Weblog. Check out eWEEK.coms Government Center at http://government.eweek.com for the latest news and analysis of technologys impact on government practices and regulations, as well as coverage of the government IT sector.
Alexanders critique of Diebolds and others touch-screen voting machines is instead more specific. She wants their machines to provide a paper record of votes cast, a record detailed enough and updated regularly enough to be audited if there are any problems. "Whenits when, not ifthings go wrong, you need that paper record," she says.