Trust The Black Box


Jerry Cornelius
2 min read
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As someone who writes a fair amount of computer code, it was with some trepidation that I cast my early vote in the 2004 election using a “black box” voting machine–a PC, basically, preloaded with proprietary vote-tallying software. Now, I'm not especially paranoid, but even the stoners who slept through CompSci 101 could imagine a scenario along the lines of:

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With closed-source, eyes-only software, the conspiracy really wouldn't have to be that vast. When you can't examine the source code, you can't be sure what's going on inside that computer. Period.

Of course, plain old bad-design fuckups may be even more insidious than a potential vote-heisting conspiracy. Pretty much every New Mexico county that used electronic voting machines mysteriously lost votes in 2004 (over 18,000 in total), which is one of the reasons Bernalillo and Santa Fe county clerks have been dodging activist groups and eight NM voters,2564,ALBQ_19858_4354785,00.html have hung a temporary restraining order on the secretary of state to prevent the purchase of suspect Sequoia Edge machines.

Not enough? In Florida, less than three weeks ago, Finnish security expert Harri Hursti performed a vote-switch hack using a stock Diebold voting machine, clearly demonstrating that “the entire system can be compromised without producing error messages and without leaving a trace, using nothing but a memory card.” Since Diebold's voting machines are really Windows PCs in disguise, the lousy security should come as no shock, but what's at stake here is much more significant than another Hoodia pop-up ad.

Fear the black box. Open the source.

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