All posts by Assemblymember Paul Krekorian

Lift the Shroud of Secrecy from Electronic Voting Systems

(Welcome Assemblyman! As per our policy of bumping diaries from electeds, up this goes. This issue is particularly important given SoS Bowen’s recent revelations. I hope we can get this bill to Arnold, and get him to sign it. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

On November 4, 2008, millions of Californians will go to their polling places to cast their votes using electronic voting machines.  By the end of that evening, we will know who will take office as our next President.  What we will not know that night – what we may never know with certainty – is whether our votes were in fact properly counted by those electronic voting machines.

More after the jump…

After the debacle of the election of 2000 focused the nation's attention on “hanging chads” in Florida, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which encouraged the wide use of electronic voting machines.  Since then, corporate vendors of these machines, such as Diebold, have actively promoted them throughout the country.  Many county registrars are investing heavily in this new technology in an effort to streamline the voting process, and to provide greater opportunity for some disabled citizens to vote independently.

Despite their effusive claims of security and accuracy, however, Diebold and most other manufacturers keep the actual workings of these machines a closely held secret.  Although the public has an absolute right to observe every aspect of the process of counting paper ballots, the public is completely deprived of that right with regard to electronic voting. 

That is why I've authored AB 852, the Secure, Accurate and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act of 2007.  Simply stated, the SAFE Act would require public disclosure of the computer source code that runs our state's voting machines.  If a manufacturer refuses to disclose a voting system's source code for public scrutiny, that system would not be certified for use in California elections – period.  This important reform will ensure that voting rights advocates, computer scientists, the media, and any member of the public with an interest in technology and democracy, could analyze the source code and identify any potential errors or security risks. 

The risks presented by the current certification process are not hypothetical.  Secretary of State Debra Bowen has completed a laudable “top-to-bottom” review of voting systems in California, and that review has produced troubling results resulting in the decertification of several of California's voting systems.  For example, the review found that some voting machines in Los Angeles County contained software that was different than the software that the manufacturer had delivered to the Secretary of State for review and analysis.  More importantly, every voting system has proven susceptible to attacks that would disable or fundamentally alter the software on the system.  Voting system vendors have no incentive to fix errors in their code as long as the law favors their business interests over our public interest in a secure democratic process.  SAFE will correct this deficiency in our democratic process.

President Kennedy once observed that “the very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.  We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.”  Certainly any secrecy concerning the manner in which our votes are counted should be repugnant to us all.  The operation of our voting systems must be open and accessible to scrutiny so that the veracity of these essential implements of our democracy is always beyond reproach. 


If we don't act now, the cost could be democracy itself!  Now is the time to tell your elected officials that there has never been a better time to implement fundamental reforms to our election process.  Call, write, or email your State and Local officials and tell them to support AB 852, the SAFE Act, and take back our democracy from the voting system vendors!


To find your State Representatives, click here.


To email Secretary of State Debra Bowen, click here.


To find the election official for your county, click here.


For more info on AB 852, see: http://www.leginfo.c…