“As long as I count the votes” dep’t: Edward Felten

The contracts between Sequoia Voting Systems and local elections officials give the company the power to prevent any inquiry into whether its machines work as advertised.

The vulnerability of paperless voting systems to undetectable manipulation is one of those genuine problems that unfortunately attract so many tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists as to make them hard to pay serious attention to. So I’m grateful to WhyTuesday.org for pointing me to Edward Felten of Princeton, whose blog Freedom to Tinker has a wealth of calm and interesting analysis.

In his interview with WhyTuesday, Felten makes what seems to me a shocking revelation: under the contracts between the voting machine companies and the local election authorities &#8212 contracts paid for by federal tax dollars &#8212 the companies have the power to stop elections officials from investigating apparent irregularities. Sequoia Voting Systems threatened Union County, NJ with a lawsuit if Union County allowed Felten to examine its machines, and Union County backed off.

What are they hiding? And how long is Congress going to put up with it? The notion that a private entity with a direct interest in the outcome can prevent inquiry into whether its products work as advertised, and in so doing make it impossible to know whether the votes reported match the votes cast, is outrageous on its face. We’re playing for high stakes with Big Jule’s dice.

Footnote And of course this points up the colossal bad faith of the Republican politicians and their media and judicial lapdogs in making a fuss about the nonexistent problem of false-identity voting (in order to disenfranchise poor and elderly people who don’t have the “right” forms of identification) while not demanding even elementary standards of transparency from the voting-machine industry. If you’re worried about one person casting votes in multiple names, there’s a low-tech solution. Inky fingers, anyone? But since that doesn’t result in disenfranchisement of people likely to vote Democratic, the Republicans aren’t interested.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com