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Ballot boxing: The problem with electronic voting machines

On Tuesday, one in six voters will be casting their ballots using touch screen technology. Largely in reaction to the Bush-Gore Florida debacle, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. It was designed  in part to mandate new, up-to-date voting machines that would be safe and reliable.

But here’s what you need to know: Ten years and billions of tax dollars later, the way America votes is still something of a mess. It’s vulnerable to human error, hardware and software crashes – and, yes, bad-guy hackers. We asked Need to Know correspondent Rick Karr to investigate.


  • Nick A

    The most important issue with electronic voting, is that the software is proprietary. There is no over site or validation before use. The manufacturers could have programmed anything they like. Caveat Emptor

  • Richard Tamm

    This is a very good video for showing how vulnerable the electronic voting machines are to hacking, and that paper ballots are an absolute necessity.

    It’s not good a good video in suggesting that the paper ballots alone solve the problem. Paper ballots only solve the problem if a large enough percentage of the vote is audited to verify that the count is correct. Such a sufficiently large audit is NEVER done because of the cost. Also, paper ballots only solve the problem if recounts are done. And recounts are not done nearly often enough because of the prohibitive costs, the insufficient time between the election and the date by which the vote needs to be certified to study the vote counts carefully enough to realize that something is amiss and a recount should be done, and the denial of the vast majority of establishment Democrats that votes are being stolen which causes them to shirk their responsibility to the electorate and not demand larger audits and recounts.

    It’s also not a good video because, after these computer experts show how easy it is to hack these machines, they then talk about their “beliefs” that there has not been any conspiracy to use these machines to steal elections. When they show their programming expertise in hacking the machines, they are on solid ground. When they talk about their beliefs that the machines have not been involved in any conspiracies to steal elections, they are on thin ice and are like the majority of establishment Democrats who are in denial. Experts who have studied the theft of elections via electronic voting machines have proven that elections have been stolen. Take for one example only Steven Freeman’s book “Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?” There are other examples that prove election theft and many other examples that strongly suggest election theft but cannot be proven without vigorous, robust detective work and legal investigations that the Democrats have refused to initiate.

    But still, this is a good video in showing just how vulnerable these machines are to hacking, and that paper ballots are an absolute necessity. It’s at least very good for that.

  • Vsanfi

    We need exit polls, which are accurate to .01% and are used as the tally in Germany.
    We need to have less mail in voting which are more easily purged.
    We need to lift the censorship on reporting vote purging on media.
    My pbs station in San Diego would not show this episode.
    They also only show Need to Know at 10 pm, and repeat Frontline at 9 pm.

  • Hoffman

    Why isn’t this the lead story in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and on all major television networks?

    Kudos to “Need to Know” on PBS for this muckraking exposé!

  • ulaangirlYour Name

    A couple of years ago on YouTube some lock enthusiasts opened a prototype voting machine, changed the key component/s inside and re-secured the “box” against a stopwatch.
    The time? From memory about 60 seconds or less. The enthusiasts…in Holland ..the moral,…no voting machine as then devised was worthy of any confidence. Was it an academic “hack” or
    done covertly? Lock enthusiasts such as these, locksport types, were just making a point. And they could of done it with permission, or without, watch YouTube, they can open my safe with a potato.

  • ulaangirlYour Name

    I forgot to mention, Greg Palast (ex BBC) has been investigating this for years, something of
    a lone and ignored voice, requiring people who take him seriously to please send him funds to
    continue. Check him out….he has a reputation for investigative journalism like one or two
    others crossing this page which compels at least respect. Hollywood, listen in.

  • AniDalit

    For years computers have been (over)sold as a panacea for all kinds of things. While we worry that politicians and car sales people, for example, are not being straight with us, we seem oblivious to all kinds of other salesmanship, especially in situations in which we lack enough knowledge from objective sources to make independent informed judgments.

  • P90321p

    Problem with digital direct elections is not machinery or the programs but the managers and the pilots, and easily fixed with “black box” voting much as the airplane is outfitted with its black box to ascertain the degree of human error involved in plane crashes, hopefully soon to be installed on autos.

    Needless to say, tampering with voting carries the same effects as tampering with voting in live elections at polling booths and poll counting processes – perhaps worse because of the nature and gravity of the crime.