E-voting report from the trenches

Avi Rubin, a well-known and vocal critic of electronic voting wrote up his experiences serving as an election judge in Maryland yesterday. His account is a good read and it sounds like a positive experience both for him and the folks he worked with.

Over the next several hours, we all were busy checking in voters and dealing with running the election. Everybody calmed down, and we started joking around with each other and the mood became more positive. We only had one other minor press incident during the day. During breaks, I decided to educate Marie and Joy about the security problems of electronic voting machines. Amazingly, they really started to get it. They confessed that they had been ready to fight me, and that there was great animosity towards me, but that, in their words, I wasn’t “such a bad guy after all”. At the same time, I started realizing that some of the attacks described in our initial paper were actually quite unrealistic, at least in a precinct with judges who worked as hard as ours did and who were as vigilant. At the same time, I found that I had underestimated some of the threats before. I think that being an election judge was the best thing I could have possibly done to learn about the real security of elections.

His overall assessment of electronic voting is still not as rosy.

I continue to believe that the Diebold voting machines represent a huge threat to our democracy. I fundamentally believe that we have thrown our trust in the outcome of our elections in the hands of a handful of companies (Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S) who are in a position to control the final outcomes of our elections. I also believe that the outcomes can be changed without any knowledge by election judges or anyone else. Furthermore, meaningful recounts are impossible with these machines.