Carl Weinschenk spoke with Brad Friedman, an investigative journalist and creator and publisher of Brad Blog, a site that focuses on electronic voting issues.
Weinschenk: Are electronic voting systems less secure than electronic systems used in the corporate world?
Friedman: No question. Study after study has shown systems do not have the safeguards you find in the commercial world. If these sorts of systems were used in the commercial world, they would not last more than 12 hours before they were thrown out, contracts ended and companies sued for putting out this type of equipment.
Weinschenk: Why is the gap so large?
Friedman: The problem is that you don't have the sort of checks and balances as in the commercial world. There is virtually no testing whatsoever of the systems. Only very recently have there been independent tests in Ohio, Colorado and California, and people have finally seen how extraordinarily vulnerable these systems are. Traditionally, the only testing was done by the so-called Federal Independent Testing Authority. The ITA is three companies chosen and paid for by voting machine companies. All the testing was done in secret. They only tested things voting machine companies asked them to test. The clients - the election official or, ultimately, the voters - were never able to see the results, never able to see what they were buying.
Weinschenk: Why do you think voting security doesn't get more attention?
Friedman: Apparently, election integrity isn't sexy enough. When it comes to a nickel slot in Las Vegas, there is regulatory authority to tear down the machine to the chip level. We are made to trust that the election was held fairly, that the results were delivered fairly. That's faith-based voting. Our system is not built on faith. It is built on checks, balances and transparency.
Weinschenk: How serious is the situation as we approach 2008?
Friedman: We are in a very, very bad and dangerous situation as we go into 2008. There are still virtually no checks and balances for the incredibly bad voting systems that are used throughout the entire country. Voting systems are different from things like ATMs, which by nature have traceable paper trails and can be audited and tracked by the owner of the dollar and the bank. Voting is different because it is a secret ballot. You can't call in after voting to see that your vote was accurately counted. The answer seems to be transparency, transparency, transparency. You need to have citizens, not experts, keep an eye on every step of the process to make sure votes are counted and counted accurately.