It appears the recent, public demonstration of a couple of selected voting machines in preparation for the general election was nothing more than a weak attempt by the Board of Elections to win the voters over to the "appearance" of reliability of our voting system. Yes, I read the official news stories and I saw the pictures. It didn't take long for me to come to the short conclusion that ignorance is a terrible thing. However, ignorance by conscious design is far worse.
After the voting machine failures during the St. Croix demonstration and during the primary election, it is obvious the controversy surrounding the integrity of our voting machines has motivated Mr. John Abramson Jr. to diligently avoid any further embarrassment to his widely publicized claims our Microsoft Windows-based voting machines are "failsafe" by making sure at least one demonstration can be accomplished without incident.
However, the biggest mistake we can make as conscientious voters would be to allow ourselves to be easily led to believe that what appears to be a successful testing of one or two machines should be generalized to mean all our voting machines are functioning properly. That attitude doesn't even pass the laugh test.
Let's consider more objective information related to voting machines for a moment by first putting aside the fact that invisible, electronic ballots cast on our voting machines do not qualify as actual "ballots" since you, as voters who have a vested interest in election processes and vote outcomes, are denied the opportunity to physically verify your vote. While we're at it let's also put aside the fact the invisible ballots stored inside our voting machines provide no physical record that can be retained for recount and audit purposes which in turn makes the random printout of our election results unreliable. Virgin Islands Code doesn't even provide for a vote recount in the event of a challenge. Can you believe it? Lastly, let's also put aside the fact if random printouts of our votes cannot be independently verified how can anyone truly know if your collective will as voters is accurately reflected, let alone who the true winners and losers of elections are?
At this very moment, unbeknownst to sleepy Virgin Islands voters, a massive paradigm shift has been underway in the United States for some time to seriously address voting machine integrity and security issues. The results are voting machines are being decertified and laws are being changed state by state to address the problems. Without question this movement is the result of a cooperative between an army of responsible legislators, election officials, and the voting public made all possible by the pooling of some of the most intelligent minds in the computer science and programming fields. Experts from notable institutions such as MIT, Cal-Tech, Harvard, Stanford University, John Hopkins University, the University of Iowa, etc. have conducted separate, in-depth studies surrounding voting machine technology in order to scientifically assess the technical, operational and procedural components of voting machines.
Independently of one another, studies such as the John Hopkins Report, the RABA Report, the SAIC Report, and the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project, clearly illustrated the current susceptibility of voting machines and programmers to high risks of compromise and exposure of election processes and vote outcomes to malfunction and malfeasance. They also discovered national testing standards for voting machines were completely inadequate. Most amazing was the consensus among reports that the key to integrity in vote verification, vote recount, fraud detection and independent audit-ability was a voter-verified paper ballot in some form. Without a paper ballot the only individuals who really know if your vote counts are the voting machine manufacturer, the voting machine programmer and the potential, malicious hacker.
Nearly half of the states on the mainland are taking this information seriously and making appropriate adjustments to protect the interests of their voters and not the interests of the voting machine manufacturers. The Secretary of State for California has recognized the issue surrounding voting machines is not a programming issue, but rather an auditing issue and drafted sweeping legislation to regulate voting machines. Even CBS 60 Minutes has caught on to the voting machine problem and devoted an eye-opening segment on voting machines based on the same studies I just mentioned. However, most notable of all is the very recent decision by the U.S. League of Women Voters to officially withdraw their support from electronic voting machines (such as ours) during their recent, national convention in Washington, D.C.
Why hasn't this level of awareness found its way into the US Virgin Islands? There is a League of Women Voters chapter here; why haven't we heard from them? Why is every effort to bring this conscious-altering information to the public being ignored and suppressed by John Abramson and the Board of Elections? Has anyone asked why our voting machine programmers are unsupervised when they program our machines, or if they are qualified computer security experts? Does the external scrutiny of a few voting machines during public demonstration sufficient proof the invisible packets of electric and magnetic charges accurately encode our votes as we cast them? Or does the testing and demonstration the Board of Elections put on during election time in reality amount to nothing more than a meaningless sideshow?
Ignorance is a terrible thing. Ignorance by conscious design is far worse. Don't fall for it.
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