Is there a voting technology that works

Now that all roads lead to May 2010, each week and month toward D-Day place the psychological strain on whether or not – electronic voting – when applied will not defeat democracy. When the voter soon sits at the voting booth to vote for his candidate, he wants to be sure the true and correct count goes to that candidate and that if that candidate loses, he loses fairly – in an election that has not been rigged electronically or otherwise. In other words, every one of us wants to be sure to get his vote counted to the candidate(s) of our own choice and that no fraud of whatsoever kind intervened.

Since RP goes into electronic voting for the forthcoming election 14 months from now what with the P11.3 billion budget already approved as money in the bag, there is reason to be incredibly scared of the not-too-remote possibility that the shift – from manual to electronic count, from paper to a paperless scheme, from low-tech to high-tech security – might fail to plug the holes of the old way of vote count. Certainly, it remains a perception issue than a technological one however much the COMELEC people themselves would want us convinced of the seeming advantages of e-voting.

Come to think of it, electronic voting machines are considered by every American as a grave threat – be him Democrat or Republican – when dubious actions of a few or a one-man job can swing an entire election. Thus, they still pay importance to paper ballots that can be verified and recounted when necessary. In short, the integrity of electronic voting machines – subject as they are to the possibility of errors ranging from machines – losing votes, swapping votes, registering more votes than there were voters, or not registering votes at all and all other such variations in a theme is not far removed. The spectre of fraud that reared its ugly head in the “hello Garci” contributes to the suspicion that this election might not come out fair and honest.

The theory, albeit not necessary of conspiratorial one, that electronic voting can open the gates for hacking are based not on mere assumptions but of already documented cases replete with evidence. Thus, there evolved a mood of going electronic and after which, reverting back to manual – when post-election review will yield findings that electronic rigging has taken place. A whole host of inadequate security practices can be enumerated showing the vulnerability of a process of e-voting such as, but not limited to – software being badly designed, machines not being protected, vote tallies being stored in changeable files, machines infected by viruses, and all such bugs and crashes and security vulnerabilities.

Truly, P11.3 billion is P11.3 billion and it is no peanuts in a time that it may not have been well-advised to change practice. But against this historical backdrop – a crippling US economic meltdown, a plummeting trust ratings of GMA , disturbing WB reports of syndicated corruption, a power perpetuity movement from the officialdom, territorial boundary dispute – might justify a genius to make a single clean sweep of all of RP’s moral, economic, and political woes. In other words, e-voting might just do the trick. In this light, fair and honest election must be guaranteed with e-voting that cannot be attended with possible attacks at being rigged. In fact, going back to low-tech must provide the simple best solution against fraud. So far at this point, electronic voting machines leave much to be desired in the countries where they have been put in use – say Florida, Ireland, et cetera.

This early, COMELEC should begin to discuss in public-held forums the new technology it wants to infuse for this 2010 election and where possible, subject it to any willing third party to a test. It cannot withhold it from full public view until actual election day comes since it will defeat the very purpose it aims to address – clean, honest, and fair electoral exercise. For we must never forget that those commonly purchased electronic voting systems in the US only proved vulnerable to software attacks that thereby the integrity of state or national election. For instance, the Government Accounting Office, a non-partisan research branch in the U.S. Congress in fact found flaws in security, access, and hardware controls in electronic counting equipments quite aside from rather weak security management practices by their voting machines vendors.

It seems unhealthy for democracy to just take as gospel truth the claim that will be made by the COMELEC on the integrity of its proposed e-voting system unless all concerns are first addressed and tests or challenges offered be accommodated. It shall be liberating for COMELEC to take an open-mind since it is of paramount importance that election fraud or even just innocent mishap has not come into play. It truly behooves upon the COMELEC to allay fears of critics of electronic voting especially where documented technical studies have already pushed the currents in the sea of literature on the subject.

We shall hate to even suspect that some 80,000 electronic voting machines can be tampered with, them being tamper-prone in the first place. The point is for COMELEC to submit its electronic voting system to open social discourse to see whether it merits the high cost of budgetary allocation that has been approved, however may hastily, for its objective. No less than the case of the Diebold Election Systems which when put to tests finds its vulnerability to vote tampering. For when vote outcome can in fact be reversed just while the voters themselves do not know nor have a way of knowing would constitute an assault to their sovereign will. Let there be no hole we can drive a ten-wheeler truck through, please! I rest my case.