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Thursday, November 18, 2004  

Politics: Candidates challenge Diebold

Two third-party candidates are performing a public service. Ralph Nader and David Cobb have sought recounts of ballots in the race for president. The recounts will test the accuracy of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. voting machines. By taking the initiative, the candidates for president bypass the issue of standing to challenge election results most citizens would face. They also get good publicity for themselves. But, nothing is perfect. I commend them for assuming the cloak of 'statesman.'

The Pioneer Press has briefs.

CONCORD, N.H. âÂ?Â? New Hampshire is about to become a test case for the accuracy of optical scan vote-counting machines because third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has asked for a recount. The request covers 11 of the state's 126 precincts that use Diebold Inc.'s Accuvote optical scanning machines to count paper ballots. Depending on the results, Nader's campaign could ask for recounts in other states, a spokesman said.

Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb has announced that his campaign has raised enough money to force Ohio to recount its presidential vote. The state allows candidates to demand recounts if they pay âÂ?Â? about $113,000 for a statewide recount. Cobb's campaign raised $150,000 in just four days. The money came entirely in online donations, his spokesman said, eclipsing Cobb's own fund raising for the entire election cycle.

There are two controversies swirling around electronic voting. The paperless voting machines provided by Diebold are said to produce opportunities for error and fraud. Since there is no hard copy proof of voters choices, they, at the very least, open the door to skepticism. In addition, the computers Diebold uses to record the votes from paper ballots are said to be hackable or easy to program to produce a given result intentionally. The foremost critic of Diebold, Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, believes the use of Microsoft software makes the machines vulnerable. According to her and other critics, altering even a single line of code can change the way votes are counted. She believes that Diebold, which has links to the Republican Party, may have used its machines to tamper with ballots.

Ironically, electronic voting machines were introduced as a reform. After the debacle of Election 2000, elections officials were wary of paper ballots, butterfly and otherwise. Touch-screen voting machines were thought to be more easily read and understood. But, by omitting any form of tangible confirmation, Diebold and its competitor, Election Systems & Software, Inc., have failed to make the voting process more trustworthy. The two recounts will be a check on accuracy, but questions about proof of individual votes and whether the software is hackable will remain.

Reasonably related

•Visit Black Box Voting online.

Bob Fritrakis of Common Dreams offers a detailed account of concerns about Diebold voting machines in an article titled "Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."

1:45 PM