In just a few days voters around the state will head to the polls to make their selection for the state’s leaders. But can the results from the state’s voting machines be trusted?
Dr. Duncan Buell, a Computer Science professor at the University of South Carolina says the state has a voting system where votes are not verifiable since it depends on software and has no paper record.
We are operating 100% on blind faith that the software is going to give us exactly the right answer every time. If you had a paper trail, then you could go back after the election, sample some fraction of precincts, count the paper ballots by hand and verify statistically a confident level in the result in the election.
Buell says along with the bad, there’s some good to using computers in the voting process.
The computers do give you the advantage of fewer spoiled ballots. They will tell you if you tried to vote for both party’s candidates, for example. They’ll tell you if you tried to vote for three people and you’re only allowed to vote for two. They will allow for disabilities to be accommodated because you can hook them up to a voice and other kinds of things.
Buell is skeptical when it comes to the paperless system used by South Carolina, epecially when it comes to the results:
Ron Rivest of MIT and John Whack of the National Institute of Standards in Technology have written a paper that argues that one should not be voting on anything without something that is independent of software producing a result that you can count afterwards to figure out if you should believe the results. We don’t have that and there’s no way without a paper trail we could have that in South Carolina.
South Carolina used federal dollars to purchase 12,000 voting machines after the “hanging chad” controversy that happened in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. Before the purchase of these machines, there was a mishmash of voting systems throughout the state’s 46 counties.