If you've seen Terminator, you know you shouldn't trust machines. An eager reader points us toward a story of election machines gone awry that I should have caught sooner. In last week's municipal election in Rapid City, the vote-counting software somehow turned 5,613 actual ballots into 10,488 reported votes. For the most part, the results stayed the same: Mayor Hanks, for instance, beat challenger Bonnie Redden 71% to 29%, not 70% to 30% as initially reported (so Bonnie Redden's Tea Party principles could only roust 1,600 people from their chairs, not 3,000—pretty weak!). But the initial computer count would have given Ward 4 City Council challenger John Roberts a shot at taking out incumbent Ron Kroeger in a run-off. The corrected count put Kroeger over the 50% mark and cancelled the run-off.
Machines can do much more much faster than humans. That includes screwing up. We need to look at e-voting the way Reagan looked at the Soviets: trust but verify.
Update 2009.06.09 07:59 CDT: no word yet on any connection between Rapid City's voting machines and ACORN. Get on that, Bob!
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