What is Illegal in Georgia?

Here is a follow-up to yesterday’s note on how Georgia provided an example of how black box devices undermine confidence and foster suspicion.

First, there is a recent New York Times article  A Tale of Three (Electronic Voting) Elections by Adam Cohen that provides some comparison of the Georgia incident with a couple others in which e-voting systems were apparently part of a suspect election result.

Second, I got a question about the term "illegal." To be precise, it wasn’t illegal for Georgia election officials (or their contactor staff from Diebold) to modify the voting machines shortly before the election. I was illegal to use the modified machines in the election, because state election law requires counties to use only computing systems that have been passed a state certification process. Once a certified system has been modifed, it is no longer the certified system. This is well known to all parties, and presumably was then as well.

A related and more speculative note is that having used un-cerfified equipment, the election results may have been subject to invalidation. In practice, though, this would require external action, for example a lawsuit by a losing candidate. It pretty rare, and I’ll dig up some info about another incident in which legitimate e-voting grievances were blocked.

Both are sad examples of the way that black box voting systems have created some apparent complacency among some election officials, consciously working in violation of legal requirements, and passing over cases where e-voting glitches may have skewed an election result. Our hope is that such complacency would be reduced with the use of open election systems that create transparency and accountability by full disclosure of every step of conducting an election cycle.


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