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The Importance of Voting

Alabama's efforts to eliminate the Voting Rights Act of 1965

❶This situation is akin to mechanical failure of a lever machine — regrettable, but not fatal so long as the failure is not systematic or deliberately induced.

SCOTUS and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

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The technique involves corrupting the C compiler so that it recognizes certain patterns in the source program and compiles them into object code that performs not as written but as the malicious intruder intends. Efforts to test the compiler to reveal its misbehavior would be frustrated unless one knew the signal string, since if the string were missing the compiler would always perform properly.

Theoretically this hack enables arbitrary amounts of code to be inserted into any program at the cost of introducing but a short sentinel string to tell the compiler to start its dirty business. The Thompson Trojan horse is frequently cited by opponents of electronic voting [10] as a reason not to rely on voting machines. This ignores the fact that jurisdictions themselves do not compile voting software, and that even though the source code may not be revealing, the object code contains all the evidence necessary to detect the intrusion.

For example, FOR-loops that do not modify the index variable or its limits and contain only straight-line code do halt. These are precisely the type of loops that are used for iteration in vote tabulation. Assuming that one believes it is necessary for voting system vendors to produce mathematical proofs that their software is correct an unreasonable proposition , one can easily imagine structuring a program that reads a finite number of ballot images and produces vote totals to be amenable to such a proof.

I therefore must brand references to undecidability in the context of electronic voting simply as sophistry. The hypothetical omniscient hacker is able to insert arbitrary amounts of malware into a voting system in such a way that it can never be detected by any amount of code reading source or object or testing before, during or after the election , yet is able to alter the votes to achieve any predetermined result in any jurisdiction for an arbitrary numbers of years into the future.

By the very premise of the statement the malware cannot be detected, so no amount of evidence of its non-existence can disprove the statement. In this way belief in the omniscient hacker is indistinguishable from belief in a Supreme Being. There is simply no argument one can give that will dissuade a true believer, yet when the believer is asked for a demonstration he is unable to produce one.

That said, here is an adversary argument that demonstrates that the omniscient hacker cannot exist, though for the reason just stated I do not expect true believers to accept it.

If we test the machine during the election by feeding it votes in a manner indistinguishable from regular voting, the malware must decide whether it is going to tell the truth or lie about the vote count. If it tells the truth, it has disabled itself and we need not be concerned that it is present. If it decides to lie, we will catch it, since we are casting a set of ballots whose totals are known. It is of course possible that there are ballot combinations we may not have tried that will cause the malware to enter lying mode, but there is little risk that ordinary voters will happen upon those combinations either and the malware is either effectively silenced or it will be caught.

But then activating this feature on every voting machine, or even a substantial number of them, would require a conspiracy of huge proportions. By its very definition there can be no defense against the omniscient hacker, since we would never be able to tell whether he has been thwarted. We might as well postulate the existence of an omniscient tamperer who is able to substitute an arbitrary number of voter-verified paper trails without detection. Belief in omniscience is a matter of faith.

Those who really accept the possibility of an omniscient hacker will never be satisfied with DREs. The current version of these standards is now several hundred pages long. They deal with hardware, software, telecommunications, security, qualification, testing and configuration management, among other issues. They are voluntary in that any state may, but is not required to, adopt the standards as part of its voting system certification process.

As of this date, 36 states and the District of Columbia have done so. The standards are clearly a step in the right direction and obviously enjoy widespread state support, although one wonders whether the states have really evaluated the standards and found them to be meritorious or have adopted them for convenience.

It is difficult, however, for a standards-making body to keep up with developments in computer security, develop countermeasures for newly-recognized threats and document them in the form of precise standards. Thus Volume I Standard 6. Vendors shall develop and document the procedures to be followed to ensure that such protection is maintained in a current status. It also appears to pass the burden to vendors, who are the very parties against whom we seek protection. While the Congress may make rules concerning elections for senators and representatives [15] , it has no power to specify standards for presidential elections.

Constitution reads in part: No one seems to have noticed this unconstitutionality, but more probably the states simply do not care, since HAVA allocates billions of dollars to them for acquisition of voting machines — a case of not acknowledging that the gift horse even has a mouth.

In any case, HAVA does not deal at all with the problem of malicious software. DRE opponents argue that DRE software may contain up to 50, lines of poorly-written code that is impossible to read or test [16].

It is true that complete voting software systems, including ballot setup and printing components, may reach that size, but the portions of code that accept input from the voter and record ballot images — the very portions suspicions about which have given rise to calls for paper trails — are tiny by comparison. While it is surely true that not every logic path of a computer program of any size can be exercised, this is obviously not a reason not to use software.

Otherwise no commercial software would ever be used, and surely not in any situation in which human life were at risk. The issue is whether any combination of code reading, program testing, open source code publication and other techniques can give us adequate assurance that the software does not contain malicious code or logic errors that will cause votes to be altered.

The answer is certainly yes. If code is too obscure, or contains portions that are not readily understandable, it should not be used. Only if the relevant programming is transparent and available to the public should we be confident about using it. One should realize that the basic loop that interrogates portions of a touchscreen and interprets them as votes is not very complex, although an entire election administration system might be.

When the user touches the screen the processor is notified through an interrupt and receives the geographic coordinates of the point that has been touched. A search is made to determine which box on the screen has been touched. Any code that is present that treats candidates differently based on their ballot positions should not be there. By far the most justifiable criticism of DRE machines is that they fail during service or in some cases cannot even be brought into service on election day.

There are numerous documented instances of such failures. These incidents are real. They are intolerable when they interfere with the act of voting. They do not suddenly decide to move votes from Democrats to Republicans. The mechanical components, particularly the touchscreens, may develop dead spots or fail to register at all. Switches and buttons wear out. Circuits exhibit erratic behavior. These situations can result in severe voter inconvenience and loss of confidence in the process.

Long lines can develop, causing voters to balk and go home. The sight of technicians opening machines and replacing components in full view of the voters does not promote trust in the integrity of elections.

While voter inconvenience is certainly detrimental, the critical question is whether any votes are actually lost or modified when the machines fail.

In properly designed DRE, no vote once cast is ever lost because ballot images are stored in redundant memories, including write-once devices. It is possible, however, for a machine to fail in such a way that votes cast subsequent to the failure are misrecorded.

When the failure is discovered later, it may be too late to reconstruct the lost votes. This situation is akin to mechanical failure of a lever machine — regrettable, but not fatal so long as the failure is not systematic or deliberately induced.

The matter of machine reliability is a question of design, engineering, testing and adherence to maintenance procedures.

The responsibility of the vendor is not to be overlooked. A proper voting machine procurement will impose heavy penalties on vendors whose machines do not conform to warranty. If a jurisdiction is unwilling to rely on indemnification by a vendor, a solution is to acquire spare machines and stand ready to deploy them as needed during an election.

Some jurisdictions have done so without adequate preparation, and have seen failures occur during an election. When machines are tested at the warehouse immediately prior to an election and are found to be working, yet cannot be started on election day morning, it is much more likely that the problem results from unfamiliarity with startup procedures than a sudden and unexplained failure of the equipment. Despite energetic efforts by opponents to slow their adoption, DRE machines continue to be adopted at a prodigious rate.

Just its , villages constitute more than four times as many election districts as there are in the entire United States. It has been asserted that adding paper trails to DREs allows prompt detection of all of the possible intrusions discussed above. It is based on the mistaken belief that paper records are in some way more secure or free from tampering than electronic ones, which is not the case.

On March 20, , a presidential election was held in Taiwan. The winner by 29, votes out of over 13 million cast was the incumbent, Chen Shui-bian.

To achieve this result, the Central Election Commission had to declare , ballots as invalid, more than 11 times the supposed margin of victory. Surely if the voters could rely on the paper ballots to be counted properly this result could not have occurred.

Humans have a profound affinity for that which they can see and touch. This results in a deep reverence for the printed word, whether it is true or false, and explains the comfort people derive from paper receipts. There are very few paper documents that have preclusive legal effect, meaning that the writing on the face of the document is not subject to challenge.

There are basically four types of paper records:. Here the instrument itself entitles the bearer to rights with no further inquiry into his bona fides.

Title to the document passes with possession. These instruments are extremely convenient for transactions because they can convey rights and title instantaneously without resort to offline records and databases.

They are also a frequent subject of theft. Instead of being a instrument used to effectuate a transaction, a receipt is merely evidence of the transaction. As such, a receipt takes its place among all of the other forms of evidence, including spoken words, videotapes, witness testimony, business records, computer databases, etc.

The receipt confers no independent rights, but is given for several reasons. First, a party to the transaction usually insists on a receipt a as evidence of the transaction, as in an ATM withdrawal; b to verify the correctness of its details, as in a restaurant bill; c as an aide-memoire to recall the transaction. It is used in the event of a dispute to lend credence to the claim of one party or another. The contents of a receipt may be challenged or rebutted and the effect it has will be determined by the trier of fact.

These are notes kept by a business as part of its operations. Records kept in the ordinary course of business are admissible as evidence, but they are only evidence and may be challenged. They differ from receipts in that they are created by one party to a transaction and but are not normally reviewed for correctness by the other party. A ballot is an expression by a person indicating how she wishes to cast her vote. A ballot is a unique document defined by election law and is itself only evidence of how a voter wanted to vote.

A ballot may be challenged on many grounds, including an allegation that the voter was not entitled to vote, the ballot was mismarked, the voter voted in the wrong precinct, the voter cast votes for candidates she was not entitled to vote for, the ballot was mangled, defaced or was otherwise unreadable. In many, but not all, states when the content of a ballot is disputed, a court is required to determine the intent of the voter in marking the ballot and is not bound by that the ballot actually says.

There are numerous other forms of paper records, such as documents of title, licenses, wills, diplomas, written offers, etc. The question is what desirable properties, if any, do paper records have that would cause us to prefer them over electronic ones for voting.

The entire world securities industry rarely exceeds one-tenth of that amount, and no sector that deals in physical goods can even approach it. The vast majority of foreign currency trades are made without any use of paper whatsoever, either in the form of an original order or a generated receipt. You play the lottery, you get a ticket. Yet when you cast your vote, you get nothing. The systems used by the people of the United States to exercise their constitutional right to vote should be as reliable as the machines people depend on to get their money.

Clinton is correct that Regulation E of the Federal Reserve Board [18] requires a financial institution to make a receipt available when a consumer initiates an electronic funds transfer at an ATM. She might be surprised to learn how limited the legal effect of the receipt turns out to be.

Furthermore, the receipt itself is only prima facie proof subject to rebuttal that the consumer made a payment to a third party [20]. It is not proof of the amount of transfer and is of course of no effect at all in the case of an ATM deposit, since the data associated with the deposit is generated completely by the consumer, not the bank. In the event of a later dispute between the consumer and the bank, the ATM receipt is evidence only and is not dispositive of the question what amount was transferred.

The bank may challenge the data on the receipt based on its own records. Note that the receipt has been in the hands of the consumer and thus has been subject to alteration or forgery, which means that the document itself cannot be given absolute effect. Of course in electronic banking transactions initiated over the Internet there are no paper receipts at all, yet this fact has not dampened enthusiasm for online banking.

The law governing ordinary sales transactions, the Uniform Commercial Code, gives no legal effect to receipts and certainly does not require them [21]. In fact, neither party to a sale transaction has the legal right to demand a receipt, although it may be a customary business practice to comply with such a demand. Clinton would be positively dismayed to learn that a lottery ticket has even less value to its holder than an ATM receipt. State lottery rules typically provide that if a dispute arises between the holder of a lottery ticket and the state lottery bureau, the computer records of the lottery bureau govern.

This New Hampshire Lottery rule is illustrative: And so it must be. This raises the question what the purpose of a lottery ticket might be if not to ensure the buyer that he will get paid in the event of a win. Despite what the public might believe, the lottery ticket is simply a receipt, that is, an item of evidence that can be considered in the event of a dispute.

It also provides the buyer with the opportunity, in the act of buying a ticket, to verify that the human operator typed in his numbers correctly. The issue is not that the lottery ticket machine may have malfunctioned, but that the human seller may have made a mistake.

As we have seen, if the lottery machine malfunctions, that is, communicates a different set of numbers to the lottery commission than those printed on the ticket, the buyer has no effective recourse. Because the only human in the voting booth is the voter herself, and the voter has ample opportunity to review her ballot, the verification function of the lottery ticket is not relevant to elections.

The lottery ticket also serves to remind the buyer which numbers he chose so he can later compare his numbers with the winning ones. It is also necessary to claim the prize, since a lottery ticket is anonymous and transferable.

The state must know whom to pay. None of these considerations is applicable to voting [24]. But in any event it does not matter whether the bank knows that it has lost a billion dollars or not — the money is gone and the risk the bank tried to avert has occurred anyway.

The areas of human endeavor in which electronic records are used in place of paper ones are far too numerous to list. Among them are banking transactions, income tax filings, medical diagnosis, military orders including nuclear launch instructions and securities purchases. The public and the legal system have come to recognize that electronic records can be reliable if properly maintained. The regulations implementing the E-Sign statute generally provide that electronic records are equivalent to those on paper [27].

The Federal Rules of Evidence give equal weight to electronic records in court proceedings as they do to paper ones [29]. It is therefore a puzzle why electronic records should be acceptable for every other government purpose except voting.

Paper ballots can be divided generally into those that are intended to be read and counted by humans, which we shall call Australian ballots to avoid ambiguity, and those intended to be counted by machine. The latter included punched-card and mark-sense optical scan ballots. Every form of paper ballot that has ever been devised can and has been manipulated, in general with considerable ease. The reason is that humans are familiar with paper and its characteristics, how to mark it to look genuine and how to erase it.

Likewise, the number of people in the U. There are over 50, printing companies in the U. S, employing over 1. This means that it is not difficult to locate people who can print or modify documents. Other types of manipulation, such as destroying ballots or substituting other ones, require no skill at all.

By contrast, altering redundant encrypted write-once computer records is impossible even for experts. So assuming that the electronic voting records are written correctly in the first place a subject that indeed deserves discussion , the possibility of modifying them later is remote. The simplest form of paper ballot manipulation is ballot-box stuffing, that is, inserting extra ballots, usually genuine ones that have been pre-marked, into the container meant to hold only those voted by registered voters.

In any jurisdiction in which the voter can touch a physical ballot and personally insert it into a ballot box, she can conceal extra ballots on her person and insert them at the same time. This is true whether the ballots are Australian, punched-card or mark-sense. The practice is so widespread that many states have statutes specifically dealing with the situation in which more ballots are found in the ballot box at the close of voting than the number of voters who appeared at the polls that day.

The Florida statute is both horrifying and amusing: Parties with ideological similarities and common interests may converge to capture more seats. In Conclusion, Political parties are a very important aspect of modern governance and democracy. Parties operate under the law of the land, their own set of rules and by virtue of being electoral vehicles; they also operate under electoral process regulations. The idea therefore is for parties to come up with strategies to influence voting patterns by taking into account the dynamics of the interrelationships.

I totally love your website! Hope our tutor could explain how to write essays like you. I am not a native English speaker so using this educational resource is a real gift for me. We would love to hear from our readers and visitors.

Please email us at support [at] profilesinjustice dot com to ask academic related questions, leave a testimonial or report a bug. Even a small percentage of eligible voters deciding to vote in the main battleground states could change the entire outcome of an election.

A slight change in the voting numbers could affect the entire outcome of an election and the course of world politics. President Obama managed to win Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania in the presidential election because of the youth vote. Statistics show if Mitt Romney won these states he would have become president and altered America forever.

The United States of America was formed on the basis of wanting a vote. Since then, various minorities have fought and died to earn the right to vote. To not vote is to throw away all the sacrifices they made. For example, Maine tends to vote democrat and Oklahoma often votes Republican.

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- Voting in America In every election votes are lost or miscounted because of voting errors, machine errors, voting devices stop working, the voting machines calculate a wrong number for a specific candidate, and poll workers misplace cartridges that have tallied up the numbers from the voting machines. Ultius, Inc. "Short Essay on Voting Rights." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. July 15,

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If you need help writing your assignment, please use our custom writing services and buy a paper on any of the political science research paper topics. This sample Research Paper on Voting Behavior features: + words (25 pages), APA format, in-text citations, and a bibliography with 40 sources. • the online demonstration of voting on the web site of a fourth DRE The paper ballots came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They encompassed elections from , , and , represented a wide range of voting situations. Some of the paper ballots can be found at