Our week ends with a hurricane heading toward Florida, a massive earthquake in Mexico and the hacking of personal information and credit data from 143 million Equifax customers. The first two are acts of God while the third is an act of human depravity. All three will lead to human loss of wealth and life.
Frankly, I am tired of hearing about computer hacking, especially about the theft of data from a company that collects financial information about South Carolinians then passes judgement on our credit worthiness. I doubt Equifax will pay Experian for free credit monitoring to protect the identity of the 143 million lost cyber souls. Remember how South Carolina did that when our Department of Revenue was hacked? Do we know if Experian ever stopped an identity theft? I’m not sure either but they sure knew how to solicit more business from us.
Hackers, identity thieves, anonymous digital anarchists, Hillary losing her personal emails – these and countless other reported mishandling of personal data are making voters question if our new digital voting machines are safe from hackers. The obvious answer is no and they are right to be concerned. Hacking and manipulating the digital votes that determine the outcome of an election rises into Manchurian Candidate territory.
Some voters have forgotten that the old analog voting machines with their paper ballots could be manipulated. Chads were hung, ballot boxes were stuffed and the dead sometimes rose up like Lazarus to vote for the Democrat pushing post-resurrection Medicare coverage. But still, they make an important point.
Analog voting eliminates the unseen part of digital voting. When a voter marks or punches a paper ballot and drops it in a locked ballot box, the process is linear and transparent. As long as Reagan’s axiom of “trust but verify” is followed, all sides stay honest.
Digital voting converts a button pushed in the voting both into a number that is stored and eventually downloaded. When a voter pushes the button beside the candidate of his choice, he cannot visibly see how the digital process works. He has no way to “trust but verify” other than taking the word of the computer wizard down at the county election office.
In a weird abstract way, moving from analog voting to digital voting is like moving from an ancient Greek democracy where each citizen publicly votes to an ancient British tribal system where a druid throws a few runes and chicken bones onto the ground and announces the outcome. The tribe hears the results but they just aren’t sure how it happened. They just believe that the druid possesses a secret knowledge – what the Greeks called gnosis, not democracy.
We live in a digital world that’s quickly becoming a quantum digital world. The quantum acceleration of technology will benefit many processes but I am not sure that voting is one of them. Democracy requires a certain slowness to remain stable. Elections aren’t speed-dating sessions.
I agree with the analog folks. Instead of setting up voting kiosks everywhere to speed up voting maybe we should open up a few more local polling places on election day, provide the appropriate oversight and let our citizens practice their right to vote the old analog way – mark your ballot, drop it in the lockbox, look the poll manager right in the eye and dare him to throw a chicken bone.