Some insist it's nothing more than paranoia run amok, but there's a debate mounting over new voting machine technology and how it could be used to fix elections.
Although it's been going on for months, the debate reached a new level last week at a national convention in Denver of clerks, recorders and election officials.
Some top computer scientists told the conventioneers that what happened in Florida in 2000 could pale in comparison to the vulnerabilities of high-tech voting machines that counties throughout the country are purchasing to replace punch-cards and other paper ballots.
"What we know is that the machines can't be trusted, it's an unlocked bank vault, a disaster waiting to happen," a Stanford University computer science professor was quoted as saying in the Denver Post.
The Stanford professor and others fear that problems with software will result in hacking and voter fraud, allowing people to vote several times and poll workers to alter ballots and never be detected.
On top of that, there are still others who worry that the new high-tech devices, including those with touch-screen capabilities, are manufactured by companies that have close connections with the current administration. Wally O'Dell, the CEO of major vote-machine manufacturer Diebold, is a top George Bush fund-raiser who has publicly committed himself to delivering his home state, Ohio, to Bush next year.
What happened in Florida in 2000, of course, feeds that suspicion.
Writer and columnist Chris Floyd insists that Diebold's systems are already suspect.
"In Georgia, serviced by new Diebold systems, a popular Democratic governor and senator were both unseated in what the media called 'amazing' upsets, with results showing vote swings of up to 16 percent from the last pre-ballot polls," he wrote. "In computerized Minnesota, former Vice President Walter Mondale - a replacement for popular incumbent Paul Wellstone, who died days before the vote - was also defeated in a large last-second vote swing."
Bev Harris, author of "Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering in the 21st Century," claims that Diebold has the ability to keep track of election results as they come in and technology exists that would allow Diebold to alter election results.
Not surprisingly, the voting machine companies are aghast at the allegations. Diebold Election Systems President Tom Swidarski countered that the Diebold system is not only advanced but 100 percent safe, and those who are questioning the systems are misguided.
Others contend that the suspicions are nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction against modern technology, akin to a day when many people were afraid to trade in their typewriters for computers.
Those who fear the worst, though, aren't placated, nor should they be. The voting machine companies need to be sure that questions are answered and safeguards are in place.
The people have already lost their confidence in the election process.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times