There’s a lot of irony in the news these days.
On Jan. 28 the Truro Select Board voted to replace the town’s 56-year-old hand-crank ballot boxes with the ImageCast electronic vote tabulator, manufactured by the Dominion Voting Systems Corporation.
According to a 2018 New York Times report on election security, more than 80 percent of the machines in use today are sold by just three companies — Dominion is one of them. The voting-machine industry, according to the Times, is an estimated $300-million-a-year business that is troubling for its secrecy and political ties.
The same salesman who persuaded the Wellfleet Select Board to junk their 95-year-old ballot boxes in October told the Truro board that the electronic counter was much more reliable than human beings, and they apparently believed him.
Six days later a combination of faulty and wholly unnecessary technology and the resulting frustration and anger its failure generated turned the Iowa caucuses into a fiasco. The spectacle in Iowa embarrassed the Democrats and added to the widespread distrust of our entire system of elections.
Our select boards are dedicated, public-spirited citizens. They are obviously inclined to trust what people, even salespeople, tell them. My own philosophy is: trust — but verify.
The guy who sold the machine said it couldn’t be hacked because it wasn’t connected to the internet. As we reported on Nov. 14, however, electronic voting machines can be compromised even if they have no internet connection.
“Many voting machines that elections officials insist are disconnected from the internet — and therefore beyond the reach of hackers — are in fact accessible by way of the modems they use to transmit vote totals on election night,” the Times reported. Without robust audits, “there’s a good chance we simply won’t know if someone has altered the digital votes in the next election.”
Times business columnist Kevin Roose wrote, “When it comes to the actual business of registering and counting people’s votes, many of the smartest tech experts I know fiercely oppose high-tech solutions…. Every piece of technology involved in the voting process is a possible point of failure. And the larger and more interconnected the technical system, the more vulnerable it is to an attack.”
What really gets me in this story is that no one is complaining about the old wooden box with the crank that goes Ding! when your ballot slides in. People love that old box. And they like being part of the crew that counts the votes, even if the job goes on long into the night. Hand-counting is a “well-loved tradition,” says Provincetown Town Clerk Darlene Van Alstyne.
Provincetown is now the last town on Cape Cod to count by hand. But it’s not too late, Truro and Wellfleet, to change your minds. Why fix something that’s not broken?