Creative Destruction

January 9, 2007

E-vote systems certifier de-certified

Filed under: Election 2006 — Gled @ 12:52 pm

My bold:

The leading certifier of US electronic voting systems, Colorado outfit Ciber, Inc., is no longer permitted to issue certifications, after federal investigators discovered appallingly haphazard testing regimes, the New York Times reports.

Ciber, which certifies the majority of US election devices, was unable to document how it supposedly tested the machines for accuracy and security. Due to the oddities of US elections regulations, no government agency is assigned this role; rather, device manufacturers pay whoever they wish to rubber-stamp their kit.

The US federal Election Assistance Commission began oversight only in July 2006, and immediately found problems with Ciber’s records, but did not act until recently, presumably in fear that the November election results would be brought into question. Ciber has been barred from issuing certifications until it can demonstrate proper quality controls and documentation of its “work”.

The company says it’s on the mend, however, and assures investors that it will win federal accreditation this month. Voters may be less optimistic. While Ciber may not be allowed to certify machines until the Commission is satisfied with its recordkeeping, nothing is yet being done to re-examine the machines it “passed” without adequate controls.


And yet there is no popular outcry against the lack of accountability and transparency in the e-voting racket. It’s interesting to note that the public is clearly less concerned with the integrity of its election equipment than it is with a one-armed bandit in a Vegas hotel. ®

Democracy is wasted on the Americans.


  1. Daran writes:

    Democracy is wasted on the Americans.

    I couldn’t agree more. But on balance, we Americans couldn’t have gotten to a point where we care so little for our own institutions without having first enjoyed their benefits (and then lost sight of them).

    Comment by Brutus — January 9, 2007 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with that too. If someone had asked me five or six years ago, what the ideal constitution for a democracy would be, I would have said something like the US’s.

    Now I’m left wondering how it all managed to go so wrong.

    Comment by Daran — January 9, 2007 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  3. Now I’m left wondering how it all managed to go so wrong.

    The abandonment of limited federal government.

    Comment by Robert — January 9, 2007 @ 5:14 pm | Reply

  4. The abandonment of limited federal government.

    True. Maintaining a limited government requires effort that we would rather spend it on giving celebrity couples colorful names and tracking their pre-produced escapades.

    Comment by toysoldier — January 9, 2007 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  5. Robert’s pithy response is only partially true. The fuller answer is a complex of reasons bound up in, among other things, our roots in capitalism, the free practice of religion(s), technological fascination, and a certain narcissism as “leaders of the free world.” It’s actually a very broad sociological inquiry not readily reducible to a soundbite.

    It’s also a bit of human nature, I think. Here’s a quote from John Gray’s Straw Dogs that seems especially on point:

    The mass of mankind is ruled not by its own intermittent moral sensations, still less by self-interest, but by the needs of the moment. It seems fated to wreck the balance of life on Earth — and thereby to be the agent of its own destruction… Humans use what they know to meet their most urgent needs — even if the result is ruin. When times are desperate they act to protect their offspring, to revenge themselves on enemies, or simply to give vent to their feelings. These are not flaws that can be remedied.

    America’s peculiar responses to needs of the moment may be different from those of other cultures, but in common with all others, the seeds of our own long-term destruction are inevitably sown within our short-term solutions.

    Comment by Brutus — January 9, 2007 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  6. If someone had asked me five or six years ago, what the ideal constitution for a democracy would be, I would have said something like the US’s.

    Oh man you really need to read up on the history. The US methods suck, seriously. For one thing they are just terribly anti-democratic and archaic. For example when the Americans had to create a system for Iraq do you think they based it on their own? God no, not even the neo-cons. Like every other modern country they have a separate prime minister and head of state. Look at the terrible trouble the US has had with it’s “unitary executive”.

    And the separation of powers thing in the US style is just a way to block democratic influence on an essentially royalist / elitist system.

    When Washington forced the new constitution on the first American Republic (an act of treason) he did so to secure elitist power. Compare the US constitution with models that were offered up by others at the same time.

    Comment by DavidByron — January 9, 2007 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  7. Our constitutional methods were designed to slow down and (hopefully) completely forestall the democratically-inevitable degradation of the federal state into a do-everything-be-everywhere government. They have failed, although they lasted a very impressive 175 years or so. They still have some value, in that they make it more difficult to govern, which is always of value. People like David, who are (I gather) laboring under the impression that democracy leads to good governance instead of bread and circuses, find this puzzling.

    But now that the federal government is the locus of most power, and now that the idea of limiting the franchise to those capable of comprehending civic virtue has completely gone the way of the dodo, we’re all basically screwed. Ansonius’ approach is probably the only path of wisdom left.

    Not that I’m feeling bummed out or cynical or anything.

    Comment by Robert — January 9, 2007 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

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