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April 30, 2009

In the name of democracy

The HBO documentary Hacking Democracy providing an interesting insight into the possibility of an election being hacked by people who didn't necessarily have to know software code. The fact that Bev Harris, a person who had little computer experience and no experience as a journalist discovers this could make people wonder why the professionals were unable to find what Harris did. However, their concern over vote tampering echoes the skepticism from some registered voters over electronic touch-screen systems.

While the findings, including the Hursti Hack, present a real problem in ensuring that votes do indeed count, the lack of any concrete examples of an election being hacked (which is complicated in itself as hackers can alter data without detection) likely won't change anything. The human consensus tends to follow the leader and ignore any problems they aren't familiar with until something drastic happens, causing things to change (talk of security holes circulated after 9/11 as people wondered how the attackers slipped through unnoticed). However, Harris' investigations did attract attention in some areas and she was contacted in 2006 to test touch-screen voting systems. Dan Gillmor might user Harris and Black Box voting as an example of interactivity giving power to the people and affecting change, especially given her lack of computer expertise prior to finding the vote tabulation software online.