By Kyle Rearden
“When we use proprietary software, we depend on specific companies. We, furthermore, give up control: when we use proprietary software, we can still smash our computer but we cannot know what it is doing while it is still running. There is nothing but a promise that it is behaving as it is supposed to, without any means of verification, and the considerable possibility of a conflict of interest. This is like trusting a politician. Whereas with free software, even without being able to read computer code, someone can give you an informed opinion about it. Everything has independent verification.”
Black box voting, simply defined, are voting machines that do not provide tangible (paper) records of individual votes cast because they operate using closed-source/proprietary software. Corporate vendors insist on protecting their copyrighted “intellectual property” of the source code, which renders independent auditing of its operations illegal. Blind faith in their coding is expected, but their customers are not the citizenry themselves, but rather, governments!
The infamous 2000 Florida recount, and subsequent Bush v. Gore court drama, really drives home the fact that these American governments cannot be trusted to verify and certify the authenticity of their own elections. Such illiberal democracies do not enjoy the consent of the governed, simply because said consent is typically fabricated. Fraudulently justifying the legitimacy of any government is more than enough grounds for its abolishment, for as one of my favorite activists, Bev Harris, herself wrote:
“Perceived lack of integrity in the voting system is guaranteed to produce shouts of indignation, but because most elections are perceived to be fair, we can still show some patience with the situation.
“If, however, we come to perceive that most elections cannot be trusted, we’ve got a huge problem. Suddenly, these people don’t have our permission to do anything. Why should we follow laws that they passed if we don’t believe they were fairly elected? Why should we accept anything they do? Why should we follow the law if they didn’t? Why should we cooperate with our government at all?”
That is the key question within democracies, isn’t it? To paraphrase Alexis de Tocqueville, people in a democracy will prefer an equal slavery to an unequal freedom, and given that observation to be true in light of the social justice equality freaks, I think that the reality here is what Harris is (perhaps?) inadvertently pointing out; namely, since the electronic voting machines are being used as a tool to promulgate the illusion that the elections are fair, then the fraud of these “elected” public servants truly does prove that the legitimacy of the government is nonexistent on these grounds alone.
Harris spends most of the book on the results of her investigative journalism, which revealed the nature and extent of the politically corrupt profiteering, but I was more interested in what she recommended be done in order to deal with this systematic ballot tampering. She said:
“These public policy issues can’t be addressed with certification or even by mandating paper ballots. We need procedural protections. We just ‘got lucky’ and discovered Diebold’s files. What about the other companies? The truth is, we have no idea how big this problem is. Every time we ask questions, we get the wrong answers.
“We need a short-term moratorium on counting votes by machine. I know it sounds radical. If, temporarily, we have to do the old-fashioned thing and count by hand, let’s just roll up our sleeves and do it. We shouldn’t require citizens to vote on systems that can’t be trusted.
“Now we need to pull the subset of voting-system vendors, give everyone a background check and send an auditor in to check their records. And perhaps their memos. We need to get an independent evaluation of the software on all of our voting machines, to find out what the heck is actually on them.”
In many ways, Harris reminds me of the Chinese democracy activists, in that the authoritarianism of the governing regime is so atrocious that democratic elections are (seemingly) preferable by comparison. Although very well intentioned, it must be kept in mind that voters are irrational, and so, even if there was no digital ballot-tampering and instead the paper ballots were hand-counted, all that would mean at best is that the electoral results were authentic, not that decisions of public policy were rational or wise by any measure.
Concomitant with this book was the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy, which in many ways, summarizes and highlights the nuance and minutiae within Harris’ book into easily digestible chunks. The long and short of it is that these electronic voting machines operate on proprietary software, which is subject to federal copyright laws, such as those found in Title 17 of the United States Code. Because proprietary software is closed-source, third-parties cannot independently audit the source code in order to discover bugs and then fix them.
Election vendors fear transparency because they realize that not only would their profit margins become negatively affected by free and open-source software, but it would also jeopardize their fascist “public-private partnerships” with local governments. These vendors who sell the proprietary software voting machines to county election bureaucrats ultimately depend upon the government’s own vested special interests in giving cover to them simply because it gives the State both a way to engage in undetectable ballot-box stuffing while also having a fallback position whereby if anything goes wrong, the corporate vendors would be scapegoated in the media, if not also prosecuted (betrayed) by the very same government they had contracted with in the first place!
The Hursti Hack was particularly enlightening, for it demonstrated the security vulnerabilities currently within the proprietary software that is exploitable by hackers (or even script kiddies) who can get their mitts on a memory card. As a falsifiable experiment, the Hursti Hack was replicated by others who not only confirmed Hursti’s findings, but also expanded beyond those to include others that consistently showed the exploitable security vulnerabilities undermining the legitimacy of democratic elections. More so than even the touchscreens would be the optical-scan machines because it scans paper ballots into the exploitable memory cards, which are not the same as hand-counting those paper ballots!
If democracy activists were being at all rational, then they ought to support the development of free software and its adoption by election bureaucrats, but they don’t, for the most part. At best, they insist on hand-counting paper ballots, just like Naomi Wolf as recommended in past years, like we’ve been thrown back into the 1930s. Of course, their worse mistake, despite all their good intentions, is being political crusaders in the first place, instead of revoking their consent to be governed, at least to the extent the State will legally allow them to, by way of cancelling their voter registration.
Bev Harris’ Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century is full of investigative journalism, but is rather short on practical solutions. This past electoral PSYOP just reinforces that presidents are selected, not elected, quite literally by the Electoral College, which means that the popular vote is really only relevant for congressional and senatorial races, insofar as the federal government is concerned. If anything, the value of Harris’ book is that it inadvertently serves as an indictment against “democracy,” not as a vindication of it.