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By Glenn Harlan Reynolds : BIO| 31 Oct 2020
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electronic voting

Well, this report from The New York Times doesn't make me feel better about electronic voting:

The federal government is investigating the takeover last year of a leading American manufacturer of electronic voting systems by a small software company that has been linked to the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez.

The inquiry is focusing on the Venezuelan owners of the software company, the Smartmatic Corporation, and is trying to determine whether the government in Caracas has any control or influence over the firm's operations, government officials and others familiar with the investigation said.

Is this a false alarm, or does it represent a real threat of foreign meddling in American elections? I suspect it's the former, but I can't be sure -- and, of course, that's the problem with electronic voting. Because you can't tell what's going on inside of the box, voters can't be sure that their votes are recorded, or counted, accurately. And if they can't be sure of that, their faith in the whole electoral system is in danger -- and with it, their faith in our system of government.

We've already seen some worry on the part of Democrats that concern with electoral fraud may cause black voters to turn out in lower numbers -- ironic, given that most of the talk of vote-fraud has come from, well, Democrats -- but although some commentators have enjoyed the irony ("Tell the base their votes won't be counted, then wonder why they won't vote - I will never be smart enough to be a Dem strategist"), the problem of voter distrust is a real one.

I've written about this problem before -- and more than once -- but the issue of trustworthiness in voting and vote-counting is really important, and I still think that it's not getting enough attention.

The system must not merely be fair and reliable, it must be seen as fair and reliable by all reasonable people. Kooks and conspiracists will always be, well, kooky and conspiratorial. But the system needs to be trustworthy enough, and obviously so, that only the kooks and conspiracists, who are beyond reason, will seriously worry about its trustworthiness.

We certainly don't have that kind of a system now. The mechanisms for making sure that voters are who they say they are are way too weak -- as this St. Louis scandal involving a "grassroots" group called ACORN demonstrates, and as this study of dead people voting in New York indicates -- and the mechanisms for ensuring that vote recording and counting are trustworthy and trusted are obviously too weak as well.

Both processes need reform. Photo ID for voting seems entirely reasonable to me. And I think that we need far more transparency -- both on the large scale, and at the level of individual voters -- with regard to ballot technologies, too.

Trust in the government has been declining for years, but it's nothing compared to what we'll see if a majority, or even a sizable plurality, of Americans conclude that the entire process is rigged. And I think we're closer to that point than the political class realizes. That's something I looked into further in a podcast interview with Wall Street Journal writer John Fund, author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. The audio, and a transcript, are available here. I hope that a lot of people read Fund's book, or at least listen to the interview. This topic isn't getting enough attention, and I'm afraid it will do damage before it does.

The author is a TCS Daily Contributing Editor and founder of Instapundit.

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