Sunday, July 21, 2002

Bad use of technology. I am gung ho about using technology for just about everything, but there is a common fallacy that you can solve a problem by throwing technology at it instead of addressing the root problem. This happens in schools that buy a lot of computers.

Today, I see it in voting machines. Palm Beach County just bought a lot of $3.5k voting machines, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election dispute. These machines are so fancy, they are self-auditing. As AP reports, there has already been a dispute and no one has the slightest idea how the machines work. Opening them would void the warranty.

The Palm Beach 2000 election problems were not technological. The ballot was a little confusing, but it was approved by all parties before the election. The count was accurate. There were no major reports of fraud. The problem was that one side was able to abuse the courts by changing the rules after election day. By the election paradox, just about any close election can have its outcomes changed if courts are allowed to change the rules. Expensive voting machines that cannot be externally audited will make the matter worse, because people will not trust the machines.

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