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« Stealing Democracy, by Spencer Overton | Main | Armed Madhouse, by Greg Palast »

Brave New Ballot, by Aviel David Rubin

By an everyday book reader
May 1, 2007

Imagine for a moment that you live in a country where nobody is sure how most of the votes are counted, and there's no reliable record for performing a recount. Imagine that machines count the votes, but nobody knows how they work. Now imagine if somebody found out that the machines were vulnerable to attack, but the agencies that operate them won't take the steps to make them safe. If you live in America, you don't need to imagine anything. This is the reality of electronic voting in our country.

There are simple solutions and, before you vote in the next election, you should know what they are so that you will know that you vote will count.

Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting
by Aviel David RubinBook Picture

Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780767922104, 0767922107
September 2006

Avi Rubin is a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University and a specialist in systems security. He and a team of researchers studied the code that operates the machines now used in 37 states and discovered the following terrifying facts:

  • The companies hired to test the election equipment for federal certification did not study the code that operates the machines and the election commissions employed no computer security analysts.
  • All votes are recorded on a single removable card similar to the one in a digital camera. There is no way to determine if the card or the code that operates the machine has been tampered with.
  • It's very easy to program a machine to change votes. There's no way to determine if that has happened.
  • There were enough irregularities with the electronic voting machines used throughout the 2004 election to make anyone think twice about using them again.

Avi Rubin has testified at Congressional hearings trying to alert the government that it has put our democracy at risk by relying so heavily on voting machines without taking the proper precautions. As he has waged this battle, he has been attacked, undermined, and defamed by a prominent manufacturer. His job has been threatened, but he won't give up until every citizen understands that at this moment, our democracy hangs in the balance.

There are simple solutions and, before you vote in the next election, Rubin wants you to know your rights. If you don't know them and you use an electronic voting machine, you may not be voting at all.

"A self-described 'computer-geek,' Rubin was publicly accused of undermining democracy by officials he describes as desperate to save face after investing state money in the machines. He also became the object of an e-voting industry campaign to smear his work, especially after it was revealed that he had connections to a voting software company. Refreshingly, he describes this potential conflict of interest with considerable candor. Rubin's account of his mounting frustration as governmental and industrial spin doctors continued to champion electronic voting in the face of its manifold problems, and turned electronic voting into a partisan issue, is a sympathetic one. Despite the inability of his critics to understand it, his explanation of the technological issues at the heart of electronic voting is clear, and his argument that votes need to be verifiable in order for the democratic process to be meaningful is so reasonable that it sounds almost revolutionary." - Publishers Weekly

Aviel D. Rubin, Ph.D. is Professor of Computer Science and Technical Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He is also the founder and president of Independent Security Evaluators, a security consulting firm. In 2004, Baltimore Magazine named him Baltimorean of the Year for his work on electronic voting security, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave him its prestigious Pioneer Award. He has testified three times before the U.S. Congress, as well as before the U.S. Election Assistance Committee. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Grant to study electronic voting. Dr. Rubin has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, NPR, and Wired News, and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun, and many more newspapers.

"Avi Rubin performs a true patriotic duty with this book. He shows that without voter-verified records, votes can be lost, election outcomes can come into doubt, and public cynicism in the political process surely grows. Brave New Ballot is an interesting story of a talented computer scientist who found himself in an adventure because of his dogged effort to make America's voting technology consistent with her democracy." - Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)

"Rubin, a professor of computer science, found himself at center stage of the debate surrounding the safety and security of electronic voting when he and his grad students exposed serious failings in the code in electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold. The company's source code had been hacked into and was posted on the Internet. Rubin's analysis of the code and the dangers of electronic voting were disclosed six months before his home state of Maryland was due to use the machines in the 2002 primary and general election, triggering scrutiny by Rubin's peers, politicians, and the media as well as a Diebold campaign to ruin his career. Rubin thoroughly analyzes the vulnerabilities of electronic voting and offers an absorbing account of how his involvement in the e--voting controversy affected his life and career, in what he describes as a scenario from a 'bad Hollywood script.' In this highly accessible book, Rubin offers readers a look at the weaknesses of electronic voting systems and the need for paper records." - Vanessa Bush, American Library Association

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