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17 Oct, 2008 19:45

How accurate are U.S electronic voting machines?

The latest polls in the U.S. show Barack Obama is stealing popularity from his rival John McCain after the two clashed in their final debate on Wednesday. But when it comes down to the vote itself, there are concerns the use of electronic machines may hav

Electronic voting machines are widely used in American elections. But some think they make twisting election results easy.

Brad Friedman is a prominent U.S. blogger and investigative journalist. He spends much of his time trying to uncover the truth behind election fraud. He says it’s shocking to see how easy it is to hack into a voting machine.

“We're using these electronic voting machines all over the country that don't work, can be easily hacked, are not transparent,” he said. “And often they fail to turn on at all. We’re stuck with this crap for yet another election.”

Voting machines in the U.S. are mostly provided by four major private companies, and there have been allegations that the manufacturers are linked with the Republican party.

“The system will change when the Republicans get screwed by it,” Friedman believes.

The main election scandal took place in 2000. George W. Bush was said to have been ushered into the White House by the Supreme Court. Then, the Senate took action to try to make elections more transparent.

But little did it know that things would only get more controversial. An act was passed allocating almost $U.S. 4 billion of taxpayer’s money to be spent on new voting machinery.

And, during the last eight years, these machines have been creating more of a buzz than ever. Some sources put the number in the thousands when it comes to stolen votes in the last two U.S. Presidential elections.

But, there are also those who are convinced that the actual numbers could well be in the millions. And they believe that’s what let George Bush stick around for as long as he did.

“Two or three million were stolen at the 2000 election, four or five at the 2004 election, they are going to steal 6 or 7 million this election,” Thom Hartmann, a radio talk show host with more than 3 million listeners every week, says.

He is far from optimistic when it comes to how fair the upcoming presidential election is going to be.

For years now, computer scientists have been proving how easy it is to hack electronic voting machines.

Ed Felten – a Computer Science professor at Princeton University – says the machines are completely unreliable, and unless back-up paper ballots are returned, the fairness of results can never be checked or proved.

In an experiment, he discovered that it could take just one minute to change the outcome of the entire country’s election.

After numerous allegations, one voting-machine company changed its name. However, its machinery still continues to operate and will be used in the upcoming election.

A spokesman for Premier Election Solutions denied all the allegations against it.

“We are committed to providing products and services to ensure that our customers can conduct elections that are accurate, secure and fair to all. Premier does not back any individual candidate or party. We are politically neutral,” he said.

While some states have decertified the machines, many will still use them in the November vote.

Last year, a bill proposing a ban of all electronic voting by 2012 was proposed at the Senate. But this document will not be enforced by the time Americans cast their votes in an election just a few weeks away.

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