Skip to Content
MIT Technology Review

Votes Wiped Out

CNN reports that a computer crashes in May and November 2003 erased votes from Miami-Dade County’s first widespread use of touchscreen voting machines in the November 2002 gubernatorial primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.The crash didn’t affect…

CNN reports that a computer crashes in May and November 2003 erased votes from Miami-Dade County’s first widespread use of touchscreen voting machines in the November 2002 gubernatorial primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.

The crash didn’t affect the election-day results; it just erased data that could be used in an after-the-fact audit. Florida, unlike many other states, treats ballots as public records and preserves them. This was one of the things that allowed media outlets to recount the ballots from the Year 2000 elections.

Many organizations are arguing that the new touch-screen voting machines require a paper trail to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I don’t believe this–not because a paper trail wouldn’t be useful, but because there is no proof that a paper trail works either, and there is no proof that you can’t use formal methods and other techniques to properly record computerized votes.