Friday, June 03, 2022

My Trip to the Voting Booth

At the time of this writing, it's election time in California. So on the advice from one of my friends, I decided to junk the mail-in ballot and vote in person at the local polling station. It was the first time in decades that I didn't vote by absentee ballot. 

After locating my local polling place, I walked into the cafeteria at Valley College to do my part for American democracy. I was greeted by at least 20 signs in 30 different languages, each one attempting to direct voters of every race, color and creed on how and what to do next.  It was early in the voting period, and while there must have been close to 50 voting machines, there were just a few people actually voting. 

I took a long look around. "Boy, a lot has changed since I last voted in a booth," I thought to myself. And from what I could tell, these were not changes for the better. 

Not that I'm by any means an expert, but I spent a lot of my career nurturing information technology clients in Silicon Valley, so I have just enough knowledge about this stuff to be dangerous. Nevertheless, I can tell you without reservation that everything I observed pretty much confirmed the viability of every theory of voting fraud I've ever heard. 

Stick with me, because this is not what you think.

To begin with, it's clear the voting machines were designed to foster the notion that we're still using "printed ballots." We're not. Oh, you're handed a paper ballot, but that hardly matters, because all your voting is done by touch screen.  By touching the screen, you're sending a digital signal that can be stored, transmitted, read, altered or eliminated by anyone, anywhere along the way from vote cast to vote count. The "printed ballot" is nothing but a prop. The real data is encoded when you select your choices and hit the "Submit your ballot" button on the screen. 

The digital stuff not only manages and records your votes' values, but also draws your votes really beautifully on the paper. The fact that it looks as good as it does confirms that your choices were digitally translated and designed according to the voting machine's layout program.  So no matter what the polling people tell you, your votes were digitally encoded the second you cast them.

After you vote, the machine lets you inspect the printed piece of paper to confirm your choices, but then it insists that you feed it back into the machine, ostensibly so it can be tallied. I say ostensibly, because the digital information has already been trapped by the machine and could be anywhere on the internet.  Which led me to the following question:

Why even bother with a printed ballot, unless you want people to believe they're really voting with a paper ballot?  

There's no way anyone other than a highly-trained techno-professional could tell what's being transmitted where, but I can tell you this much: Throughout the entire experience, people's phones were going off all over the place, which means the facility was not RF protected, and that any digital device from cell phones to bluetooth modems could have been sending anything, anywhere, at any given time. 

Not exactly high security. Especially when you consider that most courthouses block RF frequencies in order to keep their proceedings secure. That's why you can't use your phone in a lot of trials. Heck, even music concerts have wireless blocking technology to keep audiences from streaming the shows to their friends in real time on Facebook or Instagram. 

But your local polling place has nothing. It's wide open for anyone to intercept anything

Overall, my visit didn't do much to instill much trust in the system. In fact, it only increased my concerns about the integrity of our election systems.  I don't know if the game is rigged, but I do know that Josef Stalin was on to something when he mused how getting votes isn't nearly as important as counting them.