Tom Ashbrook, host, "On Point": So potential for manipulation... You also say that there's potential for glitches. It's new software; some people just don't know how to use it. Or there are problems within the software. Which do you see as the greater concern, active manipulation or just computer glitches that we have all come to know and not love!
Avi Rubin, computer scientist: My biggest concern is the collection of those. Collectively they result in an election where we can't know that we got the right answer. I don't know how likely it is that fraud will occur. I guess whoever loses is likely to have some claim and I think the claim will be a lot stronger where there's a system that's not auditable and which can't be recounted.
Ashbrook: Are you saying that Karl Rove or Ken Mehlman went out an jimmied with these machines?
Mark Crispin Miller, Communications professor, NYU: Well, I'm not saying they personally went out and jimmied with them. What I'm telling is that if it were simply an innocent glitch then we would have seen roughly an equal number of examples on each side of the partisan divide. What I'm telling you is that in 2004 there were almost no examples of these machines benefitting the Democrats. If people go to my blog they'll find reports of early voting that's already taken place this time in Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri where there have been dozens of reports of the same thing -- people trying to vote for Democrats and the machine won't seem to respond. It seems to want them to vote Republican.
What if there's a close race? No recount possible?
Ashbrook: Sean Greene, that's a very disconcerting view from Avi Rubin. Can we live with this level of uncertainty about the vote's outcome? George Will says today, C'mon, there are a lot of people in this country and a lot of votes... Get over it. It's not the margin of victory we're talking about here. We've got to have a little tolerance... Can we live with this? Do we still need some kind of major overhaul?
Sean Greene, "electionline.org": About what Avi was talking about, there are a number of states which have moved to paper trails and having the voter-verified paper audit trail on electronic voting machines to be the actual record for a recount. As Avi mentioned, I think there are 15 states plus the District of Columbia that use some touch-screen voting machines that are paperless. It's a big concern for a lot of people in those jurisdictions.
But wait! The Wall Street Journal tells us not to worry!
John Fund, Wall Street Journal: ...I agree there are some problems. We need oversight. We certainly need open-source software, audits, things like that. But I think the more extreme conspiracy theories have to be addressed. I don't ask people to believe me. I cite Joe Andrew, who was Bill Clinton's hand-picked chairman of the Democratic National Committee until 2001. He is the only national chairman who was involved in the internet. He's involved in several companies though nothing with voting machines. He gave a speech a little bit ago to the Maryland Association of Election Officials in which he said that when it comes to electronic voting most liberal conspiracy theorists are just plain old-fashioned nuts. He says there's no conspiracy trying to steal votes in America today. And he says it's unfortunate that we have this anti-electronic voting machine bandwagon being circulated because "It is not possible to move a constant fraction of votes from one party to another in each jurisdiction without it being obvious that something is going on. The internet activists who say this are bonkers."
Are you feeling reassured by the Wall Street Journal? Just in case you're not, there are some people looking out for our interests as voters.
Ian Inaba, filmmaker, activist: In the process of making "American Blackout," I really found that there had been this evolution in citizen journalism around elections. What happened in Florida in 2000 with all the problems down there, there were only corporate journalists who covered those events. A lot of individual stories of personal voting rights were not captured. But as I continued to make the film and then Ohio 2004 happened, we saw this new wave of citizen journalists who actually went to the polls to document the problems particularly in states with African-American and working-class voters as they attempted to vote in 2004. And so we wanted to further this effort. This year what we're doing is coordinating with the Election Protection organization who receive a majority of the calls from voters at the polls, and we'll be working with them to then dispatch our volunteer videographers to capture irregularities on film.
Ashbrook: So the day after -- or the week after -- the vote, you'll have a pile of videotape. How might that be used to improve or watchdog the system?
Inaba: It's actually even better than that! We're actually designing a system in which we're going to be uploading the videos the same day. We're going to be broadcasting these images on the web before the races are called.
Ashbrook: And if people want to participate? How do they do it?