Broken Ballots is an extremely useful book on an extraordinarily important subject: will your vote count? As this book convincingly shows, the combination of defective technology and poor regulation have too often meant that votes are miscounted, or not counted at all.
The book provides a comprehensive history of the use of voting technology in the United States, but its heart is the “voting technology battles” that followed the 2000 election. That election, as the authors note, demonstrated more dramatically than any other the impact that flawed technology can have on election outcomes.
Simons and Jones were not mere spectators to these battles, they have been important players. They make no apologies for their opposition to paperless computerized voting machines, or to internet voting. While not everyone will agree with their characterization of all the battles of the last decade, they provide a cogent and clear critique of current election administration and regulation, and offer several common sense solutions for increasing the accuracy and fairness of our elections.
This book is a must read, not only for election officials and other policy makers, but also for public interest groups who seek to protect the vote and, indeed, for every citizen who wants his or her vote to be counted. (Frederick A. O. “Fritz” Schwarz, Jr., Chief Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice)
The public remains dangerously unaware — in part because of the media's refusal (again) to do its job — of the technological threats to honest elections. Read this book to understand the situation, and what we can do about it.
(Dan Gillmor Author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People
For almost a decade now a little-known but fierce policy debate has been going on in the U.S. over the role of computers and Internet technology in elections — the “voting technology wars”. Election officials, vendors, and various interest groups have pushed for hurried adoption of these technologies, initially to replace the punchcard systems that were at the center of the controversy in the Florida, 2000 election debacle, and more recently for various other cited reasons. Ironically the technology community that one would ordinarily expect to be leading the push for computerized and Internet voting has been arguing strenuously for limitations on the use of electronics and software in elections because of the severe security, reliability, and privacy dangers they pose. Computer security experts, more than anyone else, are keenly aware of the many ways they know of to rig or disrupt a computerized election, and they know how profoundly difficult the technical problems are that would have to be overcome before fully computerized elections can be safe.
Broken Ballots tells the story of voting technology evolution over the last century, concentrating on the last decade. It is a fascinating, wonderfully readable, accessible, and accurate account of both the history of the controversies and the technical issues involved by two nationally prominent computer scientists who know the subject deeply and have been personally engaged in fighting for election integrity for many years. While there have been many articles and even a few books that have touched on the subject, no other work even comes close to capturing the full story as this one does. It is superb writing and superb scholarship and offers yet another case study of the limitations and unintended consequences of too much technology applied too fast.
(David Jefferson Board Chairman, Verified Voting
Broken Ballots provides clear and definitive answers to the questions: “How did our voting systems get to be the way they are?”, “Are our voting systems secure?” and “What can be done to improve the way we vote?” Using examples from the earliest mechanical voting machines to today's proposals for voting over the Internet, it provides numerous vivid illustrations of the risks of using complex technology to collect and count our votes. It covers not only technology, but also election law, government policy and regulation, accessibility of voting systems, and the history of voting machine companies in the United States.
This book is extremely well researched and exceptionally well-written. The breadth and depth of coverage bear witness to the authors' long involvement with these issues.
This wonderful book is essential reading for anyone concerned about the security of our election systems: vendors, election officials, technologists, election integrity activists, and voters.
(Ronald L. Rivest Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Americans want to believe their votes are counted reliably, fairly, and fully, yet they have a nagging suspicion that all is not well in our country's voting systems. Broken Ballots chronicles in the greatest detail how these suspicions have been examined and how improvements have been pursued, rejected, implemented, or defeated. Jones and Simons detail the intricacies involved in maintaining the integrity of voting procedures and technologies and in protecting the outcome of elections from error or manipulation.
Presenting evidence that ballot box access and security are under serious threat by the push for unauditable voting machines and untested and unsecured internet-based voting, Broken Ballots forces us to examine closely our electoral process. As a nation, we must take a serious look at the suggestions provided by Jones and Simons and enact the legislation needed to make strides toward secure, accessible, and verifiable elections. What can be more important?
(Rush Holt U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 12th congressional district
The cornerstone of our democracy is the right to vote and the right to have that vote counted as it was intended. Broken Ballots first demonstrates clearly and compellingly the extent to which that right is in jeopardy. Then it lays out a plan to preserve and protect that right. Kudos to the authors and to all those fighting to safeguard our democracy.
(Kevin Shelley Former California Secretary of State
In my opinion, it is the most thorough, well researched, and definitive publication on this subject that has ever been written — despite the reality that it was under perpetual gestation for many years, because the ground under our elections has continually shifted, although often not for the better. The commercial vendors undoubtedly will hate it, because it truly documents a reality in which the seams are unseemly, and the lack of accountability is almost unbelievable. But it is one of the most important books around for those who believe in democracy.
(Peter G. Neumann Principal Scientist at SRI International
Broken Ballots is simultaneously a detailed history and a fascinating analytical narrative into the evolution and social construction of our voting technology and processes in the United States. There hasn't been a ‘must read’ manuscript like it since Joseph Harris' book on election administration in 1934.
Jones and Simons thoroughly demonstrate the struggles in which our country — the epitome of democracy — has engaged over most of our history to improve how we cast and count votes. The conclusion can be hard to stomach: while we've learned a great deal from these struggles — modern elections are more inclusive, robust and accurate — the constantly changing backdrop of policy, society and technology combine to create a moving target towards which we must be ever vigilant.
Like Harris’ work was to the 20th Century, Broken Ballots will likely remain the definitive examination of voting technology in the 21st Century.
(Joseph Lorenzo New York University
Broken Ballots is the definitive source of information about voting technology, past and present. But it is not purely focused on technology issues; it also thoroughly examines the policy issues surrounding the use of various voting technology. Most importantly, it documents the history of how these issues have been dealt over the centuries.
The authors were directly involved in making some of that history in the last decade. This recent history is a particularly fascinating case study of many aspects of the making of policy about the use of technology, including the roles of business, election officials, politicians, activist, and technologists.
It is not possible to understand elections without understanding the technology that makes them function (or malfunction). This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about elections.
(David Dill Stanford University