Stolen elections?

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City council has fully embraced internet voting, awarding a $487,151 contract to Intelivote, a Dartmouth firm, to oversee an internet component for early voting in the October council and mayoral elections (traditional voting remains an option for early voters, and the only choice on election day).

I worked as a reporter in the US when many states and localities adopted electronic voting, and was assured by a parade of voting experts, auditors and engineers the system was fail-proof. Only a "lunatic fringe" called it into question.

A decade later, however, the lunatic fringe has been proved right. "Warning: can you count on these machines?" blared the cover of last week's New York Times Magazine, introducing a devastating investigation of electronic voting. Many states are now spending hundreds of millions of dollars to move back to paper, and verifiable, ballots.

But Tuesday I watched again, as here in Halifax a parade of voting experts, auditors and engineers assured council that the new internet voting system is fail-proof, and council obliged.

It's true, as staff told me, that there's a difference between electronic voting machines and internet voting, but the difference is this: instead of a programming error---or a conscious attempt to steal an election---affecting just one machine of many in an overall election, with internet voting such errors or malfeasance affect the entire election. Moreover, Halifax's internet system uses Intelivote's proprietary software, meaning it can not be subjected to independent analysis, and, just as with the States' electronic voting systems, there will be no auditable paper trail---if an election is stolen, there'll be no way to prove it.

Lastly, consider that the founder and president of Intelivote is Dean Smith, a member of Halifax's Ambassador Club, where he rubs elbows with fellow members Don Mills and Fred MacGillivray. The latter two were not only leaders of the Commonwealth Games fiasco---the aborted attempt to enrich themselves with $2 billion of taxpayers' money---but are also the force behind Citizens for Halifax, a big business-friendly enterprise devoted to throwing out council and installing their candidate as mayor.

Sure, Halifax is a small town; movers-and-shakers run in the same circles. That's my point.

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