It’s amazing what a bit of solid investigative journalism can turn up. Hacking Democracy is essentially an interim report on the work of the Black Box Voting (BBV) organisation, a group of public spirited US individuals who were set up by activist Bev Harris after she discovered that a US senator had been the CEO of the company that counted his votes. BBV started asking awkward questions about the nation’s “impregnable” electronic voting system after cock-ups and/or fixes (delete according to political allegiance) at both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Couching questions so cautiously that you suspect that legal departments might have had a hand in writing the script, the documentary nevertheless zeroes in on the uncomfortable nub of the matter – why can’t the “infallible” computers which rely on touch-screens and optical scanning get their sums right? The machines in question are made by Diebold Election Systems, an outfit whose CEO publicly supported George Bush at the 2004 elections. So, is something or someone fiddling with the figures? And if they are – one scene shows a hacker having an easy time of rewriting voting tallies without leaving any trace that he was there – is the USA in fact not a democracy at all?
Occasionally rambling, more one-sided than the average open-minded believer in democracy might want and struggling to approach the magic 90 minute mark, this is nevertheless a remarkable example of citizen power, an indictment of the power of big business and of political inertia at the highest level. If it asks a lot more questions than it effectively answers, it’s at least a stark warning – governments all over the world trying to save money are rushing to implement similar electronic voting systems too.
© Steve Morrissey 2006