Riley: Who's running your democracy?

Regardless of who you intend to vote for this November, a serious concern is lurking in murky waters for all voters in the upcoming election season. Voting machines, the conduits through which our democracy functions, need to be called into question.

The Daily Telegraph reported an interesting find in August 2007 that initially piqued my interest. Diebold, the Ohio company that manufactures ATMs, vaults, and as of 2002, voting machines, fell under a firestorm of criticism due to the actions of its chief executive, Walden O'Dell.

As reported by Forbes in 2006, O'Dell supported President Bush's re-election campaign in 2004, writing to fellow Bush supporters to "help Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president."

Already, one begins to be suspicious. If the man who controls the production of voting machines used in 40 percent of the counties in the U.S. has a prominent political profile, what's to stop him from acting on it?

It turns out that there was more wrong with the Diebold voting machines than the political persuasion of its CEO. A political activist dug up a copy of the code used in Diebold machines online and exposed flaws so serious that a video was later posted on the Internet showing a chimpanzee randomly pounding on a keyboard changing votes.

On top of that, the machines, by design, leave no paper trail. There is no way to see what the machine was doing, and any flaw in the system that could be exploited cannot be traced. Diebold allegedly knew that machines in Maryland during the 2004 election had faulty motherboards, yet did nothing.

Also, the physical security of the machines themselves is faulty. A single master key allows one access to the interior of the machine. Anyone could get into these things and with a single flash drive corrupt or change the information therein.

Clearly this vital piece of the democratic process is weak and worrisome. We live in a time where there are more regulations and security for a Las Vegas slot machine than for the device that determines who the most powerful person in the world will be.

In order for a democracy to function, the process by which it does so must be as transparent and accountable as possible, especially in this modern age. Without a more secure medium of voting, we come even further from the democracy our country's forefathers envisioned for us 232 years ago.

Oliver Sides Riley is a senior English major who won't have some vote robot confabulating his ballot box.