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UK: ICA Cinema
Cast: Bev Harris, Dr Avi Rubin
Directors: Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels
UK: 82 mins
UK Release Date:
This cautionary documentary exposes the vulnerability of computers - which count approximately 80% of America's votes in county, state and federal elections - suggesting that if our votes aren't safe, then our democracy isn't safe either.
Electronic voting machines count about 87% of the votes cast in America today, and this May, they will be piloted in the UK, too. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering? From a current congressional hearing to persistent media reports that suggest misuse of data and even outright fraud, concerns over the integrity of electronic voting are growing. And if the voting process is not secure, neither is democracy. The timely, cautionary documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY, directed by Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels, exposes holes in the security of America's electronic voting system.
In the 2000 presidential election, an electronic voting machine recorded minus 16,022 votes for Al Gore in Volusia County, Fla. While fraud was never proven, the faulty tally alerted computer scientists, politicians and everyday citizens to the very real possibility of computer hacking during elections.
In 2002, Seattle grandmother and writer Bev Harris asked officials in her county why they had acquired electronic touch screen systems for their elections. Unsatisfied with their explanation, she set out to learn about electronic voting machines on her own. In the course of her research, which unearthed hundreds of reported incidents of mishandled voting information, Harris stumbled across an "online library" of the Diebold Corporation (who provide the software for electronic voting systems installed in thousands of counties across 32 states of the USA), discovering a treasure trove of information about the inner-workings of the company's voting system.
Harris brought this proprietary "secret" information to computer security expert Dr. Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University, who determined that the software lacked the necessary security features to prevent tampering. Her subsequent investigation, documented in Ardizzone and Michaels' film, took her from the trash cans of Texas to the secretary of state of California and finally to Florida, where a "mini-election" to test the vulnerability of the memory cards used in electronic voting produced alarming results.
Since this documentary was made, two of the election workers featured in the film have been sentenced to 18 months in prison for rigging a recount of 2004 presidential election ballots.