[This article was cross-published by Salon.]
With just 5 days to go until the nation holds its next Presidential Election, power remains out in large swaths of the Eastern Seaboard, according to Google Maps' special Hurricane Sandy power outage map.
The outages persist in a number of states which force the majority of their voters to use 100% unverifiable electronic voting machines to cast their votes at the polls on Election Day. If power is out at the polling place on Election Day in those states, voters may not be able to cast their vote at all.
As we warned before Sandy barreled ashore earlier this week, the ability of voters to vote at all --- presuming polling places are not flooded and voters are able to get to them --- is imperiled by states such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and even Ohio, all of which force all, or some of their voters to vote on systems which simply do not work if they do not have power.
While most of those states require a small percentage of emergency paper ballots be made available at the precincts, that number is unlikely to be enough in the event that voting machines are unavailable all day at the polls on November 6th. Moreover, battery backups on the electronic touch-screen systems are unreliable at best and, even when working, can only be counted on for a small number of hours.
In Pennsylvania, for example, as noted yesterday by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "In case of power loss, local election officials are encouraged to keep enough paper ballots on hand for 20 and 25 percent of their registered voters."
While the PA Dept. of State claimed in the same report that voting machines can run on backup batteries "about six hours," a Lehigh County, PA election official offers a more realistic assessment, noting their touch-screen system backup batteries last just 2 and a half hours at best.
The BRAD BLOG has long warned that power loss on Election Day is just another, among a myriad of reasons why forcing voters to use such systems is insane and extraordinarily disrespectful to the electorate in such jurisdictions. Other reasons why these type of voting systems should never be used: They are 100% unverifiable in every case (whether they include a so-called "Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" or not, as some do) and computer scientists and security experts have long warned, in virtually every instance where these type of systems have been examined over the past decade, that they are both prone to failure and easily manipulated, by both election insiders and hackers alike, in ways that are unlikely to ever be detected.
At The Nation today, Ari Berman notes that "Thanks to a wave of new voting restrictions passed by Republicans, the 2012 election was already shaping up to be pretty chaotic before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, which left 8.2 million households without power in 15 states and the District of Columbia."
He then goes on to detail some of the worst hotspots for concern...