Martin Sheen for president?
September 19, 2006 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Theoretically, hypothetically, what would happen if a large number of people hacked voting machines in districts all over the country on Election Day, all in a joint effort?

Check out this thread on the blue to see what I'm getting at.

Let's say that everyone changed votes from legit candidates to votes for Stephen Colbert or Josiah Bartlet or Jesus. In this scenario, the printout at the end of the day, or even halfway through the day (don't they check these things at intervals through the day to make sure they're working properly?) will indicate that Colbert/Bartlet/Jesus won the election. It will happen on a massive scale -- machines hacked in every major district in every state -- and no one will be able to ignore it.

I imagine that since the acts are being perpetrated on such a large scale, it would be difficult for the government to prosecute all those involved, although the ringleader and certain organizers would certainly be convicted of some terrible felony and shut away in rat-infested cells for the rest of their days.

My question, though, is how this would affect the nation, the election, public opinion and certain voting machine manufacturers.

Oh, and ... is it even possible?

Disclaimer: I have no intention of leading or participating in any such activity. I just want to know if it would work if someone else did it. Also, since we're on the subject, wouldn't mostly everyone feel the way I do and not want to get into trouble with the law, even to make a point about the corruption of our electoral system?
posted by brina to Society & Culture (7 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: hypotheticalfilter

Is Tyler Durden building an army?

To contribute: If Stephen Colbert or some other unconventional figure were elected, be sure that someone would investigate and uncover the dastardly plot.

And it wouldn't be blamed on the faulty systems, either.
posted by secret about box at 3:45 PM on September 19, 2006

As I mentioned to someone elsewhere, I suspect the only thing that is going to solve a serious democratic crisis like this is going to be something big, serious, and similar to what you suggested.

If someone does it, I hope they set all the voted to 'Electickle Me Elmo'.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:47 PM on September 19, 2006

The electronic voting machine manufacturers would go out of business over night. (This is a good thing.)

Constitutionally I'm not sure what would happen. The courts would no doubt get involved. Some would say that there were probably enough valid votes for candidate x or y that they win. Others would disagree. Some would call for a mulligan - although I think legally this easier said than done.

I don't think there would be wide scale anarchy - certainly the government would continue trucking along. At worse we would be in temporary limbo regarding who is going to be president for a few weeks ala 2000. Maybe with some protests or whatever... especially if the current incumbent was seen to do a power grab at the same time.

In the long term such a colossal SNAFU would drive home the point that our election system is the chink in our democracy's armor. There would be widespread, no doubt bipartisan, calls for "rethinking the system." This would take the form of everything from doing away with electronic voting to completely overhauling the primary system and electoral college.

My own feelings are that the primary system, the electoral college, and electronic voting all need to go away or be seriously rethought from the ground up... but none of this is likely to happen while the status quo is still happy with their ability to game the system from time to time (as we've seen in the last two presidential elections.)
posted by wfrgms at 3:53 PM on September 19, 2006

Theoretically, hypothetically, what would happen if a large number of people hacked voting machines in districts all over the country on Election Day, all in a joint effort?

George W. Bush would win a second term.

Pardon my snark. Realistically, you get a nice big witch hunt and the subsequent demise of whichever party it gets pinned on first, as mentioned above.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 3:55 PM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think you underestimate this administration's willingness to incarcerate, or this country's ability to handle the newly incarcerated.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:56 PM on September 19, 2006

Diebold would make a few more software and/or hardware upgrades (costing taxpayers a few billion dollars), they'd arrest the perpetrators and jail them forever, and re-run the elections. Various "documentaries" would be released showing that this perpetrator's brother-in-law is a Republican/Democratic/Green operator and this one has ties to the Saudis. Whichever side loses the (second) election would complain bitterly that it was rigged.
posted by callmejay at 4:20 PM on September 19, 2006

I was thinking about this the other day.

Such an exercise, with a truly outrageous name, would send an amazing message about the problems with this machine. Better yet, switch votes at random between several different outrageous names. Don't let any Republican or Democrat get a vote. The longer they take to hunt around for it, the longer you have to get away.

Make sure you issue a manifesto simultaneous to the act. Otherwise, people won't get the technical fault that allowed this to occur.

The government would most certainly come looking for you. If there're lots of you, all unconnected (no direct ties), chances are only a few of you will be caught. Sucks for those folks. This could be anything from Terror-Related Computer Activities(TM) to treason. Treason has the death penalty. But, who knows how things would actually turn out.

I can assure you, though, people would be pissed
posted by Netzapper at 4:20 PM on September 19, 2006

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