Skip to comments.Voting machines become a US election issue
Posted on 03/04/2004 1:50:33 PM PST by KriegerGeist
Voting machines become a US election issue
Financial Times [FT.com]
By Henry Hamman in Miami, Florida
Published: March 2 2004 21:12 | Last Updated: March 2 2004 21:12
When voters in the 10 Super Tuesday states went to the polls on Tuesday, they were not only picking who they wanted to take on President George W. Bush in November. They were also engaging in the first important test of the US's retooling of its voting system since the debacle of the 2000 presidential election.
The new system was highly contentious long before this year's primary season began. At the core of the controversy is an increasingly rancorous argument about the introduction of new voting technology - particularly touch-screen voting - and other reforms mandated by the Help America Vote Act (Hava), the federal government's effort to overhaul an antiquated and cash-starved election system.
Any technological glitches in on Tuesday 's vote will add to the chorus of criticism of Hava as a quick fix for a raft of ills regarding how America votes. The arguments concern everything from how to ensure disabled access to voter registration to the way that voters are registered. But the biggest concern is whether the new machines accurately record and report votes.
Hava was supposed to usher in a new era of technologically-sophisticated computerised voting and update an election system that became a global laughing stock after the 2000 electoral meltdown in Florida, but the modernisation effort has fallen victim to attacks by an unlikely coalition of computer security experts, liberal Democrats and conspiracy theorists.
Two issues dominate: how to verify the vote counts reported by touch screen voting machines and how much trust to place in the software code controlling the recording and counting of the votes. As the new technology has been rolled out, incidents of vote miscounts, mechanical breakdowns and unauthorised adjustments in the software have popped up from New Mexico to Indiana. And as problems have emerged, critics such as VerifiedVoting.org, founded by David Dill, a Stanford University computing professor, have become more strident in their criticisms.
When a version of the proprietary source code for machines made by Diebold Election Systems, one of the big manufacturers of touch-screen machines, fell into the hands of Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist, the controversy became practical rather than theoretical. Prof Rubin and a team of graduate assistants analysed the code and issued a report citing what he said were numerous security holes.
The concerns gained an endorsement when the IEEE Computer Society, a leading organisation of computer professionals, devoted the January issue of its journal Security Privacy to Prof Rubin and Prof Dill.
The two academics argue electronic voting machines are developed and deployed with far less rigour and care for security than electronic slot machines.
Diebold responds that the code Prof Rubin analysed was stolen, and that in any case the security problems he identified have been fixed and the software is secure.
Many election experts say the concern about security is misplaced because of all the checks in place to protect the ballot. But Kevin Shelley, California's Democrat secretary of state, has issued an order that all California touch screens print out a paper ballot by 2006.
Republicans are twitchy about the issue, perhaps because it might remind voters of President George W. Bush's controversial victory in Florida in 2000.
Legislation requiring a paper record of votes cast on touch screen machines and publication of the code that runs them is before Congress.
In the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, and has 118 co-sponsors - all but seven of them Democrats. In the Senate, Bob Graham, the retiring Florida Democrat, has introduced a bill with identical language and two co-sponsors, both Democrats.
Mr Holt says when he introduced the bill, "Republicans thought it must be some sort of payback for Florida 2000," but that after a November 2003 election in Virginia, which produced "inexplicable or troubling results in a race the Republican lost", some Republicans in the House have also become worried about the touch screens.
Thus far, neither the House or Senate bill has received a hearing, but Mr Holt says Bob Ney, the Republican chairman of the committee on house administration, promised him that he would soon hold hearings "on the subject" if not on the bill itself.
1) You can't. 2) None.
There is a way to make electronic voting safe and verifiable, but the systems they have out there don't come close.
Exactly! I agree! Everyone, I believe even "seasoned citizens" would be satisfied with a card-ballot that can be marked with an indelible marker...like dotting a bingo card. The name of the candidate (even his/her picture perhaps) and their party (R) or (D) or (I) with a circle next to the name to mark your dot. Then, that card-ballot can be run through the optical reader to be tabulated. I even think that the card-ballots could have a stub with corresponding numbers that could be torn off to give to the voter (like at the dry cleaners) that the voter then could later look at in a computer printout to verify that their vote was counted. Note: that number being only known to the voter and not to any polling place worker.
I used the new machine yesterday and thought it was pretty neat. I understand that there is a lot of criticism of these new machines, but I wonder how much of the criticism is motivated by the concern that the suggestion that the new system is an improvement carries with it the implicit assumption there was something inherently wrong with the old system - that there may have been something wrong with the system in Florida 2000. LOL. ;-)