[LINK] e-Voting back in US spotlight

brd at iimetro.com.au brd at iimetro.com.au
Fri Oct 27 14:47:46 AEST 2006

e-Voting back in US spotlight
OCTOBER 27, 2006
The Australian

NEW electronic voting machines to be used in the upcoming US elections are
raising concerns after several blunders that have revived memories of Florida's
2000 presidential election debacle.

"Anything is possible," warned Kimball Brace, head of the political consulting
firm US Election Data Services.

"We've got more than a third of the nation voting on something new this year and
history has shown that the first time somebody uses a new piece of voting
equipment, that's the time that they are going to have problems."

Many US states tossed out their antiquated voting systems after the "hanging
chads" confusion of the 2000 presidential election in Florida that spurred
Congress to ban the use of punchcard ballots and prompted many states to adopt
electronic voting.

Some 63 per cent of voters are set to use new electronic voting machines during
the November 7 elections but enthusiasm for the new technology is low among
voting officials nationwide because of a number of mishaps during recent
primary elections.

"America has seen more election reform in the past six years than in the
previous 200," said Paul DeGregorio, chairman of the US Election Assistance

He said one of the states lagging behind as far as the technology is concerned
is New York, which is still using equipment from the 1930s.

The majority of machines to be used in the upcoming congressional elections will
involve optical scan technology, which electronically tallies results while
allowing for a paper trail.

In all, 27 states require a verified paper record to ensure a way to
double-check votes in the event of fraud or computer failure.

Mr Brace said nearly 40 per cent of voters on election day would be using
paperless touch-screen machines that have raised concerns among many experts
nationwide as they leave no paper trail and are vulnerable to hackers.

Their vulnerability was embarrassingly brought to light by Edward Felten, a
professor of computer science at Princeton University in New Jersey, who
demonstrated to Congress last month how he could hack into the machines and
switch votes from one candidate to another.

A computer science professor at John Hopkins University in Maryland, Avi Rubin,
is pushing for paper receipts to allow for a manual count in the event some
elections are contested.

Mr DeGregorio, however, underplayed concerns about the new technology and said
the main concern as the elections approach was the training and availability of
workers at polling stations.

"We certainly appreciate the work that is done by academics and scientists but
they do it in laboratories and in schools but not in an election environment,"
he said. "It's very easy to open up a device in a non-election environment and
it's also very easy to rob a bank if you turn off the security devices."

He said the main difficulty come election day may prove to be election workers
at polling stations.

"We still have a shortage of poll workers throughout the country," DeGregorio

He said many older poll workers who for years have volunteered their services on
election day have thrown in the towel in recent years because of the complexity
of the new technology.

In a bid to make up for the shortage, the Election Assistance Commission has
allocated a million dollars to universities nationwide to recruit a new
generation of poll workers.

Mr DeGregorio doubted the same scenario as 2000 could be repeated but said some
delays may arise in areas where the vote is too close to call outright and
where it could take weeks to count late absentee ballots.

Americans will vote in state and local elections on November 7 and for members
of the US House of Representatives and Senate.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Sydney Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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