No need to rush

The prospect of hanging chads may cast a shadow on next year's presidential elections, yet the solution being considered by some states — electronic voting machines — could introduce new and equally troubling uncertainties into the voting process.

It's a healthy reminder about the problems that arise whenever agencies introduce technology into the field.

The latest generation of touch-screen systems, immediately familiar to people who use automated teller machines, could make it easier to design user-friendly ballots and avoid the problems that confounded voters in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. Such systems also should make it easier for states to tally and manage voting data.

But as election year approaches, some experts are raising questions about those systems that must be answered before states rush to embrace this technology.

As might be expected, the main concern is security. Is it possible for a hacker — or an election worker — to tamper with votes and alter election results? Such a concern is not unique to electronic voting, but the protocols used to minimize such risks in the past do not necessarily apply to the newest systems.

Proponents of electronic voting systems say any concerns can be addressed with a mix of technology and procedures. Such solutions, though, are contingent on election staff being trained to install, manage and operate those systems. However good the technology is, that contingency should convince states to take a slow and methodical approach to adopting new systems.

It's not just a question of the security of the systems, but the integrity of the vote. That makes it all the more puzzling that Congress would stall an effort to require electronic systems to generate a paper record that can reviewed by the voter and state officials. Such verification could play a vital role in inspiring voter confidence in the system.

In the long run, electronic voting systems are likely to emerge as the option of choice for many states. But people making that choice should make sure they have all the information they need before electing to make the switch.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group