E-voting experts: Put regs first

House Science Committee testimony

The federal government should not mandate uniform electronic voting systems, but it should improve the voluntary standards for those systems, voting experts told lawmakers recently.

"The current system of regulation for voting machinery suffers from significant flaws," said Douglas Jones, associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and chairman of the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems.

That doesn't mean voting machines should all be immediately replaced, he said. "To do so now would be to rush into the purchase of large numbers of systems that I hope will be found failing by standards we ought to have in place."

Numerous flaws have surfaced in applying computer technology to the elections process, said Rebecca Mercuri, an assistant professor of computer science at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and president of a computer consulting company. "Present and proposed computer-based solutions are not able to resolve — and in some cases even increase — the likelihood of vote-selling, coercion, monitoring, disenfranchisement and fraud in the election process."

Optical scanning devices and electronic voting machines "are not what we would want" to mandate across the country, added Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of political sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee, said the federal government should not mandate a one-size-fits-all solution. But the federal government should develop robust technical standards for voting equipment manufacturers to meet, he said.

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