PC voting software passes test
- By William Matthews
- Jan 22, 2002
A leading technology testing lab says a software system that permits voting
on ordinary desktop computers meets Federal Election Commission standards,
a critical step for technology to be deemed usable for public elections.
The finding by Wyle Laboratories Inc. comes as many states and localities
seek new technology to replace decades-old voting machines, including controversial
punch-card systems. But it is uncertain whether the software package, called
VoteHere Platinum Election System, will win approval from many states and
localities in time for this fall's congressional, state and local elections.
Although the system has been "qualified" by Wyle as meeting FEC standards,
most states require additional testing and verification before they will
permit use of new election systems, said Jennifer Curley, government affairs
director at VoteHere.
By developing software for a voting system that runs on ordinary computers,
VoteHere says it has produced a product that is more economical and reliable
than many methods now used.
"They have done their homework very well," said Doug Lewis, director
of the Election Center, an organization of election officials. But it remains
to be seen how well election officials will take to a software system as
a replacement for traditional voting machines, he said.
With the VoteHere system, voting officials could set up a polling place
using desktop computers as voting machines and a server as a vote counter.
A check-in computer and a check-out computer are also needed, according
Voters would be handed one-use digital certificates when they check
in. The certificates ensure that each voter receives the correct ballot
and that his or her vote cannot be tampered with after it has been cast.
The system provides greater security and accuracy than existing voting
technology, Curley said. Current technology enables "process audits," but
VoteHere's system permits "data audits," she said.
Vote data is encrypted for security, Curley said, adding that "We can
prove that only valid voters voted, and we can show that only valid votes
Although designed now for use in polling places, the system would also
permit election officials to take some intermediate steps toward Internet
voting, Curley said.
The software "is portable," Lewis agreed. "It can be moved to the Internet
when Internet voting is made possible — if we can ever resolve safety and
security issues of the Internet." The system also could be the base for
such innovations as voters being able to cast ballots from any polling place;
kiosk voting, in which polling places are replaced with automated teller-like
machines; and, ultimately, voting online from home or work computers.
However, VoteHere does not expect those developments for several years,