Stanford professor slams e-voting

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Although many states and counties see touch-screen voting machines as an answer to the hanging chad controversy of the 2000 presidential election, a Stanford University professor says the systems may have flaws.

The touch-screen devices, known as direct recording electronic (DRE) machines, provide no verifiable paper trail to ensure the machines count votes correctly, said David Dill, a computer science professor.

Computer bugs or intentional tampering could change votes and shroud elections in doubt, Dill said. "This is a case where the Emperor has no clothes," he said, questioning the machine's integrity.

Dill, who established a Web site called to publicize the problem, said the solution is to require a "voter-verifiable audit trail," which would provide voters and officials with a paper record to validate ballot choices, in case a manual recount occurs.

Deborah Seiler, a representative for Diebold Election Systems, a subsidiary of Ohio-based Diebold Inc., said Georgia and several California counties use the company's DRE machines. She said Maryland announced a $55.6 million contract to install 11,000 machines statewide.

The DRE machine, she said, does not permit voters to overvote, which is casting ballots for multiple candidates in a race.

Local election officials subject the machines to rigorous acceptance check procedures and conduct their own logic and accuracy testing before the machines are deployed, she said. They also incorporate encryption to secure the voting data. Printers can be attached so voters can check their choices and poll workers can also keep final tallies.

But Dill said federal and state certification standards are weak, and, he said, there should be independent security audits of the machines. The public is kept in the dark about such security measures, he added.

Glenn Newkirk, president and cofounder of InfoSENTRY Services Inc., an information technology consulting and project management company, said DRE machines are still in the minority for nationwide use, and there is no evidence of problems.

He said voting equipment testing will eventually be the responsibility of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In the meantime, states could pass laws requiring the chief state election officials to "prepare and maintain an industry-standard, information systems security management plan for every vote tabulation system in the state," he said.


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