Ohio official blocks touch screen voting

Overview of Compuware voting machine analysis

Makers of electronic voting machines must fix security weaknesses before Ohio voters will be allowed to use them, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell announced this week.

Blackwell based his decision on two new examinations of the machines, building on previous studies showing what computer scientists said were security holes that could allow election fraud. When the latest reviews also uncovered problems, Blackwell ordered the voting machine companies to address the vulnerabilities.

Blackwell is seeking an extension to the Help America Vote Act, which requires states to implement electronic voting machines.

"I will not place these voting devices before Ohio's voters until identified risks are corrected and system security is bolstered," Blackwell said. "Fortunately, all of the documented risks will be expeditiously corrected by each of our voting machine manufacturers. When Ohioans begin casting ballots on these electronic devices they will do so with the knowledge that the integrity of their voting system has been maintained."

Compuware Corp., one of the companies that conducted the recent analyses, identified a total of 57 potential security risks within the software and hardware tested, according to Blackwell's office.

Among the systems tested, Compuware found:

* Diebold Election Systems's AccuVote-TS had five high-potential risk areas, two medium- and eight low-potential risks.

* Election Systems and Software Inc.'s iVotronic had one high-potential risk area, three medium- and 13 low-potential risk areas.

* Hart InterCivic Inc.'s eSlate 3000 had four high-potential risk areas, one medium- and five low-potential risk areas.

* Sequoia Election Systems AVC Edge had three high-potential risk areas, five medium- and seven low-potential risk areas.

The machines have been under scrutiny after researchers reported that vulnerabilities could allow a malicious programmer or hacker to corrupt and falsify election results. A bill in Congress would require that touch screen machines print a paper record for the voter to verify and for officials to used in a recount or audit.

Although that proposal is gaining support, both in Congress and among concerned voters, not everyone is on board. The League of Women Voters, for example, believes that the machines can be made secure with sound election practices at the polling place. Printouts of votes would not provide a failsafe system either, organization officials believe.

"Substantial changes in our election systems must be made to overcome deficiencies and restore voters' trust," said a League spokeswoman in a written statement. "This will be a long and difficult process in many states, and we must guard against the perception that any single step will solve all the problems we face. At the same time, we certainly must avoid pursuing false solutions. In the end, voters must believe in the system or they won't get involved."

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