GAO confirms some e-voting problems

Some fears about the security and integrity of electronic voting machines are well grounded, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today.

Although the issues are not universal, GAO found that some e-voting systems do not encrypt ballots cast or audit logs, and either one could be altered without detection. In addition, some machines are insecure enough that someone could alter a ballot's appearance so that votes cast for one candidate would be recorded for an opponent.

GAO also found that vendors sometimes installed uncertified versions of their software in local voting jurisdictions.

In some cases, the problems led to lost or miscounted votes in recent federal elections, GAO found.

"It is important to note that many of the reported concerns were drawn from specific system makes and models or from a specific jurisdiction's election," GAO said in the report. "There is a lack of consensus among election officials and other experts on the pervasiveness of the concerns."

Still, the report vindicates the concerns of many skeptics of electronic voting. It provoked a quick response from several House members, who issued a joint statement.

"It is certainly disappointing that, despite the recommendations from federal organizations and nongovernmental groups, many states still have not made progress to make sure their electronic voting systems are safe from fraud and can be relied on to accurately count votes," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. "However, I am pleased that the [federal Election Assistance Commission] is continuing to push states to improve their voting systems and comply with the requirements of the Help Americans Vote Act. America's voting system must be made to be world class, everywhere in the country, as soon as possible."

"The GAO report indicates that we need to get serious and act quickly to improve the security of electronic voting machines," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. "The report makes clear that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in electronic voting systems — from the day that contracts are signed with manufacturers to the counting of electronic votes on Election Day. State and local officials are spending a great deal of money on machines without concrete proof that they are secure and reliable. American voters deserve better."

Other members of Congress who expressed similar reactions were Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and ranking Democrat Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.).

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