Articles on Voting Technology

This list contains articles about voting technology that can be accessed on the internet. Most of them are from the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) TechNews news letter. a few others have been contributed by others.


The E-Voting Paradox
Government Computer News (02/25/08) Jackson, William

Computer scientists and researchers are extremely concerned over the accuracy and security of electronic voting machines, but voters are more concerned over usability, says University of Maryland professor Paul Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship. In his new book, "Voting Technology: The Not-so-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot," Herrnson says that field tests of different types of equipment and ballots found that usability was a more pressing concern to voters than security. He says the type of ballot used and other factors, such as squishy membrane keyboards or screen glare, are a major concern for voters. Since the Help America Vote Act was passed there has been a reduction in the residual vote, or the number of votes not cast for certain races during an election, but Herrnson says that is not necessarily a good measure of errors. People are more likely to vote for the wrong candidate by mistake than to intentionally skip a race or forget to vote, he says. Michael Shamos, who runs the eBusiness Technologies program at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science and has been certifying voting systems for 27 years, calls the election voting system "the least reliable product in the U.S." He says the process suffers from a lack of standards, inadequate election worker training, and proprietary software. "There should be no trade secrets in voting technology," Shamos says.
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Voting-Machine Maker to Princeton Researcher: 'Hands Off'
Wall Street Journal (03/18/08) Kronholz, June

Sequoia Voting Systems has sent an email message to Princeton professor Edward Felten suggesting that the voting equipment maker would pursue legal action against him if he were to test the security of its e-voting machines. The Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey asked Felten to review Sequoia's equipment because it had concerns about malfunctions involving about 60 voting machines during the state's Feb. 5 primary. However, Felten said he received an email on Friday that said Sequoia had "retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any noncompliant analysis." The email also says the New Jersey counties would violate licensing agreements if they share their machines with Felten for testing. In a statement, Sequoia says customers have an opportunity to compare the codes of products with those it submits to the National Software Reference Library, and that Colorado, California, and the city of Chicago recently completed independent reviews of its equipment. However, it "does not support any and all unauthorized activities that violate or circumvent our produce licensing agreements," the statement said.
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Voting for More Than Just Either-Or
MIT News (03/14/08) Chandler, David

MIT researchers are developing Selectricity, software that could make ranking systems as easy to use as traditional voting systems, creating results that would satisfy a greater portion of the population. Selectricity has been available online as a free service since last fall and is about to switch to an upgraded version with more advanced options. Using Selectricity, anyone can go to the Web site and set up a "Quickvote" in just a few seconds, and users anywhere can access the poll and vote, creating instant results. There is also an ultra-simple version that uses text messaging for voting by cell phones. Although the software is being used for simple tasks such as deciding where to go to dinner or when to hold a meeting, it is sophisticated enough to handle real elections. In February, a beta version of the upgraded software was used by a national student organization to elect their first board of directors, with each of the 16 campus chapters of the Students for Free Culture group receiving an equal vote to select five members for their governing board from a field of 13 candidates. In the election, the candidate that received the most first-place votes, also received the most last- or near-last-place votes, meaning in a traditional election the candidate would have won despite being unpopular with the majority of the voters.
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Plan to Use Paper Ballots in November Is Reversed in Colorado
New York Times (03/21/08) P. A14; Johnson, Kirk

Colorado lawmakers have scrapped a plan to use only paper ballots in Colorado's November election, which was announced in January as part of a bipartisan effort to replace the state's troubled electronic-voting machines. Opponents of the plan say it was no longer needed because the e-voting machines have been repaired. Supporters of the effort say that questions remain regarding the reliability and security of e-voting and vote-counting machines, and could become a problem again before November. The debate over e-voting in Colorado began in December, when Colorado secretary of state Mike Coffman announced that the voting machines used throughout the state failed tests conducted by his office. The idea of using paper ballots faced strong opposition immediately, particularly from county clerks who said the logistics of doing a one-year transformation were insurmountable. Lawmakers recently said the need for a change had been negated by passing a system for expedited retesting and recertification of the voting and vote-counting machinery. A spokesman for Coffman says the new system resulted in all of the machines being recertified in recent weeks. Still, some lawmakers say the recertification process does not address the fundamental problems that e-voting machines are prone to.
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E-Voting Vendor's Web Site Hacked
IDG News Service (03/20/08) Montalbano, Elizabeth; McMillan, Robert

Sequoia Voting Systems' e-voting Web site has been hacked, stirring uproar from New Jersey officials that used the Ballot Blog in a February presidential primary. Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten reported the breach, following an inquiry from a state county clerks coalition to investigate the e-voting system. Evidence of the infiltration was apparent because the hacker had inserted a message with a cyber tag name. The system was temporarily suspended and users were redirected to a hosting-provider page, but Sequoia later brought the blog back online. "My guess is that they took the site down temporarily while they were clearing out the stuff left behind by the intruder," Felten says. The county clerks have asked New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram to probe Sequoia Voting Systems AVC Advantage e-voting machines, due to discrepancies in vote counts during the primary. Sequoia says different vote totals were due to poll worker mistakes and warned Felten against investigating it further.
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U.S. Presidential Election Can Be Hacked
IDG News Service (04/10/08) McMillan, Robert

A recent audit of the three most widely used electronic voting systems has found that the machines can be hacked, says University of California, Berkeley professor David Wagner. The audit, which was conducted as part of California's review of electronic voting, found that hackers could install a computer virus on three systems from Diebold Electronic Systems, Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems. The virus could then spread to machines throughout the county and alter the vote count. "The three systems we looked at are three of the most widely used around the nation," Wagner said during an e-voting panel discussion at the RSA Conference on Thursday. "They're going to be using them in the 2008 elections; they're still going to have the same vulnerabilities we found. He says the problems uncovered in the audit affect not only California counties, but counties across the country. Yet despite the pervasiveness of the problem, academics such as Wagner will find it difficult to approach voting system vendors because of the deep mistrust that exists between the communities, says Florida State University professor Alec Yasinsac. He says vendors feel that if they talk to security researchers, it could be tantamount to admitting that they have bugs.
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N.J. Voting Technology in Question After Discrepancies in February Vote
Daily Princetonian (04/14/08) Wolff, Josephine

An investigation into discrepancies recorded by several of New Jersey's electronic voting machines shows that some of the tallies from February's primary elections may not add up. On April 8th, a court subpoenaed electronic voting machines used for the primary elections in six New Jersey counties, questioning the accuracy and security of the machines. Later that day, Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of the machines, filed a motion to suppress the subpoenas, arguing that the subpoenas sought to test their machines under "unknown circumstances and protocols," which could unfairly undermine the reputation of Sequoia's machines and the public's confidence in election results. The controversy surrounding the New Jersey primaries started in March, when a Union County clerk noticed that the number of Democratic and Republican voters recorded by the DRE paper reports generated after the election did not match the number of votes cast in each primary on those machines. For example, one machine recorded that 60 Republican and 362 Democrat ballots were activated, but 61 votes were cast for Republican candidates and only 361 were cast for Democrats. Princeton University professor Ed Felten says it is not the size of discrepancy that is alarming, but that a single machine is disagreeing with itself on how many voters voted. Similar discrepancies have been discovered on at least eight other machines in Union County and several more throughout the state. Sequoia has issued a memo blaming the discrepancies on New Jersey poll workers.
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Paper Ballot Technology Drive Downshifts as House Nixes Funding to Replace E-Voting Machines
Government Computer News (04/16/08) Dizard III, Wilson P.

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted against a bill that would have provided funding to help states replace their electronic voting machines with paper ballots. The White House and some Republican leaders expressed concern about the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008 because of its cost. The bill would have reimbursed states that convert back to paper-based voting systems this year, and covered the cost of recounting paper ballots to verify elections. "I'd like to ask the opponents how much spending is too much to have verifiable elections in the United States," says Rep. Rush Holt (D-Ohio), the chief sponsor of the legislation. Some states have already gotten rid of their high-tech direct recording electronic (DRE) voting terminals due to the rising number of reports about their flawed software.
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Florida Alters Its Voting Laws, But New Disputes May Emerge
New York Times (04/28/08) P. A1; Cave, Damien

Florida state lawmakers have passed several laws since the 2000 presidential recount in an effort to bring order to their election system, but many believe the laws may only create more chaos. Three laws in particular are at the center of a heated debate. The first law is a "no match, no vote" provision that rejects potential voters if their Social Security number or driver's license number does not match the number in the state database. By 2006, at least 11 states had created "no match, no vote" provisions, but a judge in Washington state struck down a "no match, no vote" law in 2006, and at least six other states have abandoned similar provisions. The second law creates deadlines and fines of up to $1,000 for third-party groups that lose voter registration forms or turn them in late. The law has forced many organizations to stop voter registration efforts to protect themselves from liability. The third law prohibits voters from correcting mistakes or omissions on voter registration forms in the final month before an election, even if those mistakes or omissions might bar them from having their vote count. Such oversights can be as simple as missing a check box. Voters are now allowed to amend registration forms after the deadline in 33 states. Many believe the Florida laws are biased against poor, black, and Hispanic voters, and attempt to block new voters. "It's really about politicians trying to game the system," says Project Vote deputy director Michael Slater. "They've done that by adding all these bureaucratic obstacles to voting, and then when people can't jump over them, they blame the voter."
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Phantom Obama Vote Appears on NJ Voting Machine
Wired News (04/30/08) Zetter, Kim

Officials from New Jersey's Pennsauken District 6 report that 279 votes were cast during the Feb. 5, 2008, Democratic primary, but Princeton University computer scientist Ed Felten has learned that a phantom vote was cast for Barack Obama. The county clerk's report is based on information taken digitally from the memory cards inside three Sequoia voting machines. However, Felten says the summary tapes printed from the machines show that there were 280 votes, and Obama received 95 rather than 94 votes. Felten has a better chance of solving the mystery surrounding the Sequoia voting machines after a judge ruled last week that independent experts could gain access to voting machines in order to test their software and firmware. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in 2004 over the legality of using touch-screen voting machines in the state. Sequoia had threatened to sue the state if it allowed researchers such as Felten to review its machines.
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Ballot Box Blues
Government Computer News (04/28/08) Vol. 27, No. 9, Dizard III, Wilson P.

Voting process experts generally concur that states that have already deployed direct-recording electronic (DRE) systems have little choice at this point but to stick with the machines through the current election cycle. "The problem with the upcoming [general] election is that any county that doesn't have its election system locked in by now is in real trouble," says Fortify Software chief scientist Brian Chess. Supporters of DREs cite the systems' improved accessibility, among other things, while the voting equipment industry's trade association argues that the security questions raised by state studies do not take real-world conditions or the complete spectrum of anti-fraud safeguards embedded in voting policies and procedures into account. However, in December 2006 the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a draft report noting that software-dependent systems such as DRE machines cannot be audited against any proof of the voter's intent, which adds fuel to "continued questions about voting system security and diminished public confidence in elections." The organization urged the employment of software-independent systems with a paper trail, pointing out that most states have some type of voter-verified paper records that are either used across the state or on a county-by-county basis. A bill was brought before the House earlier in April that sought to encourage states to discard DRE machines in favor of paper ballots, but the measure failed due to White House opposition based on budget considerations, says Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).
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Today's Topic: USACM Applauds New Guidelines for Voting Systems
May 5, 2008


In comments filed today with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) said the new guidelines recently issued by the EAC provide an opportunity to strengthen the accuracy, reliability, accessibility, usability, security, and auditing ability of voting systems.

USACM also said that these standards represent a fundamental shift from previous versions of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), which are intended to ease concerns over unverifiable voting machines.

In its filing, USACM applauded the guidelines' inclusion of several principles that are critical to assuring technical accuracy, feasibility, and best practices that promote voter confidence in election results. USACM also submitted comments to help strengthen the guidelines. Read all of USACM's comments submitted to the EAC<>, or read ACM's Press Release<>.

The EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission created by the Help America Vote Act<> (HAVA) of 2002.

USACM<> serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community, and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology. Supported by ACM's Washington, D.C. Office of Public Policy, USACM responds to requests for information and technical expertise, and seeks to influence relevant U.S. government policies by identifying potentially significant technical and public policy issues on behalf of the computing community and the public.


The ACM Bulletin Service provides ACM members with email notification of important association news and activities.

Should you wish to be excluded from future issues of the acm-bulletin, please enter your email address chris@CS.COLGATE.EDU at and we'll remove you.

Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science and Profession

(c) 2008 ACM, Inc. All rights reserved.

Senators: No Need for Paper E-Voting Trails, 'Electronic' Ones Are OK
CNet (05/23/08) Broache, Anne

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who lead a Senate committee that oversees election law, say they will introduce a bill that requires precincts using touch-screen or direct-recording electronic voting machines to equip them with independent paper, electronic, audio, video, or pictorial records that would allow voters to verify their selections. ACM advisory committee member and Princeton University professor Edward Felten said that he could not comment on the new bill without seeing more details first. The bill indicates that the senators at least partially acknowledge the argument that paper trails are not the only option for independently verifying a voter's selections and that other innovative technologies could emerge in the future. The bill may also be intended to appease state and local election officials who frequently complain about the costs associated with outfitting their machines with paper trails. In addition to a verification system, the bill would require states to provide public audits of their election results, would establish certain security requirements for the voting machines and their software, and would establish a research grant program designed to encourage the development and testing of new technologies for verifying votes. The bill would take effect on January 1, 2012, but states could request a waver that would extend the deadline to the beginning of 2014.
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Web Vote Offered to Military Abroad
Miami Herald (05/26/08) Fineout, Gary

Florida's Okaloosa County plans to use the Internet to make it easier for U.S. soldiers stationed overseas to vote. Okaloosa elections supervisor Pat Hollarn's plan would allow those living on or near three military bases in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan to cast ballots online in the November election. During a 10-day period before Election Day, overseas voters will use a computer kiosk to vote on an encrypted electronic ballot, which will be sent to Florida via the Internet and counted. Poll workers on site will verify that the voter is registered in Okaloosa County. Hollarn says her "distance balloting project" is just like other absentee ballots, except it uses the Internet instead of the mail. However, critics and voting activists say the project is unsafe and goes against a new law that requires the state to use paper ballots. Although voting-rights activists agree that absentee ballots for voters living overseas have been plagued by significant problems, they say the idea of using the Internet to transmit ballots is problematic due to security concerns. Hollarn says the voting mechanism will be safe, emphasizing that the machines and software being used will be reviewed by an independent team of computer analysts.
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Arkansas Election Officials Baffled by Machines That Flipped Race
Wired News (05/29/08) Zetter, Kim

Election officials in Faulkner County, Arkansas, are trying to determine how two voting machines allocated votes cast in one race to an entirely different race that was not even on the electronic ballot. The problem resulted in the wrong candidate being declared the winner in a state House race. Election commissioner Bruce Haggard says he does not understand how the error could have happened. The error occurred on two touch-screen voting machines made by Election Systems & Software, which were the only machines used in Faulkner County's East Cadron B voting precinct. Haggard says the night before the election officials noticed that the electronic ballot on the two machines was missing the State House District 45 race, so officials printed paper ballots to be used just for that race in the precinct. Voters used the machines to cast votes for other races, and cast paper ballots for the District 45 race, but a post-election examination revealed that despite the fact that the electronic ballots on the two machines did not display the District 45 race, the machines recorded votes for that contest. Officials eventually determined that the machines took votes cast in the Cadron Township Constable race and put them in the non-existent District 45 race. Haggard says officials were able to determine where the votes came from because the machines produced a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, which correctly showed that there was no District 45 race on the ballot and therefore there were no votes cast in that race on the machines. Haggard says he expects ES&S to provide a reason for why the machines distributed the votes incorrectly, and he has asked the secretary of state's office to conduct an examination with ES&S, which Haggard says will likely take place in June.
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New Zealand Gov't Looks to Boost Confidence in E-voting
Computerworld New Zealand (06/06/08) Bell, Stephen

New Zealand is considering allowing voters to cast electronic ballots up to 17 days before the general voting period and to re-vote if they have concerns over whether their selections were recorded correctly. The country's Chief Electoral Office has released the draft strategy document in an effort to boost confidence in the electronic voting system. New Zealand could conduct limited pilots for advance voting and re-voting electronically during the 2011 or 2014 elections, and the earliest general e-voting is likely to be offered is 2017. Still, "there will need to be a period of extensive public consultation, and policy and legal work in support of new legislation," says the Electoral Office in the strategy document. New Zealand could approach authentication through the government log-on service, which is being used for other government transactions. The strategy document says the potential for malfunctioning machines, a mass denial-of-service attack, and undue influence warrant taking a cautious approach.
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Rogue Code Could Seriously Skew US Presidential Election Results
IT Business Canada (06/25/08) Jackson, Brian

Experts at A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections (ACCURATE) say rogue programmers could disrupt U.S. elections that use electronic voting systems. ACCURATE warns that a single rogue programmer writing code for one of the many elections that use e-voting machines could completely distort election results. "One programmer could make a change in the software that would affect 100,000 votes," says ACCURATE investigator David Dill. The 2002 federal Help America Vote Act provided funding to replace traditional voting machines with direct-recording electronic (DRE) systems, and some states have been using e-voting systems since the 2006 Congressional elections. ACCURATE director Avi Rubin says having the entire country vote on a single day presents quite a problem, and while he does not think the country should switch back to punch cards, he still cautions that the U.S. should stay away from DRE machines. The main problem is that they cannot be audited, Rubin says, so the machines could produce the wrong results without anyone ever knowing. Rubin, who will serve as a poll clerk in the upcoming presidential elections, says the anonymous paper survey used to evaluate a training session he ran was more secure than the Diebold Accuvote machines that will be used to register votes in Maryland in the presidential election, because the machines could be compromised by a virus and it would be much more difficult to alter the survey on paper. ACCURATE is working on an open source threat modeling system called AttackDog that calculates all the possible iterations of steps that would be needed to rig an election system to find key points where such efforts could be thwarted.
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Computer World article July 3, 2008: Activist more optimistic about e-voting.


Study: Electronic Voting Increased Counting Errors in France
IDG News Service (07/09/08) Sayer, Peter

Polling stations using electronic-voting systems in four recent French elections suffered from more voting discrepancies than polling stations that used traditional paper ballots, concludes a new study. University of Nantes researcher Chantal Enguehard examined the discrepancies between the number of electors who signed the electoral register to confirm that they voted and the number of votes subsequently counted for each polling station. The study compared discrepancies from the 6,427 electronic-voting stations and the 14,624 paper-ballot voting stations used in both rounds of the 2007 presidential election and two subsequent elections. There were discrepancies between the number of signatures and the number of votes in about 19.8 percent of electronic-voting machines, compared to only 5.3 percent with paper-ballot voting stations. Also, the discrepancies were larger with electronic-voting machines. Enguehard says it is unlikely that voters' unfamiliarity with the machines is the cause for two reasons. First, the ratio of discrepancies between electronic and traditional stations got worse, not better, with time, and there was no correlation between the bureaus with discrepancies and the bureaus that received the most complaints about difficulties with the voting machines.
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Influx of Voters Likely to Test New Machines
New York Times (07/21/08) Urbina, Ian

Election officials and voting monitors are more concerned about the unfamiliarity of new voting equipment on voters for the upcoming elections than the technology. At least 11 states are switching to optical scanners that will read paper ballots to offer a more reliable paper trail than touch-screen machines. Shortages of paper ballots or electronic machines have been blamed for causing long lines and leading people to leave polling sites without voting. Election Data Services President Kimball W. Brace says about 55 percent of voters will use paper ballots read by optical-scan machines, compared with 49 percent in 2006, and a third will use touch-screen machines, down from 38 percent. Most of the 30 states with touch-screen machines are not likely to provide backup paper ballots, but Ohio is among those that will do so for the first time in a presidential election. Ohio's electronic machines broke down in 2004. Also, more than half the states will use new statewide databases to verify voter registration and help reduce fraud.
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ACM Electronic Voting Expert Named to Key Federal Advisory Committee
AScribe Newswire (08/07/08)

Computer scientist and founder of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) Barbara Simons has been appointed to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors, which oversees voting and technology standards. Simons, an encryption and privacy expert who previously served as president of ACM, will hold a seat that is allocated for science and technology professionals. "With the increasing use of technology in the voting process, it is important for the EAC to have the benefit of strong scientific knowledge and advice," says USACM chair Eugene H. Spafford. "Dr. Simons brings valuable technical expertise to the Board of Advisors to help inform the commission's focus on the intersection between voting issues and computing technologies. Her extensive experience with USACM as well as her advisory roles in high-profile national voting groups qualifies her as an expert on voting systems, election technology, and election processes." Simons was a member of the National Workshop on Internet Voting, held at the request of President Clinton, and participated on the Security Peer Review report that resulted in the cancellation of the U.S. Department of Defense's Internet voting project due to security concerns. Simons also co-chaired the ACM study of statewide registered voter databases, and served on a subcommittee of the President's Export Council for Encryption. Simons is currently co-authoring a book on voting machines with University of Iowa computer scientist Douglas W. Jones.
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Planning to E-Vote? Read This First
Scientific American (08/18/08) Greenemeier, Larry

With less than three months until the U.S. presidential election, many states continue to struggle with electronic-voting technology. In an effort to avoid the problems that plagued the 2000 presidential election, and to meet the requirements of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, many states and counties rushed to obtain e-voting systems, but now those machines also are problematic. Faulty e-voting systems could allow voters and pool workers to place multiple votes, crash the system with a virus, create fake vote tallies, and cause miscounts through other errors, according to studies commissioned by California and Ohio within the past year. "Nothing we do now will affect the November election," says Stanford University professor and Verified Voting Foundation founder David Dill. "We don't know how to make secure paperless voting." In Ohio, problems with e-voting technology have cost the state $112 million, including discrepancies during the primary election when the county board of elections determined that the Premier DRE system malfunctioned and failed to count votes from memory cards uploaded to the system's vote tabulation computer server. Ohio secretary of State Jennifer Brunner commissioned Project EVEREST to study e-voting technology throughout Ohio. The team of academics and private researchers found exploitable weaknesses in all three e-voting vendors' systems. EVEREST researcher and Pennsylvania State University professor Patrick McDaniel says e-voting systems have to be completely redesigned with security in mind, which, in the short term, means adding more thorough vote-auditing capabilities so discrepancies can be investigated.
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Voter Database Glitches Could Disenfranchise Thousands
Wired News (09/17/08) Zetter, Kim

Election experts are warning that thousands of voters could be disenfranchised in the November elections by statewide, centralized voter-registration databases that are not federally tested or certified. Election experts say the real worry is how states are performing database matches of new voters under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), given the databases and applicants' propensity for error in the provision of unique voter identifiers. States are left to themselves when it comes to deciding how to conduct matches, and in August Wisconsin carried out a test of 20,000 voter names against motor vehicle records and discovered 20 percent with mismatches, chiefly because of typos and transposed numbers. HAVA mandates that databases be equipped with "adequate technological security" without specifying precise safeguards, and access controls have not been devised in some states even though the databases interface with all county election offices. "Generally speaking, the uncertainty that hangs over the process, including uncertainty that results from election challenges and litigation introduced shortly before election day, creates a greater likelihood for problems or confusion at the polls," says the National Association of Secretaries of State's Kay Stimson. A recent study from the Academies of Sciences concluded that many states' matching procedures are based on intuitive reasoning without additional systematic validation or mathematically stringent analysis, fail to reflect the state of the art in matching methods, and have not been scientifically, commercially, or otherwise validated.
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Electoral Apocalypse? E-Voting Woes Remain as Election Nears
Ars Technica (09/21/08) Sanchez, Julian

Two recent reports suggest that efforts to modernize the U.S. electoral system are falling short of their objectives. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report that summarized the findings of a year-long performance audit of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help states upgrade their voting systems. The EAC is supposed to provide a federal-level certification process for voting systems. The EAC has 12 certifications pending, but none are finalized, meaning states must rely on their own procedures. The GAO report says the EAC has failed to "define its approach for testing and certifying electronic voting systems in sufficient detail to ensure that its certification activities are performed thoroughly and consistently." The problem of vague criteria and procedures appears to plague EAC in a variety of areas, the report says. The EAC has failed to establish an effective and efficient repository for certified versions of voting system software for states and local jurisdictions to use to verify that their voting systems match systems the EAC has certified. A second report, issued by the Century Foundation and the advocacy group Common Cause, notes that technological changes are presenting new difficulties for states. For example, in an electoral dry-run in Colorado earlier this year, officials discovered ongoing problems with lag and connectivity in the centralized voter registration systems used to check in voters with their local polling stations. Even when machines function properly, the Common Cause study found that user confusion with electronic systems could create a problem if states have not taken adequate steps to familiarize voters with the new machines.
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Current article from ComputerWorld on states getting electronic voting machines ready for the election.


MIT E-Voting Project to Analyze Experience of Voters in Election
The Tech (09/30/08) Vol. 128, No. 43, Gallex, Florence

Researchers at the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP) are working to analyze the security and impact of electronic-voting systems. MIT political science department head and VTP faculty member Charles H. Stewart III says one of the issues the group is looking to solve is figuring out a way that voters can make sure their vote has been counted without receiving a paper receipt. Established by California Institute of Technology president David Baltimore and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Charles M. Vest in December 2000, the VTP program aims to improve voting in the United States through the use of the latest technologies. The VTP program's goals include evaluating the reliability and administrative practices of existing voting systems, establishing guidelines for their reliability and performance, and proposing standards for the design of new voting technologies. In preparation for the upcoming U.S. election, MIT is trying to collect as much data as possible through two data-related projects. The first is collecting election-day returns from the states to see what difference e-voting machines make. The second project is the development of the first large-scale public opinion poll of American voters to ask them about their experience with voting on election day.
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The New York Times -- Some states may be illegally blocking some voters: "Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times. The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run. ... Because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately." The states: Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina.


Q&A: E-Voting Security Results 'Awful,' Says Ohio Secretary of State
Computerworld (10/08/08) Friedman, Brad

Ohio voters who do not trust touch-screen systems to properly record their votes will be given the option of a paper ballot thanks to a policy dictated by the results of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's Evaluation & Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards, & Testing (EVEREST) analysis, which uncovered "critical security failures" in every system evaluated by teams of both corporate and academic computer scientists and security specialists. Brunner says in an interview that the results of the EVEREST tests exceeded her worst expectations. "When I finally saw the results of our [EVEREST] tests, I thought I was going to throw up," she says. "I didn't think it would be that bad. And it was--it was awful." Vote dropping was observed in the tabulators of systems manufactured by Diebold's Premier Elections Solutions subsidiary. At the federal level, voting systems have to be certified as an entire end-to-end unit, and certification by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) requires companies to submit every piece of hardware and software to a single unit in order that tests can ascertain whether they all function together without problems. The EAC recently overhauled its certification process, but Brunner calls the process "very cumbersome." She notes that Ohio's boards of elections are instructed to tally the votes by hand if necessary, and sees value in such a practice, at least as a pilot program. "I'm not so sure I'd want to experiment during the presidential elections," Brunner says.

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Princeton Report Rips N.J. E-Voting Machines as Easily Hackable
Computerworld (10/27/08) Weiss, Todd R.

Electronic-voting machines used in New Jersey and elsewhere are unreliable and potentially prone to hacking, concludes a new report from Princeton University and other groups. The 158-page report was ordered by a New Jersey judge as part of an ongoing dispute over the machines. The e-voting machines can be "easily hacked" in about seven minutes by anyone with basic computer knowledge, according to the report. The vulnerability could enable fraudulent firmware to steal votes from one candidate and give them to another. The machines can be hacked by installing fraudulent software contained in a replacement chip that can be installed on the main circuit board, which would be very difficult to detect, the report says. The major problem is that there are numerous opportunities in the storage, distribution, and deployment of the machines where an unauthorized person could access and manipulate them without being detected. Princeton University Andrew Appel, one of the authors of the report, says that such vulnerabilities cast doubts about the accuracy and reliability of the machines. A group of public interest organizations are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey, arguing that the machines should be discarded because they cannot meet state election law requirements for security and accuracy. State officials who support the machines say they are adequate for the job.

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Live reports of individual voter difficulties


Rice Students Challenge Electronic Voting Machines
Converge (10/13/08)

As part of an advanced computer science class, Rice University professor Dan Wallach is challenging his students to rig a voting machine. Wallach split his class into teams. During phase one, teams pretend to be unscrupulous programmers at a voting machine company by trying to make subtle changes to the machines' software that will alter the election's outcome without being detected by election officials. The second phase has teams playing the part of election software regulators by trying to certify the code submitted by another team during the first phase of the class. "What we've found is that it's very easy to insert subtle changes to the voting machine," Wallach says. "If someone has access and wants to do damage, it's very straightforward to do it." He says the experiment shows how vulnerable certain electronic-voting systems are. Wallach says the students often, but not always, are able to find the hacks, but that in real life it would probably be too late. "In the real world, voting machines' software is much larger and more complex than the Hack-a-Vote machine we use in class," Wallach says. "We have little reason to believe that the certification and testing process used on genuine voting machines would be able to catch the kind of malice that our students do in class."

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E-Voting Report: Several States Still Vulnerable
IDG News Service (10/16/08) Gross, Grant

Several U.S. states are not doing enough to ensure the accuracy of electronic-voting machines, concludes a report from three voting security advocacy groups, which gave 10 states inadequate grades in three out of four safeguard categories. The report, released by Common Cause, Verified Voting, and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, predicts that some voting systems will fail on election day. "Unfortunately, we don't know where," the report says. "For this reason, it is imperative that every state prepare for system failures." Verified Voting president Pamela Smith says that state protections against voting fraud and e-voting machine failure have improved greatly since the last U.S. presidential election in 2004, but several states still refuse to take basic precautions to protect the integrity of voting systems. Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia all received failing grades in three of four voting security areas. Of the 24 states using direct-recording electronic machines, only California, Indiana, and Ohio received satisfactory grades in all four categories. Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia have no state-mandated requirement for emergency paper ballots to be available in precincts that use e-voting machines should those machines fail. Eighteen states, including Florida, New York, Texas, and Virginia, do not have adequate requirements in place for paper-record backups to e-voting or other non-paper methods, and 27 states do not have adequate provisions in place for conducting post-election audits of voting results.

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Making Voting Systems Open Source Could Forever Change Election Technology
Government Technology (03/30/10) Collins, Hilton

The nonprofit Open Source Digital Voting (OSDV) Foundation is developing a suite of open source election software that allows users to see and tweak the underlying computer code, which advocates say enables a global expert community to assess the code's security and make positive changes. OSDV's Greg Miller says that eight U.S. states are engaged in the foundation's Trust the Vote project, and custom, modular tools might be necessary to address different jurisdictions' various requirements and needs. Customization will be built into the OSDV's suite, which could prove essential in the extremely scattered voting system market. Miller says the foundation's goal is to have all of its election elements in place and a system that is ready for federal certification by the time of the general election in 2016. ODSV developers already have built an online open source voting registration tool, and a series of Web-based data management services are either deployed or in the prototype phase.

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Judge suppresses release of report on DRE voting machines in New Jersey


GAO report on adoption of new voting technology