<\body> Stories in America: Do You Trust Electronic Voting Machines?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do You Trust Electronic Voting Machines?

The Brennan Center for Justice is out with an extensive study focusing on the (in)security of electronic voting systems. Its key findings:
All three voting systems have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities, which pose a real danger to the integrity of national,state,and local elections.

The most troubling vulnerabilities of each system can be substantially reme-diedif proper countermeasures are implemented at the state and local level.

Few jurisdictions have implemented any of the key countermeasures that could make the least difficult attacks against voting systems much more diffi-cult to execute successfully.
Check out this interview with Lawrence Norden, associates counsel with the Brennan Center from today's Democracy Now:
AMY GOODMAN: Your major findings are shocking. Go through them.

LAWRENCE NORDEN: Well, first of all, we did find that there are serious vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines. What we also found, importantly, was that there are relatively simple and straightforward ways to make those systems substantially more secure, to remedy the vulnerabilities that we found that we were most concerned about, but that unfortunately right now very few jurisdictions have those remedies in place.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, explain the vulnerabilities and also the different voting systems, different companies that produce them, in terms of what you found with each of them, if at possible.

LAWRENCE NORDEN: Sure. Something that was different about, I think, this report, as opposed to previous reports on electronic voting machines that have come out, is that we weren't looking at specific anecdotes or focusing on one particular vendor. What we were doing is looking at all of the major electronic voting systems. This is a new architecture. Something like 50% of Americans are voting on new machines over the past few years, and they require new security measures.

So one of the systems that many people will be using across the country are what are called optical scan machines. These are machines where you fill in a ballot, as you might fill in in an SAT exam, and you then scan that ballot electronically. It’s read electronically, and the vote total is electronically recorded in the machine. And the other machine that many people are familiar with are the touch screens, the DREs. And these are like ATM machines or computer screens that a voter presses directly onto the machine to record her vote. Again, stored electronically. In some cases these have paper trails, where voters can check to see that their vote was recorded correctly. In other cases there are no paper records.

What we found is that in all cases, for all of these systems, there are enough points of vulnerability, there is enough access, that somebody could insert a software-type program and reach enough machines, so that they could potentially change the votes on the machines, shut down the machines, do other things like this. Now, again, I want to emphasize that there are things that can be done to prevent this to make this much more difficult.


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