Fwd: Attack on CS voting system research by Chronicle for Higher Education

From: Kathy Dopp <kathy_dot_dopp_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon Jan 22 2007 - 21:07:29 CST

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Request from Rebecca Mercuri to comment by this Friday to the editors on
this article in the Chronicle for Higher Education which lauds the Kennesaw
University program to certify paperless Diebold voting machines for GA and
quotes a student calling Ed Felten "an idiot".


Begin forwarded message:

From: "R. Mercuri" <notable@mindspring.com> <notable@mindspring.com>
Date: January 22, 2007 5:12:59 PM EST
To: ...............
Subject: Attack on CS research by Chronicle for Higher Education

I am writing here to bring attention to the fact that the Chronicle of
Higher Education has unfairly attacked Princeton Professor Edward
Felten in a recent article (available for a limited time at


that also included gross misinformation about paper-based voting. I have
sent their editors the below letter, and am hoping they will publish it.

I am urging members of the computer science and computer security
community to chime in with your own letters in criticism of this
unfair characterization of scholarly research in our field. The
editor has indicated that the deadline for letters is this Friday
(the 26th) and their contact email is letters@chronicle.com
(review@chronicle.com also works, but goes to the same email inbox).
Letters must not exceed 500 words.

Rebecca Mercuri.

> January 18, 2007
> To the Editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education:
> As one who was both depicted and quoted in your January 19, 2007
> article "Georgia's Unusual 'Electoral College,'" I would like to set
> the record straight on a number of points.
> It is appalling that a remark would be published from an information
> systems undergraduate, referring to a highly renowned computer
> science professor and security expert, at one of the nation's top
> Universities, as "an idiot." The further inappropriate comments from
> Merle King, about Edward Felten's bona-fide research, constitute
> baseless derision that should also have no place in the Chronicle.
> Indeed, Mr. King entirely missed the main point of Dr. Felten's video
> that partisan election officials, warehouse personnel, and vendors
> can have the opportunity and skills to perpetrate insider attacks on
> voting equipment and systems, and that ignoring the "normal security
> protocols" could undetectably occur.
> The Chronicle article reported that "the Diebold machines used in
> Georgia are first checked for compliance with federal standards by an
> independent testing authority." In fact, this is not always done, as
> the NY Times revealed (5/30/2004), "when Georgia's new voting
> machines were not working weeks before the 2002 election, uncertified
> software that was not approved by any laboratory was added to every
> machine in the state." As well, the recent removal of Ciber (the
> laboratory that reviewed Diebold's voting equipment source code) from
> the federal program, because "it was not following its
> quality-control procedures and could not document that it was
> conducting all the required tests" (NYT 1/4/2007), casts further
> doubt on these prior certifications.
> Many misrepresentations about paper-based elections also appeared
> unrebutted in this article. The US is not "trying to get away from
> paper" -- over 50% of counties, including major cities (such as
> Boston and Los Angeles), and nearly all of the growing number of
> absentee voters (over 30% of ballots in some states), continue to use
> the more economical, reliable, efficient, independently auditable,
> optically scanned paper ballots. Numerous studies of election data
> (including some of my own), comparing touchscreen to optically
> scanned voting, have consistently shown significantly lower undervote
> rates with these paper ballots. Over 2/3 of the country (with many
> states that had earlier adopted touchscreen products) has now
> mandated paper ballots as the official record of the votes, for use
> in recounts. Unfortunately, vendors have attempted to thwart such
> legislation and initiatives by implementing inappropriate designs
> (like reel-to-reel and thermal paper) that many states (though not
> Georgia) have wisely refused to certify. Reasonable products do
> exist, including those that accommodate blind voters, and those who
> cannot read English, with accessible paper ballots.
> I am extremely dismayed that the Chronicle allowed such a distorted
> and misleading picture of the paper-based voting effort, the federal
> certification process, and the fine research of Ed Felten and his
> Princeton team, to appear in its pages. I therefore urge the Editors
> to issue an apology and correction, along with the publication of
> this letter in its entirety.
> Sincerely,
> Rebecca Mercuri, Ph.D.

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Received on Tue Jan 1 14:12:47 2008

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