E-Voting: Nightmare or Nirvana?

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Fri Jul 02 2004 - 16:16:56 CDT

"E-Voting: Nightmare or Nirvana?"
  CNet (06/30/04); Festa, Paul

  The debate over electronic voting's advantages and drawbacks has
become increasingly polarized, with advocates and computer scientists
alike vehemently disagreeing on issues such as e-voting's security,
verifiability and reliability; its convenience to handicapped,
non-English-reading, and minority voters; and how it could be
exploited to commit election fraud. Daniel Tokaji of Ohio State
University admits that e-voting systems can malfunction, but contends
that paper-based voting systems are even more error-prone. He prefers
improved certification standards, more intensive testing, and better
poll worker training over voter-verifiable paper trails. Stanford
University computer science professor David Dill argues that e-voting
machines' lack of auditability eliminates a much-needed component of
the electoral process--the ability to do good recounts; Carnegie
Mellon computer science professor Michael Shamos counters that
e-voting systems are auditable because the software they use is
available for examination prior to, during, and following an
election, and he adds that paper ballots are a far riskier
proposition because they are accessible to anyone, making alteration,
destruction, and loss of ballots easy. Dill cites alternative
technologies that can open up voting's accessibility to underserved
segments such as the disabled and minorities--cardboard templates,
optical scan systems, etc.--but Tokaji argues that they lack the
secret, independent voting offered by touch screens. Electronic
Frontier Foundation legal director Cynthia Cohn says e-voting
machines can be made ready for "prime time" through lobbying for
paper trails and independent voting systems research. Shamos claims
that tampering of touch-screen machines should not be a valid concern
because no solid evidence of such activity has ever come to light,
while hypothetical instances of untraceable tampering lack
credibility because no one has yet detailed a credible method. Dill
retorts that finding ways to corrupt election software has been an
intense area of focus for many people, and asserts that there is
nothing hypothetical about a lack of auditability.

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Sat Jul 31 23:17:13 2004

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