From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon Nov 22 2004 - 15:48:34 CST

Please let me know what you think. I hope I have adequately
considered your comments.


Four years after America suffered through a broken election process,
we still do not have reliable systems to find the winner in a close
contest. Luckily we didn't have to watch as precinct after precinct
failed to be able to recount without a paper trail, or have to add up
the critical hours inexplicably lost in the audit logs.

In one case alone, some 4,500 votes were lost from a single electronic
voting machine in North Carolina. "Paperless voting is a disaster
waiting to happen," says Alan Dechert, President of the Open Voting
Consortium. "If that had happened in a swing state anywhere near as
close as Florida in 2000, we'd be right back in the Supreme Court to
find out who won. We must have a voting system where every vote is
counted and where the count can be clearly verified."

Long lines, registration problems, and a multitude of other problems
meant that countless voters were discouraged from voting. For the
tens of millions of votes cast on paperless systems, we have no
meaningful way to audit the count.

Despite having four years and more election failures, decision-makers
at all levels simply failed to fix obvious flaws in the voting system.
"Democracy cannot afford to see them botch the job again," says
Dechert. "While the growing consensus is that electronic voting will
work, we need to use proper security measures including a voter
verified paper record of the vote, and software that is open to
scrutiny. We need to begin now on a comprehensive effort to open up,
and clean up the voting system so that we are not left with unanswered
questions next time."

Computer security and reliability is a complex and ever shifting area,
we shouldn't presume that election officials can fully test all
aspects of new voting technology. For example in a 60 Minutes program
last month, Conny McCormack, Registrar of Voters for Los Angeles
County, said "Voters love them," in reference to paperless touchscreen
voting machines.

"Would they ask questions about the safety of a medical procedure of
patients or of doctors?" asked Professor Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins in
a recent Computerworld interview. "They should ask computer security
experts about computer security questions, not end users, who may like
the look and feel of the machines but have no way of knowing if they
are really secure." Dr. Rubin, who also appeared on the same 60
Minutes program, has advocated the use of electronic voting machines
that also produce a voter verifiable paper record of the vote.

Ms. McCormack dismissed the threat of vote tampering with paperless
systems. She feels it would be too obvious for a voter to tamper with
a system in the voting booth. This misses the real threat of a
malicious insider rigging the machines. Slot machines undergo more
testing and scrutiny than our voting machines -- and they have been
corrupted, in a famous case, an employee of the Gaming Control Board
in the Electronic Services Division in Las Vegas rigged machines
without even touching them. The cheating virus was installed by
unwitting employees using an infected testing device. The scam was
only discovered years later when the cheater became greedy and sloppy.

"With so much at stake in elections, the malicious insider threat is
very high," says Dechert. "Ms. McCormack says, 'there is no evidence,'
but we may not see any evidence until long after Election Day. I'd
rather not find out what we as a nation do when we discover years
later that an election was stolen."

"As interest in the Open Voting Consortium's approach is rapidly
growing, we are more confident than ever that our project will
succeed," said Dechert.

The Open Voting Consortium is a Nonprofit California Corporation
dedicated to the development, maintenance, and delivery of open voting
systems for use in public elections.

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Received on Tue Nov 30 23:17:38 2004

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