From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon Nov 22 2004 - 17:22:39 CST

I took most of Teresa's suggestions. Anything else?


Four years after America suffered through a broken election process,
we still do not have reliable systems to find the winner.

In one case alone, some 4,500 votes were lost from a single electronic
voting machine in North Carolina. "Paperless voting is a disaster,"
says Alan Dechert, President of the Open Voting Consortium. "Combined
with secrecy of procedures, such as failure to post precinct totals
for public viewing at the end of the Election Day, and refusal to
allow observers of ballot counting, we now have a system that has
generated widespread suspicion of fraud."

How long must Americans wait for elections where every vote is openly
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 refused to fix obvious flaws in the voting system. "Our
democracy has been weakened," says Dechert. "While some people still
hope that electronic voting will work, it would require proper
security measures comparable to those used in business, including a
voter verified paper record of the vote, full audits of ballots and
tallies, and software that is open to scrutiny. We need to begin now
on a comprehensive effort to open up, and clean up our election system
so that we are not left with unanswered questions again 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 more realistic 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 one 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.'
 Of course there isn't, since voters are casting nothing but
electronic ballots that can be altered without a trace."

"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. "We offer support and assistance to the
growing number of states planning to ban paperless voting. We plan to
also introduce legislation in all the states to require that computer
source code -- the instructions given to the computers -- used to
conduct elections also be made public."

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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