PRINTER FAILS TO SATISFY E-VOTING
PRINTER FAILS TO SATISFY E-VOTING
2005-02-07 at 9:33:00 am #10091Printer Fails to
Satisfy E-Vote Activists
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Three months after the presidential
election, one of the nation’s biggest makers of touch-screen voting machines has
created a companion printer that spits out paper records.
The prototype that Diebold Inc.
is now touting is exactly what some critics of the ATM-like machines have been
demanding for several years.
so, paper records alone are not enough to satisfy computer scientists who say
transparency in the electronic machines’ design and software must complement
prototype seeks to reassure voters by displaying their selections under a piece
of glass or plastic alongside the touch-screen machine. If they spot a problem,
they can cancel the ballot and start over. And while voters can’t touch the
paper records, elections officials will be able to use them to verify close
in the last election reflected the accuracy and security of the (paperless)
system,” said Diebold spokesman David Bear. “But the fact of the matter is,
there are some states that are demanding printers.”After
months of criticism by computer scientists that electronic voting systems are
unreliable, California and Illinois recently passed laws requiring a paper trail
for electronic ballots, and at least 20 other states have considered similar
of North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold say the AccuView Printer Module is a step in
the right direction but doesn’t address the potential for buggy software or
malfunctioning hardware that could misrecord votes or expose voting systems to
hackers, deletions or other disasters.The
printers are only valuable to the extent that counties use them, and critics
worry that county elections officials with tight budgets may not opt for them.
scientists also are concerned that the handful of private laboratories licensed
to certify voting equipment, including the printer module, still operate in
secret and without any federal guidelines.“It’s a
very, very small step forward in terms of security of elections,” said Avi
Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute of Johns Hopkins
University and co-author of a scathing report on Diebold machines.
computer scientists, he thinks paperless voting systems should be banned.
a Diebold machine with a paper trail is better than a Diebold machine without a
paper trail, but that’s as positive I can be about it,” Rubin said.
stock price rose sharply in the months after the presidential election, when the
machines fared far better than critics had predicted. But executives warned
investors last week not to expect more dramatic improvements from its voting
equipment division. The company’s stock hit a 52-week high of $57.75 in
mid-January, and closed at $54.91 on Thursday.About 40
million Americans cast electronic ballots during the Nov. 2 election, but only
2,600 touch screens in Nevada – made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting
Systems Inc. – and a few other prototypes around the country produced paper
the paperless systems were blamed for high-profile failures in November that
Carteret County, N.C., where paperless machines failed to retain 4,438 votes
during early voting, one Democratic incumbent lost by 2,287 votes out of about 3
million cast. Courts and the state elections board are deciding how to handle
the missing ballots, but the winner of the agriculture commissioner race still
hasn’t been determined.About
three dozen voters in six states complained that they tried to select Democrat
John Kerry, but the touch screens showed them as having voted for President Bush
until they revised their ballot. Equipment manufacturers blamed miscalibration.
And in a
Franklin County, Ohio, a precinct where 638 voters cast ballots in the
presidential election, a computer recorded 3,893 extra votes for President Bush.
The error was corrected in the certified vote total.Even with
the printer, breakdowns and paper jams are possible, said Stanford University
computer scientist David Dill, a leading touch-screen critic.
say printers only compound the complexity of the nation’s patchwork of voting
systems. Counties must pick from hundreds of models of voting equipment,
maintenance contracts, software and hardware upgrades, consulting services and
no federal agency enforces certification standards, one voter advocacy group is
creating a Consumer Reports-style ranking for voting equipment.
Voting Systems Performance Rating would create standards and assign grades on
such factors as reliability, security, privacy and accessibility for the
visually impaired. States and counties could use such rankings to help them
decide which products to purchase.“You
can’t solve the voting problem unless you have a totally transparent mechanism
to evaluate,” said a founding member, David Chaum, a Los Angeles cryptographer.
“In order to crack this voting systems nut, you have to do it in the broad
light of day.”