*NEWS*PRINTER FAILS TO SATISFY E-VOTING

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*NEWS*PRINTER FAILS TO SATISFY E-VOTING

 user 2005-02-07 at 9:41:00 am Views: 62
  • #10092
    Printer 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
    .


    Even
    so, paper records alone are not enough to satisfy computer scientists who say
    transpar
    ency in the electronic machines’ design and software must complement
    paper
    backups.


    The Diebold
    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
    elections.

    “Results
    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
    legislation.

    Critics
    of North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold say the AccuView Printer Module is a step in
    the right direction b
    ut 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
    .


    Computer
    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.

    Like many
    computer scientists, he thinks paperless voting systems should be banned.


    “I’d say
    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.


    Diebold
    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
    records.

    Some of
    the paperless syste
    ms were blamed for high-profile failures in November that
    included these:


    In
    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 ca
    st. 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.

    Others
    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
    other add-ons.


    Because
    no federal agency enforces certification standards, one voter advocacy group is
    creating a Con
    sumer Reports-style ranking for voting equipment.

    The
    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.”