• United States



Electronic Voting: No Levers Required

May 01, 20032 mins
Critical InfrastructureData and Information Security

In October, President Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Perhaps motivated by the fact that his own election fate hung in the chads for a while, the president allotted $3.9 billion to help states replace outdated voting machines. Electronic voting machines will receive some of the funding.

Not everyone is happy about the new emphasis on e-voting. These systems make it easier for corrupt election officials or hackers to skew election results, complains Peter Neumann, principal scientist at SRI International, a nonprofit research institute.

Unlike paper-ballot systems, it’s impossible to verify that a vote cast electronically is recorded properly. Votes displayed correctly onscreen could easily be recorded incorrectly within the system or not recorded at all, he contends.

But researchers are looking into potential solutions to the problem, like an electronic system that would print out a paper copy of each voter’s ballot after submission.

On the other side of the issue, voting technology experts contend that the technology is quite secure. “These systems are very reliable. They’re tested extensively, and they’re not allowed into use until their reliability and accuracy have been demonstrated,” says Brit Williams, professor emeritus of computer science and information systems at Kennesaw State University.

While computer systems are vulnerable to tampering, Williams points out that absentee paper ballot scams or tried-and-true vote-buying schemes are much easier to pull off than the vast conspiracy required to manipulate an e-voting machine.