E-voting results: Trust, but verify

Technology and process improvements implemented since the controversial 2000 presidential election have made electronic voting machines more secure and reliable, according to a recent report by the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project.

Even so, the only way to absolutely ensure the integrity of e-votes cast is to audit the results and all voting technologies used in an election, the 85-page report cautioned.

Rather than setting security standards for voting equipment, the best way to ensure ballot integrity is to hand-count a large and random sample of the paper records of votes cast electronically, the report said.

The Voting Technology Project was launched to investigate the causes of the voting problems in Florida in 2000 and to make recommendations based on its findings.

Some progress has been made since 2000, said Michael Alvarez, co-director of the Voting Technology Project. The antiquated, lever-activated punch-card voting systems that led to the infamous hanging-chad fiasco in Florida have been mostly replaced with more reliable optical-scan and electronic voting systems, he said.

This year, only a small number of voting districts will use purely hand-counted paper ballots; most will use some form of electronic system with a way of verifying e-votes with a paper record.

However, Alvarez said, few jurisdictions have further upgraded voting equipment in recent years. He said he hopes to see that situation "change as public finances improve."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Read more about hardware in Computerworld's Hardware Topic Center.

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