Thursday, January 13, 2005

South Carolina: Weaknesses in Electronic Voting

A column in The State by Duncan Buell rebuts an upbeat report.

"Marci Andino, executive director of the S.C. Election Commission, reported glowingly on the new electronic voting machines after the November election. This rebuttal is to alert South Carolina voters: Most computer professionals probably would disagree with Ms. Andino's optimism. The most serious problems in the machines would be exactly those that the commission would not be capable of detecting."

"Ms. Andino asserts that not a single vote has been lost because of an equipment malfunction either on Nov. 2 or in previous elections. This statement is indefensible. None of us, not even Ms. Andino, knows what the actual votes have been. In the absence of knowing the truth, malfunctions that are undetected pose serious problems. Further threats include attacks against the integrity of the voting process that are made possible by the inherent complexities of computer security."

"As a professional computer scientist with more than 25 years' experience, I believe the security of the ES&S machines is extremely suspect and consider their use in South Carolina inadvisable. I do not believe voters in South Carolina should feel comfortable about their votes being recorded properly. I myself would not trust my vote to these machines, since they contain fundamental software and system flaws."

"Further, the machines are part of a more complicated system, and the system, not just the machines, is suspect. Maintaining complete system security is difficult, and preventing exploits against inherent security flaws requires high standards that derive from significant expertise. That expertise seems neither readily available to nor used by the Election Commission."



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