by Grant Gross

Will E-Votes Be Counted?

Jan 01, 20062 mins
IT Strategy

2006 Election – Questions about the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems are likely to persist through the national election this November because the U.S. government has not yet completed its e-voting guidelines, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Until this work is finished, the GAO says, state and local governments might use voting machines that do not conform to rigorous security and reliability standards, potentially affecting the reliability of elections and confidence in the accuracy of the vote count.

On Election Day 2004, many e-voting machines broke down. In one case, a North Carolina county lost about 4,400 votes because of a misunderstanding about how much data its machines could store. Meanwhile, callers to a private hotline reported more than 1,000 problems nationwide with e-voting machines. Critics say most e-voting machines offer voters no way to be sure their votes were recorded correctly.

The GAO noted problems with e-voting machines but did not quantify them.

The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is working on initiatives to help state and local governments improve how they manage e-voting systems. These initiatives include creating security and reliability standards, as well as programs to test and certify e-voting machines. But the GAO notes that these efforts are unlikely to make much difference this year.

EAC officials say they have expanded e-voting security guidelines. Among them is a requirement that e-voting machine vendors submit their software to a central repository so that officials can examine the systems for vulnerabilities. The commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are also developing a vulnerability analysis of e-voting systems.

Meanwhile, EAC officials say vendors and election officials are responsible for designing and purchasing systems that conform to the guidelines.