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Concerns Over E-voting

Concerns Over E-voting
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Sep 26, 2004 10:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
Despite an increasing level of trust in technology and a willingness to participate in e-commerce on the Internet, many Americans are hesitant to embrace what is still seen as "vulnerable" technology in the voting booth.

For some, a bitter cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the 2000 presidential election, but for many more, Florida's experiences showed the nation – and the world – that regardless of the mechanism that is used, voting technology has its weaknesses, even if it's just a matter of leaving a tiny bit of paper "not fully punched."

For a country that put a man on the moon 35 years ago, developing a machine that could put a hole in a piece of paper, or better yet, do without the paper altogether, shouldn't be impossible. Yet, with the 2004 election looming, concern over the actual implementation of electronic voting systems is increasing, even at this late date.

Regardless of who actually wins the 2004 election, with around a third of the votes being cast via paperless, e-voting machines, you can bet that you haven't heard the end of the controversy, especially in the so-called "swing states" that could most heavily influence the elections. According to Will Doherty, executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation, "Florida. Pennsylvania. Ohio. These are the states that can most affect the outcome of this election."

Beneath the politics of fear over e-voting is a true technological concern that tens of millions of votes are at risk from those who would try to disrupt the democratic process, whether they be "misguided kids" – or our enemies.

At a recent event staged in Washington, activist Bev Harris (http://blackboxvoting.com), along with a group of computer scientists and a video of a computer-savvy chimpanzee influencing an election, demonstrated how Diebold Election Systems Windows-based software security could be breached. Claiming that the demonstration was "analogous to a magic show," Diebold discounted the scenario put forth by Harris, claiming that it was based on data control situations that did not occur in the real world.

According to Diebold's David Bear, "The premise is based on something that doesn't happen, which is complete and unfettered access to an elections system." Bear added that "In the real world, it does not happen... The scenario they threw out wouldn't have any effect on an election, because it affects only the unofficial vote total, not the official vote total."

Whether any significant, or election-reversing problems occur due to e-voting remains to be seen, but as the process becomes more prevalent, one thing is for certain: the controversy will not diminish.

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