Friday, December 08, 2006

NY Times: End seen to use of 'paperless' evoting machines

Governmental changes and upcoming legislation from the new Congress may bring an end to "paperless" electronic voting, The New York Times reports in its Friday edition.

"By the 2008 presidential election, voters around the country are likely to see sweeping changes in how they cast their ballots and how those ballots are counted," write Ian Urbina and Christopher Drew, "including an end to the use of most electronic voting machines without a paper trail."

Quoting federal voting officials and legislators, the Urbina and Drew report that new government guidelines and bills in Congress "will probably combine to make paperless voting machines obsolete."

For the first time, the article states, vote-counting software will also be inspected by government authorities, and "the code could be made public." Additionally, "states and counties that bought [voting] machines will have to modify them to hook them up to printers ... while others are planning to scrap the machines and buy new ones."

The article quotes the director of an elections website as saying, "In the next two years ... we'll see the kinds of sweeping changes that people expected to see right after the 2000 election. The difference now is that we have moved from politics down to policies."

Excerpts from the registration-restricted article follow...

Motivated in part by voting problems during the midterm elections last month, the changes are the result of a growing skepticism among local and state election officials, federal legislators, and the scientific community about the reliability and security of the paperless touch-screen machines used by about 30 percent of American voters.

Many of these machines were bought in a rush to overhaul the voting system after the disputed presidential election in 2000 and the issue of hanging chads. But concerns have been growing that in a close election the paperless machines give election workers no legitimate method to conduct a recount or to check for malfunctions or fraud.

Several counties around the country are already considering scrapping their voting systems after problems this year, and last week federal technology experts concluded for the first time that paperless touch-screen machines could not be secured from possible tampering.
[I]t is also clear that the changes will not come without a struggle. State and local election officials are still reeling from the last major overhaul of the country's voting system, initiated by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, and some say that the $150 million in federal aid proposed by Holt would not be enough to pay for the changes.


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