News Release

Electronic Voting — Danger for Democracy


Wallach is an assistant professor of Computer Science at Rice University in Houston specializing in building secure and robust software systems for the Internet. Along with colleagues at Johns Hopkins, Wallach co-authored a groundbreaking study that revealed significant flaws in Diebold’s AccuVote-TS electronic voting system. He said today: “Neither the source code [for the computerized voting systems] nor the results of any third-party certification analyses have been made available for the general population to study. The vendors claim that secrecy is a necessary requirement to keep their systems secure.” However after the source code for a voting system from Diebold, a major manufacturer, appeared on the Internet, Wallach and his colleagues were able to examine it. Said Wallach: “Our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts. We highlight several issues including unauthorized privilege escalation, incorrect use of cryptography, vulnerabilities to network threats, and poor software development processes.”
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Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, a nonpartisan consumer protection organization for elections. She said today: “Counting votes is basically bookkeeping and if you look at it that way, it clarifies some issues that arise with electronic voting. Any election should, at a minimum, require four audits:
* “Compare the number of voters who sign into the poll book with the number of votes cast. This is generally required by state law. But voting machine vendors are developing systems to abandon this audit in favor of electronic ‘poll books’ using secret software.
* “Compare polling place results with central tabulator results. We vote in polling places. Then our votes are taken to the central tabulator computer, which adds up the votes from each polling place. Polling place results must be made available to the public in a physical, permanent form before they are transmitted to central count, and they must match what shows up in the central count room. This will help catch vote alterations after they leave the polling place.
* “Compare voter-verified paper ballots with machine counts. We must audit every election for errors, whether intentional or accidental. We call for an audit of at least 5 percent of the voting machines — hand-counting the machine-tallied ballots to ensure that the machines gave us the correct totals. If there are errors, the hand-counts need to be expanded.
* “Compare the number of absentee ballots received by the post office with the number counted by the elections division. This audit would best be done by using Business Reply Mail, which gives a precise count for the number of pieces received at the post office.”
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Schade is co-founder of the Campaign for Verifiable Voting in Maryland, also known as She is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Maryland State Board of Elections. She said today: “In a document released to California election officials, Diebold Election Systems, Inc. has revealed that the electronic voting machines used in the March 2004 primary in Maryland had not completed critical testing and federal qualification. Now, not only does our voting system lack any capacity for recounts or audits, our state board of elections is defending the use of software that lacks the basic federal stamp of approval…. Thousand of citizens in Maryland have formed a cross party coalition advocating a voter verified paper audit trail…. Just like at an ATM, you make a valuable deposit, you want to see a paper record.” [There will be a rally for voter verified paper trails at the Cannon Terrace (adjacent to the U.S. Capitol, outside the Cannon House Office Building) Tuesday at noon. Congressional representatives will speak as will spokespersons from Common Cause, Rock the Vote and] More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167