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the GAO report on e-voting and e-counting at a glance for busy folks [View All]

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freedomfries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-05 08:51 AM
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the GAO report on e-voting and e-counting at a glance for busy folks
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The non-partisan report issued by the US Government Accountability Office to the Congressional Committees on Government Reform and on the Judiciary in September 2005 is a very carefully worded document. Yet its implications for the next election cycle are ominous. The electronic voting and vote-counting systems currently in place are neither secure, nor reliable. Their numerous weaknesses and vulnerabilities have the potential to affect elections outcomes. (53)
The Help America Vote Act of October 29, 2002 that funded the purchase of electronic voting technology also required that states meet federally mandated improvements in voting standards. (19) By August 31, 2005, a total of $2,5 billion had been disbursed to purchase new electronic voting systems. In the 2004 elections 35% of US voters used optical scan systems and 29% cast their votes into direct recording electronic systems.
HAVA also established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to adopt voluntary systems guidelines, to manage a national program to testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting systems and to maintain a clearinghouse of information on voting systems administration. The EAC was to be appointed 120 days after HAVA was enacted. It took the President a whole year to appoint the 4 EAC commissioners, who began their work in January 2004 after their Senate confirmation. Moreover, the commission received only $1.2 million in funding for its work in fiscal year 2004 and $14 million in 2005. (20)
Thus, electronic voting systems were purchased and put in place across the country prior to updating and implementing national standards for testing, assessing and improving their security and reliability. The current security provisions are vague and incomplete. The voluntary status of the guidelines also leaves states free to adopt them in whole or part, or reject them entirely. (32)
The central part of the GAO report highlights the security weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the electronic voting systems currently in place: (25-38)
Data files containing cast votes are not encrypted to protect them from being viewed and modified.
Other computer programs can access cast votes and alter them without the system recording this action in its audit logs.
Some ballot definition files can be altered on some models so that votes shown on the touch screen for one candidate could be counted for another candidate.
A regional vote tabulation computer could be accessed via a modem connection.
Using altered memory cards an optical scan system could be accessed and modified without leaving any record in the audit log.
Security examinations revealed inadequate password protections, including easily guessed passwords, or IDs usable by all supervisors.
Smart cards or memory cards are not secured on some voting systems, making them easily accessible to vote multiple times, change vote totals and produce false election results.
Reliance on telecommunications or networking services, including wireless communication, exposes electronic voting systems to risk of intrusion.
Source code information is inadequate, hard to detect or contains hidden functionality.
Current tests assess functionality, while security flaws can escape testing.
System failures and malfunctions during elections have led to polling place disruptions, disenfranchised voters and vote-counting errors.
Because of poor version control of software, uncertified software was installed in California and Indiana.
Although there is no consensus about the pervasiveness of these problems, if the security weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the electronic systems currently in place are exploited, changes in election results could go undetected. (38) There is evidence that these weaknesses and vulnerabilities have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes. (38)
In its conclusion the GAO report states that national initiatives are under way to improve voting system security and reliability, but it also warns that important initiatives are unlikely to affect the 2006 elections, due, at least in part, to delays in appointment of EAC commissioners and in funding the commission. (52) Until then, the voting systems that by many state and local jurisdictions rely on for their elections, not deserve the trust placed in them by the electorate.

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