February 5, 2004 4:20 PM PST

Pentagon scraps Net voting plan

The U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday backed off plans for a large-scale test of a voting system designed to let Americans who are overseas cast ballots in the coming election over the Internet.

The Pentagon will scrap the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) until the current system can guarantee the security of the voting process or a new system is designed, a Defense Department spokesperson said.

"The action was taken in view of the inability to ensure the legitimacy of the votes cast," the spokesperson said.

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The decision follows a January report by four experts--three computer science professors and a former IBM researcher--that gave failing marks to Internet voting. The report argues that creating an e-voting system that guarantees each person votes once and protects the voter's identity is impossible with the current state of the Internet.

The system would have allowed absentee military voters from 50 counties in seven states the ability to place their votes. The inauguration was to have been in South Carolina's presidential primary on Tuesday. The Defense Department is searching for a program that can eventually handle the nearly 6 million American military personnel and civilians abroad.

The cancellation of the system is the latest set back for Internet and electronic voting amid ongoing concerns over the security and reporting features of e-voting machines.

The criticism has mounted to the point that the makers of e-voting machines have formed a lobbying group to take their case to Washington, D.C.

The Defense Department hasn't indicated what the next step is for Internet voting, except that the United States is still interested.

"Efforts will continue to look into all technical capabilities to cast votes over the Internet," the spokesperson said.


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