October 6, 2006 9:17 AM PDT

Standards to stimulate e-voting?

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--The government was quick to trust the Internet with tax returns, but it still has not managed to organize a paperless voting system. What's the holdup?

Many voting citizens, whether they consider themselves red, blue or green, have been asking that question since the 2000 election shed light on how inconsistent, and often low-tech, the voting systems are in the United States.

Standardization of data fields, interoperability between counties and states, and an unwillingness on the part of local municipalities to embrace change are some of the major obstacles, according to panelists here at the Voter Identification/Registration Conference, hosted by the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday and Friday.

Politicians and election officials have been scrambling to put together high-tech solutions, but the potential for voter fraud, coupled with the exposure of security flaws in e-voting systems and voter databases, has slowed down the conversion.

The panel put aside legal issues concerning e-voting machines and, instead, concentrated on how technology could be used to ensure that electronic voter registration and identification is valid and consistently maintained.

Ann McGeehan, director of elections for Texas, Kim Brace of Election Data Services, and Thad Hall an assistant professor at the University of Utah who co-wrote "Point, Click, and Vote: The Future of Internet Voting," shared their experiences and examples of why, six years later, there is still no system in place.

One of the most basic problems across the states, Brace said, is trying to match and verify data when there is no standardization for reporting voter registration rolls or for constructing data fields. Some states keep both active and inactive voters on the rolls, some states retain only active voters, and some leave the decision up to individual counties. The differences lie not just between states, or between various departments of motor vehicles and voter registration systems, but between counties within the same state.

"These driver's license files are not as good as everybody thought they were," Brace said.

Names, for example, which should be broken out into first-, middle- and last-name fields, appear as one name field in many data sets, according to Brace. Suffixes like Jr. and Sr., and the modern use of hyphenated or two-word last names, has also added to the confusion. Some counties even collapse street address, town, ZIP code and state into one address field rather than breaking them out.

McGeehen has been overseeing the implementation of the Texas Election Administration Management (TEAM) System, a Web-based voting system that Texas counties can access through the Internet. TEAM, scheduled to be in place by the end of 2006, will electronically enable counties to add local election information to a state-provided ballot, have the ballot certified and send voting results.

The TEAM site allows citizens to confirm registration, get directions to their polling locations and find out what's on their ballot. If a voter moves within the state, TEAM will cancel the voter in the former county and register them in the new county, McGeehan said. But before any information can be imported into the system, the state has had to clean up disorganized data from existing motor vehicle and voter registries.

"In some counties, the data is 'dirty.' For example, my husband and I are registered at the same address and yet registered in different precincts," McGeehan said, referring to her own state's problems. "TEAM has stronger address standards that match the postal standards, so it will not allow for mistakes like that. But we can't deploy until mistakes like that in old data systems are brought forward, cleaned up."

CONTINUED: A wait-and-see attitude…
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We don't need e-voting
We don't need to know who won an election 5 minutes after the
polls close, but we do need to know how the people voted. I'm
not sure we've really known that for the past couple of decades.

Forget e-voting, forget punch cards. Let's go back to paper
ballots that require the voter to write an X next to his choice. If
we do that, the time we spend counting ballots will still be less
than the time and money spent challenging the results in court.

Heck, even people in Broward county Florida should be able to
get it right with paper ballots.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm with you.
YES - WE NEED E-VOTING. In a world where Windows is
perfectly secure, all hacking has been eliminated, and Javascript
works flawlessly in all browsers. Bring on the e-Voting!

Can you imagine a system where you would never know if the
results had been tampered? Nothing tangible whatsoever to
look at afterwards.... just some numbers on a server someplace.
Geez! Are these people crazy?

At least with online banking, the numbers are tied to account
numbers which are tied to names which are tied to physical
addresses which get a paper statement mailed to them. The
users can see if something is wrong and an audit can be

Voting is supposed to be anonymous which really puts a crimp
on these types of transparent audits.

Besides all of that... if you're too lazy to get off your @ss and do
your civic duty then we don't need your vote. (excluding shut-
ins where we already have a working absentee system for people
who are physically unable to get to the polls)
Posted by Sparky672 (244 comments )
Link Flag
Good point But, Florida would probably say they couldn't read the X or that the pen was out of ink... then what? carving it in stones? then it would be, Well, um.. the voter didnt hit the chisel hard enough. - no. i dont think so.

They just need someone with some since overseeing the E-Voting. its a great idea but whoever designed the current machines/technology was an idiot.
Posted by G.Nuisance (10 comments )
Link Flag
How Diebold delivers for Bush ...
This complete analysis, from the Center for Information Technology Policy of Princeton University shows how easy vote tampering is with Diebold Election Systems voting machine.

See the demonstration video:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/" target="_newWindow">http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/</a>

Those machines are a real joke, and that's how Bush got "elected" in 2004 and how they plan to avoid a debacle in the upcoming midterm election ...

Any proof they ever used it ? Hell no, the system is carefully designed to leave no proof !
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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