E-voting tensions rising in North Carolina

North Carolina’s State Board of Elections created quite a stir recently when, surprisingly, it decided to certify Diebold e-voting equipment for use in the state despite a still-running debate about the state’s new source code “escrow” rules and the company’s compliance with them. The requirements call on companies to deposit the source code for their e-voting equipment with a state-approved third party and for the State Board of Elections to evaluate that code. A ZDNet article describes the situation in more detail:

[...] The [new escrow] rules were aligned with actions taken this summer by the state legislature, which passed changes to election laws that set new standards for e-voting machines and decertified all the state’s existing systems … in response to glitches encountered by one of the state’s counties during the 2004 presidential elections, resulting in the loss of more than 4,500 votes.

[...] But Diebold … filed a court complaint objecting to the requirements. It insisted that not all of its code could be turned over because some of it belonged to third parties, such as Microsoft, which would be loathe to disclose it and already store it in their own separate escrow accounts.

[...] On Monday, a judge in Raleigh, N.C., dismissed that complaint, saying Diebold and others could be subject to penalties for not complying with the new law. That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a brief encouraging the court not to give Diebold special treatment, found it baffling that a mere three days later, the State Board of Elections announced it would certify Diebold anyway.

We’ll keep you posted as this case develops. For additional information, see the EWeek article here, the EFF’s blog post about the controversy here, and a Charlotte Observer article about the state certification of Diebold.

Meanwhile, regular readers here will be familiar with ACM’s position on e-voting, which urges that “all voting systems – particularly computer-based electronic voting systems – embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and rigorous testing in both their design and operation.”

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