USACM Members to Provide Expert Congressional Testimony on E-Voting Security and Paper Trails

This Thursday at 10:00 the Committee on House Administration will hold a hearing on security, verification and paper trail issues related to e-voting machines. Two USACM-EC members have been invited to testify — Barbara Simons, past president of ACM, and Ed Felten, professor of Computer Science at Princeton University. The hearing will be webcast.

Below are the witnesses for the hearing:

  • Edward W. Felten, Professor, Department of Computer Science, Princeton University
  • Gary Smith, Election Director, Forsyth County, Georgia
  • Barbara Simons, Member, U.S. Public Policy Committee, Association for Computing Machinery
  • Keith Cunningham, Election Director, Allen County, Ohio
  • James Dickson, Vice President of Government Affairs, American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Michael I. Shamos, Professor, Institute for Software Research Director, Carnegie Mellon University

The security and reliability of e-voting machines has become an incredibly hot issue over the past month.

In August, the Election Science Institute released an in-depth study of the voting system in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Ohio state law requires that e-voting machines provide a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The study found wide-spread problems with how paper trails were implemented and that vote totals stored in different media on the voting machine, which are supposed to match, were inconsistent.

Two weeks ago, Maryland’s all electronic voting system was plagued by serious problems during the state’s primary election. Local officials did not distribute the smart cards necessary to activate voting machines throughout Montgomery County. In some precints, officials did not collect memory cards used to tally the votes after the election. Electronic polling books, used to register voters, crashed, or would not sync up with each other to check to see whether a voter had already voted.

Yesterday The New York Times reported that state and local officials are growing increasingly wary of using new electronic voting machines, particularly ones without paper trails. Officials in Connecticut and New Mexico have reversed course and replaced touch-screen machines with optical scan paper ballot machines.

ACM has been very active in trying to educate policymakers and the public about e-voting machine risks and best practices. In 2004, ACM issued a policy statement regarding voting machines calling for better designed and engineered systems, and for all e-voting systems to have a VVPAT. Last month we offered testimony to Congress making recommendations for improving federal law in this area.

As more voters and elections officials begin to question how e-voting systems are engineered, they are beginning to demand VVPATs. This is the first hearing to explore the pro and cons of paper trails and the many security concerns the computing community has uncovered. This is one area where the technical experts continue to make an impact in shaping the policy debate and shining light on security, reliability and usability issues with e-voting systems. It is good to see two active USACM members give their expertise to Congress on this critical issue.

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