WASHINGTON - The CIA, which has been monitoring foreign countries' use of electronic-voting systems, has reported apparent vote-rigging schemes in Venezuela, Macedonia and Ukraine and a raft of concerns about the machines' vulnerability to tampering.
Appearing last month before a U.S. Election Assistance Commission field hearing in Orlando, Fla., a CIA cybersecurity expert suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his allies fixed a 2004 election recount, an assertion that could further roil U.S. relations with the Latin leader.
A laboratory that has tested most of the nation’s electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.
The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by New York State over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.
Having reported extensively on the security concerns that surround the use of electronic voting machines, I anxiously awaited the results of a new study of a Diebold touch-screen voting system, conducted by Princeton University. The Princeton computer scientists obtained the Diebold system with cooperation from VelvetRevolution, an umbrella organization of more than 100 election integrity groups, which I co-founded a few months after the 2004 election.
The November election may feel like ancient history, but it is still going on in North Carolina. The state has been unable to swear in an agriculture commissioner because a single malfunctioning electronic voting machine lost more ballots than the number of votes that separate the two candidates. The State Board of Elections, the candidates and the public are sharply divided on how to proceed. The mess North Carolina finds itself in is a cautionary tale about the perils of relying on electronic voting that does not produce a paper record.
THE HANGING CHADS and lost ballots of the 2000 presidential-election debacle made it seem a foregone conclusion that modernized, electronic-voting machines would be widely embraced the next time around. And so they will be. But paranoia about stolen elections and security flaws has made Nov. 2 a make-or-break event for the fledgling industry and its biggest player, Diebold Inc.
Florida, 2000 presidential election—the vote count long will be recalled as a low point in U.S. democratic politics.
The hue and cry of electoral corruption and a stolen election compelled the U.S. Congress to act. Boldly, it committed $3.9 billion in matching federal funds to assist states in the transition toward digital voting systems. Here, under the flag of the Help America Vote Act, was the answer for hanging chads.
That serious problems plague our new, computerized voting machines--on which 29 percent of U.S. voters are poised to cast their votes in November--has been apparent ever since $3.9 billion in federal funding for the machines was made available in 2002, in the aftermath of Bush v. Gore. In the years since, report after report has cautioned that the machines lack the security and robustness necessary to withstand the assaults of hackers or unscrupulous technicians. But no one seems likely to stop the rollout of the machines, more than 50,000 of which have been purchased by states.
Manipulating election votes, the act of stealing an American election, used to sound far fetched. While many people weren't always confident that voters would make fully informed decisions, it was always assumed that each vote would at least be counted. Then came Florida--and the whole quaint notion of elections got tossed out the window. The final 2000 election recount showed that George W. Bush didn't win but he came close enough to move in for the kill.