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Tests in Ohio Point to E-voting Insecurities

By Todd R. Weiss
December 31, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A series of tests on the electronic voting systems used in Ohio showed that security shortcomings are a continuing danger to the accuracy of elections there, according to a report released in December by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

The report recommended a series of steps designed to mitigate those threats, including centralizing the counting of electronic votes and shifting away from the use of touch-screen voting systems.

Brunner had requested the risk assessment tests, which were conducted by two testing firms that worked along with teams of academic researchers from three universities. Her report described the results of the tests as disturbing.

These findings do not lend themselves to sustained or increased confidence in Ohios voting systems, Brunner wrote. She noted that the e-voting machines do not meet computer industry security standards and are susceptible to breaches of security that may jeopardize the integrity of the voting process. A spokesman for Brunner said that the recommendations made in the report are in no way set in stone. Theyre being put out there to contemplate.

The vendors whose systems were tested include Election Systems & Software Inc., Hart InterCivic Inc. and Premier Election Solutions Inc., which was formerly called Diebold Election Systems Inc. The three vendors didnt dispute the need for such tests but defended their systems. For example, a spokesman for Hart InterĀ­Civic said tests often evaluate e-voting systems that have been certified in previous years and are then criticized for not meeting new security requirements.

But Avi Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University who heads the e-voting activist group ACCURATE, said Ohios security problems are so serious that its no surprise theyre trying to get away from [touch-screen] machines as quickly as possible.

I dont think its impossible to build high-tech voting systems, he said. But it will require a lot more quality control and effort than weve seen so far.

Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.

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