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Effort afoot to address e-voting at convention

The Democratic Party is eager to wrestle with the issue of electronic-voting system security and integrity

By Dan Verton
July 23, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- A Democratic congresswoman from President George W. Bush's home state plans to put the issue of electronic voting security and integrity in the spotlight at next week's Democratic National Convention.
Although she isn't scheduled to speak at the convention, Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson will call on prominent Democrats to help raise voter awareness about the challenges facing the security, reliability and integrity of electronic voting systems, a spokesman for her office said.
"I can't imagine it not being an issue at the convention. But if it's not, Rep. Johnson certainly plans to make it one," said John B. Townsend, a spokesman for the congresswoman.
However, speaking on condition of anonymity, an IT industry source who met last week with members of Sen. John Kerry's staff said the Kerry campaign is considering a move to pull back from the position taken by the Democratic National Committee and Howard Dean's Democracy for America organization. Dean and the DNC have endorsed the voter-verifiable paper ballot requirement for e-voting systems -- something that only the state of Nevada has planned for November. According to the official, the Kerry campaign is considering support for verification of the final vote tally through some form of encryption.
For many Democrats, however, the issue boils down to a Republican-controlled Congress that has refused to force voting-system vendors to open their software to inspection and verification.
"The Republicans have an interest in not doing anything about electronic voting security," said Townsend.
But some analysts, along with liberal organizations, said that although security of the systems and the integrity of the software used are real concerns, the rhetoric surrounding the debate could actually hurt voter turnout. And that could backfire on the Democrats.
"We're worried about voters being scared off," said Tanya Clay, director of public policy at Washington-based People for the American Way. "It's one thing to push for security in all voting machines, but it's another thing to scare people into thinking it's useless for them to go and vote. We can't allow this issue to hijack the election."

Damage control
But the e-voting security debate may have already damaged the trust of some Americans who will vote electronically this November. One reason for that is the appearance of a possible conflict of interest stemming in part from a comment made publicly last August by Diebold Election Systems CEO Walden O'Dell that he was "committed" to delivering Ohio's electoral votes to President George W. Bush.

In addition, Federal Election Commission records reviewed by Computerworld show that between 1997 and 2003, O'Dell contributed $10,465 of



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