Voting Machine Standard Generates Controversy

Electronic Frontier Foundation Advocates Secure Elections

San Francisco — The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today urged a technical association to stop balloting on a flawed proposal for an electronic voting machine standard.

EFF invited concerned parties to write letters to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), requesting an electronic voting machine standard that requires secure, voter-verifiable election equipment and technologies that support open democratic principles of governance.

"The IEEE voting equipment standard could impact dramatically the future of democratic systems in the U.S. and around the world," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We urge the IEEE to take the measures necessary to rework the standard currently under consideration so that it includes benchmarks for secure voter-verifiable election equipment and addresses additional criticisms from the security community."

In the aftermath of the Florida election debacle, the IEEE took up the question of standards for voting equipment, creating a working group, called Project 1583, overseen by a Standards Coordinating Committee known as SCC 38. Once finalized, the U.S. and other governments worldwide will likely adopt the IEEE voting equipment standard, especially since IEEE sits on a technical advisory board established by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Members of the security community report that the current standard is flawed. P1583 is largely a design standard, describing how to configure current electronic voting machines, instead of a performance standard setting benchmarks and processes for testing the security, reliability, accessibility, and accuracy of these machines.

For example, the standard fails to require or even recommend voting machine designs that permit voters to verify their votes. One such method that is already available from multiple election machine companies is a provision that the machines produce a paper ballot for each voter that allows a voter to see a summary of her votes to confirm them. Agencies administering elections can then store paper ballots separately so they are available for audits in the case of dispute or for a recount.

EFF is also responding to reports of serious procedural problems with the Working Group P1538 and SCC 38 Committee processes, including shifting roadblocks placed in front of those who wish to participate and vote, and failure to follow basic procedural requirements like giving sufficient notice of meetings and deadlines, publishing agendas and minutes, and circulating current versions of the standard itself and the comments of others in a timely manner. Some participants claim that representatives of the electronic voting machine vendor companies and others with vested interests control the working group and committee leadership.

For this advisory:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/20030919_eff_pr.php

EFF action alert on IEEE voting machine standard:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/IEEE/

Security researchers discover flaws in e-voting system:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/20030723_eff_pr.php

Previous EFF action alert on e-voting:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/20030702_eff_pr.php

EFF e-voting archive:
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/

IEEE website:
http://www.ieee.org/


About EFF: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/

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