Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NPR story highlights security risks with e-voting machines

On Saturday, NPR's "Weekend Edition" ran a nine-minute piece by Linda Wertheimer called Security Risk Seen in Electronic Voting Machines. The story focuses on the increased use of e-voting machines, and the new security hole recently discovered in Diebold's touchscreens. Mark Radke speaks in the story on behalf of Diebold, giving assurances that their equipment is protected, and that pollworkers make sure the systems are secure.

"I don't buy that at all," replies computer scientist Avi Rubin, who noted this security sometimes involves having pollworkers take machines home with them overnight. Rubin also says the new security hole is not only the most serious he's seen in any electronic voting system, it's also the most severe he's seen in any system.

While NPR was covering a polling place in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, an election official appeared with a Diebold pamphlet and pin number. The pollworker didn't know what to do with it, saying she was not told about a pin number or password, and that there's a lot of things she didn't know.

The piece opens up with Linda Wertheimer describing how we got where we are with electronic voting systems. The introductory text is below.


After the very, very close presidential election in 2000, when results were in doubt for weeks, Congress appropriated funds to help states modernize their voting. And companies that manufacture voting machines have rushed new computerized systems onto the market.

But there are concerns about the new machines. Apart from the inevitable glitches in new equipment, critics raise questions about machines that have no paper record of votes, and about the possibility that computerized systems could somehow be reprogrammed to change votes, perhaps even change the outcome of an election.

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