Friday, August 3, 2007

Voting system evaluations, reports and decisions

Well, it's been a long time since I've blogged -- it was nice having a break these past few months. Now things are getting busy again, and there is so much going on that I decided it was time to post a new blog entry with links to some important reports that have recently been released.

The big news in California is that the Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, recently completed her "top-to-bottom" review of voting systems. Computer scientists and other academics from UC Berkeley and UC Davis led the review. Most of their public reports are now available at the Secretary of State's web site. (We are still awaiting release of the third and final set of reports, completed by the documents review team.) See the Secretary of State's July 27 news release for more details.

On Monday, July 30, Secretary Bowen convened a public hearing on the review at her auditorium in Sacramento. The hearing lasted all day, beginning with testimony from UC Davis computer science professor Matt Bishop, followed by statements from respresentatives of the three vendors whose systems were evaluated (Sequoia, Hart and Diebold). Numerous citizen activists opposed to electronic voting spoke during the day; so did many county election officials, most of whom expressed disappointment that the review was not conducted in a "real-world" environment, taking into account procedures in place at the local level the prevent security violations.

I spoke at the hearing as well, and said that voting system security should not be dependent on procedures being carried out at the local level. Procedures vary widely from county to county, and with 58 counties, 25,000 precincts, and 100,000+ pollworkers in a statewide election, it is impossible to monitor or verify compliance in all polling places. Video from the California Channel and a transcript from the Secretary of State are available.

If you're wondering what all this means, there are a few blog postings that help sort out these important developments. In particular, take a look at recent posts from Ed Felten, Avi Rubin, and Matt Blaze.

Also released was the Post Election Audit Standards Working Group report to the Secretary of State, outlining numerous ways that auditing after the election could be strengthened to increase voter confidence and improve the auditing process. I served on this committee, and the options outlined in our report will be beneficial to the Secretary of State and counties as they consider ways to address security problems in our current voting systems. The audit working group's report is online, along with a news release from the Secretary of State announcing the report.

Meanwhile, elsewhere around the country....

The much-anticipated report, "Post Elections Audits: Restoring Trust in Elections" was recently released. A joint production of The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, the report details how few states are fully equipped to find sophisticated and targeted software-based attacks, non-systemic programming errors and software bugs that could change the outcome of an election. See the news release for addtional highlights.

In Florida, a new report was issued this week by the Security and Assurance in Technology (SAIT) Laboratory at Florida State University. The SAIT researchers examined Diebold's latest version of its electronic voting machine, found numerous problems and recommended the state not award certification.

Another report about Florida's election was also issued today. It comes from the Government Accounting Office, which examined Sarasota County's voting system after 18,000 undervotes were cast in a closely contested congressional race last November and issued this progress report to Congress.

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