Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Reliability of Electronic Voting

Yesterday, a New Jersey judge ruled that the state has eight days to correct problems with their electronic voting technology. In attempting to comply with state law, requiring that all electronic voting machines to have attached printers to allow for verification of votes, three tests by the New Jersey Institute of Technology have found that printers from three different vendors have failed to provide the accuracy required by the law.

Being informed that additional testing would take an additional six weeks, Judge Linda Feinberg of the Superior Court is requiring that Deputy Attorney General Jason Orlando provide suitable alternatives to the existing electronic voting equipment. In response to this order, it is expected that voting rights activists will continue their push for optical scan ballots which would provide paper ballots that could be hand counted if necessary and are readily verifiable by voters.

New Jersey is not alone in experiencing reliability problems with their electronic voting equipment. Aside from this incident, there have been reported problems and/or lawsuits in such places as Ohio, California, Florida and Alaska, all related to alleged improprieties in the recording of electronic votes. In August, Dan Rather investigated touch screen voting equipment, adding to the skepticism of its reliability.

Due to the questions of reliability regarding this equipment, at least one race from the November, 2006 election was still being challenged. After nearly ten months, there are still questions related to a large number of allegedly uncounted votes due to allegations of faulty electronic voting equipment. While this electronic voting equipment has the potential of being useful and allowing a larger number of people to vote, specifically handicapped persons as these machines can be set to provide larger print, provide audio prompts and require only the push of a button, so far it seems that this “improvement” in the voting system has only created more questions, doubts and unresolved issues.

Without a guarantee that all electronic votes will be recorded accurately, not be altered by unauthorized persons and be properly counted, people will continue to push for the paper ballots they are familiar with. Although there are still problems with paper ballots, as was seen in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election, it appears that people feel safer and more confident in being able to visually verify whom they have voted for and not having to rely on unproven technology.

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