Security Features of Georgia’s Electronic Voting System - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/03/03

Security Features of Georgia’s Electronic Voting System

Note: This is an official statement from the Georgia secretary of state's office.

            Recent reports published by academics, computer scientists and software security professionals have raised questions about security with electronic voting systems. It is important to note that these reports have been written by computer scientists who admittedly know very little about how elections are administered and completely disregard the internal and external security measures in place for Georgia elections.

 

            Prior to its use in Georgia the electronic system underwent three levels of testing. The first level of testing consisted of Qualification Tests.  These tests are specified by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and administered by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED). Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs) selected and qualified by NASED conducted the qualification tests. ITAs are national software and hardware laboratories located throughout the nation.  The tests they conduct evaluate the design and manufacture of the system as well as the accuracy and security.  The hardware is also subjected to extreme environmental conditions such as high and low temperatures, vibration, high humidity, dust, and drops from various heights. 

 

            Once the system successfully completed Qualification Testing it was brought into the state for Certification Tests.  There are three main purposes for certification tests.  One purpose of the certification tests is to test the system for compliance with the State's Election Code and Regulations. The second purpose is to evaluate the complexity of installing and using the system.  The third and most extensive test is to verify that the system records and tallies votes correctly.  This is accomplished by simulating a typical Georgia election.  Every aspect of this test, ballot size, number of voters, length of questions, election date, etc., is identical to the conditions that occur in a Georgia election.  At the conclusion of this test the results from the electronic voting system are compared to the known inputs to the test.

 

            The third level of tests is Acceptance Testing.  These tests were conducted in the offices of the local election jurisdictions to verify that the voting system that was delivered to the counties is functioning properly and is identical to the system that was evaluated during Qualification Testing and Certification Testing. 

 

            The Security of our voting system is paramount. Extensive measures are taken to protect the voting system from fraud. During testing the function of each program module is determined and each module is examined to ensure that there is no 'hidden' code. When the software/firmware is approved various electronic signatures are recorded to verify that the original code has not been altered.

 

            Each time the system is delivered to a Georgia county, the electronic signatures are examined to verify that the system as delivered is identical to the system that successfully completed qualification tests.  During acceptance testing these signatures were examined to ensure that the certified system was delivered to the counties.  Each time the system is used in an election these signatures are examined both before and after the election to ensure that the system has not been altered.

 

            An additional level of testing conducted before every election, Logic and Accuracy Testing, is conducted prior to every election, to check the performance of all systems and verify specific ballot information for each memory card in each precinct is correct and that votes cast on the system are properly recorded on the voting terminal.  After “L&A” is completed, units are set in election mode, powered down, locked and banded with a seal that is not broken until Election Day.

 

            With these, and other overlapping layers of safeguards in place, attempts to alter the system software would be easily detected. Additional physical security systems are in place in the facilities where the equipment is housed and standard security measures are in place in each precinct on Election Day. Multiple, overlapping audit trails of the number of voters who have voted and the number of ballots cast as well as votes that were cancelled are recorded in each precinct on election day. After the polls close these numbers are reconciled with the numbers produced by the electronic voting system during the vote tally and any “extra” votes or cancellations would be immediately identified. 

 

            A number of these electronic voting reports have also raised the issue of a “paper” trail. It is important to note that Georgia’s electronic voting system does have the capability of printing a paper printout of each vote cast as required by the Help America Vote Act. However, Georgia law requires a court order for hand recounts to be conducted.

 

            Georgia did away with “paper” in our elections process for a number of reasons including:

·        The unreliable nature of paper ballots as demonstrated by the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida

·        The fact that the majority of election fraud cases in Georgia history have involved “paper”

·        Diminished accessibility and privacy for our state’s disabled voters

·        Federal requirements that ballots be made available in multiple languages in regions with growing minority populations which will likely include Atlanta and other metropolitan counties in the near future

·        Voter delays associated with poll workers addressing toner and paper jams and refills on more than 19,000 individual printers on election day

           

            It is also important to point out that Logic and Accuracy Testing that is performed in each county before every election is completely open to the public. Interested parties can join poll watchers, candidates and elections officials and watch as the machines are tested, locked and sealed on the spot. Testing schedules for upcoming elections are available at the local county elections office.  Similarly, the tally of the votes in the county election office on election night is open to the public and is usually observed by party representatives, candidates or their representatives, members of the media, and other interested citizens. The Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, the facility that handles certification and acceptance testing for the state, will be holding Open House sessions later this year to provide individuals who want to learn more about the voting system the opportunity to review the system and ask questions.  Feel free to contact the Center at 770/423-6900 for a list of Open House dates.

 

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