Voting Machine Security - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/03/03

Voting Machine Security

Most people in Georgia we talked with last election day liked the new electronic voting system. But one group of computer scientists, at Johns Hopkins University put out a negative report about the software that runs the machines. They say it isn't secure and is vulnerable to vote tampering.

But the State of Georgia and local election officials are standing by their system. They say those who wrote the report weren't looking at the system in real-world voting environment. The scientists were looking at the source code of the software, rather than evaluating the system as a whole as it's meant to work.

Chatham County Board of Elections personnel put the electronic voting equipment through a whole series of diagnostic tests. The board's Gail Whitehead demonstrated how workers check and uncheck every choice on the ballot. "We check every possible location, to make sure that it will light and it will accept the pressure point there," she said.

Once the system checks out, it's cleared of any vote data and sent to the polling place for election day. The State of Georgia and local officials say it's secure, tested and monitored at all levels, including at the polling place. The voter access card that inserts into the unit is initially blank, but the correct ballot is programmed onto it with a device known as an encoder, at the polling place.

The card system insures voters are in their proper precincts, and voting only once. After you cast your ballot, the card is blanked again and has no ballot data for voting a second time.

Then, results are gathered from memory cards in each machine and transmitted to the board office via a direct, one-way modem connection, not over the internet. Even so, Whitehead told us, "In Georgia, telephone-transmitted results are unofficial results. The day after the election...we clear all the tallies and clear all the vote centers, and we re-upload every single memory card to verify that the totals are the same."

Whitehead says they'll work as long as it takes till more than five hundred memory cards in Chatham County are uploaded and verified.

The board of elections says, since the system is not on the internet and anyone who wanted to tamper with it would need physical access, it's as secure as the old paper ballots. Without the hanging chads.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

 

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