CA's new e-voting rules could mean return of paper ballots

CA rules demand right to hack into voting systems with "red teams" of experts studying source code. Likely: noncompliance and decertification.

As California goes, so goes the nation. Or so we can hope. California is proposing tough rules for e-voting machines - so tough they could mean the end of electronic voting machines in the state, reports the Oakland Tribune.

For the first time, California is demanding the right to try hacking every voting machine with "red teams" of computer experts and to study the software inside the machines, line-by-line, for security holes.

County election officials, naturally, don't like the proposed rules and suggested that there wouldn't be time for manufacturers to upgrade machines before California's new early primary.

"When they moved that election up 119 days, I think the door closed on any significant changes to election systems for the presidential cycle in 2008," said Steve Weir, president of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials and chief elections officer in Contra Costa County.
Opponents of electronic voting hailed the new rules.
"[Secretary of State] Debra Bowen is holding up voting machines to the standards they deserve," said Avi Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University who published one of the first technical critiques of e-voting software. "I don't know of any other state in the country that requires red team testing of voting machines, and I've long maintained that this is the only reasonable way to test security."

Stanford computer science professor David Dill, the founder of VerifiedVoting.org, endorsed Bowen's standards as "quite good." "I think it's much to be preferred over our current see-no-evil approach," Dill said. In every other case of "red team" attacks on voting machines and examination of their software code, experts have found major security problems, he noted. "It will be interesting to see what happens once the problems are found out," Dill said. "That could be tricky depending on what disruptions there might be."

If the machines wind up being decertified, California is headed for paper ballots.
"You can't miss the gist of that," said Weir of the local elections officials' organization. "That's giving public notice of a process that's starting whose outcome could be between dire and draconian, depending if it's your neighbor or you."

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