Lax practices make e-voting insecure, study finds

Simple measures, like regular, automatic audits of accuracy would go far, study of government, academic, business experts finds.

Electronic voting machines' flaws could easily be fixed, but as the situation stands now the systems are insecure, a task force comprised of government, university, manufacturers and nonprofits concluded, Associated Press reports.

Electronic voting machines without paper backup are seen as an important correction to all-digital machines, but even paper records are useless if audits aren't routinely and automatically performed, researchers for the Task Force on Voting System Security said. Half of the 26 states requiring paper records also require regular audits.

Researchers acknowledged that audits won't uncover attacks that change both the electronic and paper records, something possible because many voters don't bother to check the paper trail before leaving the voting booth. Voters, researchers say, should be encouraged to check the paper.

Other recommendations: banning wireless components, which can create openings for attack; and testing randomly selected machines on Election Day. "We're not talking about dramatic restructuring of the architecture," task force chairman Larry Norden said."We're talking about straightforward things, most of which could be in place for the 2006 elections."

It's expected that four out of five voters will use e-voting machines this year, according to Election Data Services, a political consulting firm that tracks election equipment.

Doug Chapin of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan research group that tracks efforts to revamp election systems, said states and counties typically have been focusing on trying to assure Americans that their vote was being recorded. Chapin, who was not involved with the Brennan study, said he expects more election officials to begin considering systematically how they can use the records more broadly, such as through audits.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., has introduced legislation requiring paper records and random audits for federal elections in at least 2 percent of precincts in each state.

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