CT's optical scan devices: manageable risk

Devices are susceptible to tampering but well-designed procedures substantially minimize the risk.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Connecticut cities and towns will use optical scan devices that are susceptible to tampering but officials are making sure to follow procedures that eliminate the risk, AP reports. A new report by the University of Connecticut finds that optical scan devices, used to read paper ballots can be compromised in a matter of minutes. Malicious people could neutralize one candidate's votes or swap the votes of two candidates, the report said.

"Such tabulation corruptions can lay dormant until the Election Day, thus avoiding detection through pre-election tests," according to the report.

The research team is headed by Alex Shvartsman, UConn computer science and engineering professor, who is advising the state's secretary of state on election integrity.

He said the state has taken important steps, such as strict rules for how the machines get from the supplier to polling places, tamper-resistant packaging of the machines and planned post-election audits.

"If nobody touches the devices, if there is an unbroken chain of custody from the supplier to the polling place, then we're very confident that nothing can go wrong with them - short of a mechanical malfunction," Shvartsman said.

The 2006 election is somewhat of a test case. Some 330,000 voters in 25 towns will use the optical scan system, but the system will expand statewide next year. The technology provides a paper trail for every vote cast, which makes them more reliable than touch screen and other electronic voting machines.

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