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Minnesota's election will be all digital

Despite concerns from e-voting activists, Minnesota will take the leap to all-electronic elections.
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Written by Richard Koman on

Minnesota voters will cast their votes electronically for this year's primary and general elections, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. While that's a dicey move, electronic voting critic David Dill concedes Minnesota's system is the best out there - for what that's worth.

Dill and other experts agree ... Minnesota's system is the best one available. With safeguards that include the retention of original paper ballots and a mandatory hand recount in random precincts, they say, the state has reduced the risk of computer hacking.

But what is that worth? Dill says "The security standards are practically worthless, as is the certification process," Dill said. "At the end of the day, that computer is no more trustworthy than if you had one person count all the ballots with nobody watching."

All but four Minnesota counties will use systems from Election Systems & Software. Diebold will provide the remaining systems. Most jurisdictions will have to rely on the vendors to configure the computers.

Douglas Jones, an electronic-voting activist and associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, questions the wisdom of turning over such a vital function of government to outsiders. "Are we outsourcing democracy?" he said. "That adds a layer that wasn't there when we were talking about outsourcing maintenance of the rest stops along the highway."

Certification is also being outsourced. SysTest of Denver is testing ES&S' systems and while there are plenty of problems, the company says it hasn't found any fraud.

Brian Phillips, president of SysTest, ... said his analysts often find mistakes or poorly written code, but they've never found an attempt to rig an election by hiding malicious commands in the software. Dishonest election officials pose a greater threat than hackers, he said.

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