E-Voting: Will Your Vote Count?

 
 
By Debra D'Agostino  |  Posted 2006-08-14 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The 2000 presidential election underscored the dire need for voting transformation. But six years later, a litany of problems remains. Can the government restore confidence in e-voting?

Hardly a day goes by without electronic voting making headlines. In mid-July, voter-rights group Voter GA filed a lawsuit against the Georgia State Election Board opposing the use of electronic systems, calling them too insecure. In Texas, a state district judge refused to block the use of e-voting machines in Travis Countys upcoming November elections. And New York made headlines this spring when the U.S. Justice Department sued the state for failing to meet federal e-voting adoption deadlines.

Six years after the 2000 presidential election fiasco in Florida, the debate continues to rage over just how to run a truly fair and accurate election. This despite the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, a federal law that allocated $3.8 billion in hopes of solving the problem. The law mandates that each state upgrade to electronic voting systems and create statewide databases of registered voters. This, Congress promised, would ensure fairness to all voters, less ambiguity at the polls, accessible systems for people with disabilities and citizens for whom English is a second language, and quicker and more accurate vote tallying.

Laudable goals. But in Congress rush to spare the U.S. further embarrassment from hanging chads and confusing butterfly ballots, lawmakers passed HAVA—which included a deadline of January 2006—without considering the security of such systems, and offered little guidance as to how a digital elections process should be effectively conducted. The result: computer malfunctions that miscount votes or erase them altogether, inefficient security measures that leave systems open to the possibility of widespread voter fraud, and statewide registered-voter databases that are still riddled with errors.

One eWEEK columnist thinks e-voting errors are almost inevitable. Click here to read more. Voter activist groups have filed lawsuits against nearly a dozen states, claiming the systems are too unsafe to use. Independent studies revealing serious flaws in e-voting software—most notably, a recent study released by New York Universitys Brennan Center for Justice—have led Congress to hold hearings to determine just how safe e-voting machines really are.

But the greatest damage may have already been done: the widespread erosion of U.S. voters confidence in their nations electoral process. "I suspect there are many thousands—maybe even millions—of Americans who dont believe the results of some recent election or other," says Congressman Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who has authored a bill that would standardize e-voting practices nationwide. "We have to do everything we can to restore confidence in the mechanism of democracy."

In an age when Americans seem more politically polarized than at any time since the Civil War, to say the stakes are high when it comes to electronic voting is an understatement. After all, voting is, as Thomas Paine wrote, "the primary right by which all other rights are protected." So why havent we managed to create a trustworthy e-voting system?

The answer is one CIOs have heard time and again, but has historically eluded the U.S. federal government: New technology systems, particularly those entailing a great deal of process change, require thorough upfront discussions that include technology experts before those systems are implemented, to determine exactly where vulnerabilities lie and how they can be shored up.

Read the full story on CIOInsight.com: E-Voting: Will Your Vote Count?
 
 
 
 
Debra D'Agostino was part of the original team that launched CIO Insight in May 2001, and has held several positions during her tenure, serving first as copy chief, then senior reporter, and currently as online editor, overseeing content and strategy for CIOInsight.com. Prior to joining Ziff Davis Media, her work focused largely on travel and leisure, and her articles have appeared in Consumer Reports' Travel Letter, The Elite Traveler, Agenda New York, Travel Agent, Westchester, Wine Enthusiast and USA Today, among others. At CIO Insight, she has twice been a finalist for American Business Media's Jesse H. Neal Award, and has received three national gold awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. She holds a bachelor of science in journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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