Eleven years after the disputed 2000 presidential election thrust the subject of electoral integrity into the spotlight, many of the challenges that jeopardized that election remain unresolved, voting experts said at an MIT-hosted conference held Saturday.
The conference, “Election Integrity: Past, Present, and Future,” convened by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP), brought together election administrators, academics and technology professionals from around the country, and commemorated the 25th anniversary of the First National Symposium on Security and Reliability of Computers in the Electoral Process, held in Boston in 1986. A central theme of Saturday’s conference was election integrity: assuring that votes are both recorded and counted as they were cast.
… Of particular concern, said Pamela Smith, president of VerifiedVoting.org, is the use of Internet voting systems that cannot be audited. Another issue, which she illustrated with a map identifying the current equipment used by each state, is the inability of DREs to recount ballots in a close election. And many key swing states, she said, continue to use unreliable DREs.
But one technology works notably well, Smith said: optical scanning of paper ballots. According to VerifiedVoting.org, this is the most secure way to verify a vote — and costs less than DRE systems. Currently, 38 states have either passed laws requiring voter-verifiable paper records, are considering such a law or have mixed requirements.
“Although major machine-based errors are rare, they do occur,” Stewart said. “When they occur, it undermines the integrity of elections. In political times like today, the last thing we need is something that inaccurately calls into question the integrity of elections.”
Citing insufficient transparency on computer code as a major challenge in today’s electoral process, he added, “the errors that have been reported have usually come about because of the poor quality of the computer code, or the poor quality of the machine-human interface. Without public scrutiny of code, there will always be suspicions.”
Stewart also noted that post-election auditing — not to be confused with a recount of a close election — is essential to verifying that procedures were followed and that the counting processes was error-free.
“An audit should occur regardless of whether or not the election is close,” he said, noting that only about half of states currently require them. “Elections are very complicated events to administer, involving lots of tedious operations — many of which are handled by humans, who are terrible at doing tedious things accurately.”
Full Article: What it takes to make every vote count – MIT News Office.