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Flagpole of Athens, Georgia

Critics Say Georgia's Computer Voting System Is Not Secure

Merrill Morris

Did you feel a little uneasy last year when you voted on Georgia's new computer voting system? All you did was touch a screen, after all, and though they said your vote was recorded, how do you know for sure?

If you felt that way, you're not alone. A growing number of computer security experts are worried about apparent flaws and security leaks in Georgia's computer voting system.

"Paperless voting systems are far too risky, far too vulnerable," said Dan Wallach, a Rice University professor who, along with three other computer scientists from Johns Hoplins University, has done a critical study of the electronic voting system Georgia Uses.

Wallach spoke recently in Atlanta at a symposium sponsored by the Internet and Public Policy Project of Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy. Also on the program was Doug Jones, a University of Iowa computer science professor who serves on the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems.

Hans Klein, director of the Internet and Public Policy Project, said representatives from Ohio-based Diebold, the company that makes Georgia's voting system, and the office of the Georgia Secretary of State were invited, but did not respond.


"When people say everyting worked fine in the last election," Wallach said, "I ask them, how on earth do you know?"

Jones, the computer scientist and elections expert from Iowa, pointed out that there's no real way to ask for a hand recound of votes in Georgia's system. The memory cards used in the voting machines are treated as the primary voting record, and Jones said these should only "have the weight of hearsay evidence," since they can be changed or tampered with.


Jones, who has been a member of the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines since 1994 and chair since 1999, said that it's important that all security issues surrounding the electronic voting machines be made public "because that's the way the process works.

"The first rule of democracy is that you never trust anybody," he said.