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Clear Creek Courant

Experts question electronic voting systems

September 20, 2006
By Meghan Murphy

Just before a trial concerning electronic voting systems begins, the Colorado attorney general released statements by two computer security experts expressing concerns with flaws in electronic voting systems and the state's certification process.

Today and Thursday, Judge Lawrence A. Manzanares will hear testimony in a lawsuit brought by Colorado voters against Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. The claim asserts that Dennis failed to properly certify voting machines that will be used across Colorado this November.

To comply with the Help America Vote Act, which took affect in January, Dennis was required by Colorado statute to test and certify machines for use at Colorado polling places. ...

But Dan Wallach, a computer security expert, says the secretary of state's certification process is "highly unlikely to detect important security flaws" in voting systems. He also questions the certification standards because they appear to delegate responsibility for proving secure voting environments to the vendor.

In fact, John H. Gardner, Jr. the state employee in charge of writing the certification process, testified in his deposition that those testing the systems simply referred to documentation supplied by the manufacturer to determine whether voting systems were secure. Gardner also said that the state didn't complete an informed review of the security documents provided by the companies.

Another expert, Douglas Jones, who served on the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems for a decade, wrote that Colorado's evaluation of the vendor documents demonstrates a lack of understanding of which information was critical to security. Jones reviewed the rules Gardner composed, and found confusing, and at times inaccurate, definitions for security elements of voting machines.

A professor at Rice University, Wallach also says that the voting machines certified by Dennis, including the ES&S machine used in Jefferson County and the Hart InterCivic machine purchased by Clear Creek, failed to meet numerous standards in the secretary of state's own rules. In Gardner's deposition, he says those in charge of certifying machines overlooked what they considered minor areas where the machines did not meet regulations.

The state, Gardner testified, was under deadline pressure to certify machines so that counties could purchase them in time for the November election. ...


The trial for Conroy vs. Dennis began Wednesday in Denver District Court at 8:30 a.m.