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States Create Processes to Ease E-voting Concerns

By Mark Songini

October 23, 2006 (Computerworld) Several states have scrambled in recent months to establish processes to blunt potential problems with electronic voting machines before next monthâ™s election.

In Georgia, where there has been widespread use of e-voting machines for two years, training and security programs are credited with keeping complaints about e-voting to a minimum there, said a spokesman for Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

The state uses AccuVote TS touch-screen machines from Diebold Election Systems, he said.

The spokesman said much of the credit ... goes to technical staffers from Kennesaw State University who have worked with the state since ... 2002.

The state pays the university about $500,000 annually ...

The state mandates that all election officials be trained by the Kennesaw University staff in e-voting security procedures, ...

Georgia has also joined Utah in prohibiting the storage of machines in private homes prior to elections. Some states, including California and Florida, allow workers to take home machines that will be used in widely scattered voting precincts. Officials in those states say that in large precincts, home storage provides for easier distribution than using a centralized facility.

In Utah, election officials have established a policy that requires county clerks to store the state's Diebold TSX touch-screen machines in secret, secure facilities prior to elections, said Joe Demma, chief of staff for Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Hebert, whose office oversees elections. Demma noted that the storage sites are not even revealed to his office.

He said that such policies are key to avoiding breaches of e-voting machines. ... of one machine, and you'd have to do a lot of work to change an election."

Utah, which started using the machines in 2005, also mandates audits and the canvassing of votes after the election. ...

Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County, Fla., suggested that statewide e-voting best practices could significantly limit potential problems. Such a statewide process has not been created in Florida, said Sancho, and problems are likely to occur in his state next month.

"Every election supervisor is on their own," he said. "We are all having to deal with the transition to new equipment as best we can manage."

Sancho created his own processes for e-voting in general and security in particular for Leon County, which, like the rest of Florida, uses a blend of older and newer technologies. ...

Douglas Jones, an e-voting expert and a professor in the University of Iowa's computer science department, urged poll workers to keep an eye out for potential technical problems.