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New GAO Report Confirms Serious Security Problems with Electronic Voting Systems PDF  | Print |  Email
By VoteTrustUSA   
October 21, 2005
"[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

A newly released report on the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems, issued by the Government Accountability Office, confirms the seriousness of problems reported by members of the Election Integrity Community since 2002. 

Voting System Vulnerabilities Confirmed by the GAO include:

•Cast ballots, ballot definition files, memory cards, and audit logs could be modified.
•Supervisor functions were protected with weak or easily guessed passwords, and memory cards that allowed individuals access to voting machines were inadequately protected.
•Systems had easily picked locks and power switches that were exposed and unprotected.
•Voting machine vendors had weak security practices, including the failure to conduct background checks on programmers and system developers, and the failure to establish clear chain of custody procedures for handling software.

In a rare, bi-partisan press release on the report,  the Chairmen and Ranking Members  of the House Government Affairs, Judiciary and Science and Technology Committees, commented: 

'The Foundation of Democracy Rests Upon Security, Integrity of our Voting System."  "[T]here is a lack of transparency and accountability in electronic voting systems."  "I fear that this may just be the tip of the iceberg"

The 107 GAO report was created in response to a request by several members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Report Documents Machine Failures

The joint, bi-partisan press release noted:  "In addition to identifying potential vulnerabilities, GAO identified a number of cases of operational failures in real elections. These examples included:

•In California, a county presented voters with an incorrect electronic ballot, meaning they could not vote in certain races.
•In Pennsylvania, a county made a ballot error on an electronic voting system that resulted in the county’s undervote percentage reaching 80% in some precincts.
•In North Carolina, electronic voting machines continued to accept votes after their memories were full, causing over 4,000 votes to be lost.
•In Florida, a county reported that touch screens took up to an hour to activate and had to be activated sequentially, resulting in long delays.

Problems With Implementation of Voluntary Standards, Testing, and Federal Efforts to Improve Voting System Security

GAO reported that voluntary standards for electronic voting adopted in 2002 by the Federal Election Commission contain vague and incomplete security provisions, inadequate provisions for commercial products and networks, and inadequate documentation requirements. GAO also found that tests currently performed by independent testing authorities and state and local election officials do not adequately assess electronic voting system security and reliability

The GAO report indicated that national initiatives to improve voting system security and reliability of electronic voting systems either lack specific plans for implementation or are not expected to be completed until after the 2006 election. According to GAO, “Until these efforts are completed, there is a risk that many state and local jurisdictions will rely on voting systems that were not developed, acquired, testing, operated, or managed in accordance with rigorous security and reliability standards — potentially affecting the reliability of future elections and voter confidence in the accuracy of the vote count”

The 107 page GAO report is available here.

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