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Voting Machine Standard Generates Controversy

September 13, 2003

Voting Machine Standard Generates Controversy

Electronic Frontier Foundation Advocates Secure Elections

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
today urged a technical association to stop balloting on a
flawed proposal for an electronic voting machine standard.

EFF invited concerned parties to write letters to the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
(IEEE), requesting an electronic voting machine standard
that requires secure, voter-verifiable election equipment
and technologies that support open democratic principles of

"The IEEE voting equipment standard could impact
dramatically the future of democratic systems in the U.S.
and around the world," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.
"We urge the IEEE to take the measures necessary to rework
the standard currently under consideration so that it
includes benchmarks for secure voter-verifiable election
equipment and addresses additional criticisms from the
security community."

In the aftermath of the Florida election debacle, the IEEE
took up the question of standards for voting equipment,
creating a working group, called Project 1583, overseen by a
Standards Coordinating Committee known as SCC 38. Once
finalized, the U.S. and other governments worldwide will
likely adopt the IEEE voting equipment standard, especially
since IEEE sits on a technical advisory board established
by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Members of the security community report that the current
standard is flawed. P1583 is largely a design standard,
describing how to configure current electronic voting
machines, instead of a performance standard setting
benchmarks and processes for testing the security,
reliability, accessibility, and accuracy of these machines.

For example, the standard fails to require or even recommend
voting machine designs that permit voters to verify their
votes. One such method that is already available from
multiple election machine companies is a provision that the
machines produce a paper ballot for each voter that allows a
voter to see a summary of her votes to confirm them.
Agencies administering elections can then store paper ballots
separately so they are available for audits in the case of
dispute or for a recount.

EFF is also responding to reports of serious procedural
problems with the Working Group P1583 and SCC 38 Committee
processes, including shifting roadblocks placed in front of
those who wish to participate and vote, and failure to
follow basic procedural requirements like giving sufficient
notice of meetings and deadlines, publishing agendas and
minutes, and circulating current versions of the standard
itself and the comments of others in a timely manner. Some
participants claim that representatives of the electronic
voting machine vendor companies and others with vested
interests control the working group and committee



Cindy Cohn
  Legal Director

  Electronic Frontier Foundation

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