EFF Applauds Commission Recommendations But Opposes National ID Card Endorsement

Washington, DC - The Carter-Baker Commission, formally known as the Commission on Federal Election Reform, released on Monday an extensive report about the country's electoral health, along with a wide range of suggested reforms. Most of the Commission's recommendations should cheer those concerned about the security of electronic voting.

Named after the co-chairs, Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, the Carter-Baker Commission reported that there is an urgent need for the nation to increase transparency in voting processes and to institute robust security measures. It found that the lack of transparency and robust security is undermining public confidence that votes are being accurately recorded.

Among other recommendations, the Commission suggested:

* All voting machines should be equipped with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail and be fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

* Election officials should publicly test all voting equipment before, during, and after Election Day.

* Election officials should permit public observation of the machine certification process.

* Voting machine manufacturers that are unwilling to submit their machines' computer code for Election Assistance Commission testing and review by independent experts should be prohibited from selling their voting machines.

* Election officials should verify upon delivery of a voting machine that the system matches the system that was certified.

"The Commission joins a growing chorus of concerned groups and citizens urging that electronic voting technology and related procedures be overhauled," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "This high-level, bipartisan panel confirmed that e-voting has introduced an unacceptable amount of uncertainty into voting, which should be the most trusted task performed by government. Congress and the states need to move quickly to ensure that another election doesn't go by with the same systemic flaws. Luckily, on the federal level, HR 550 could help us reach some of those goals by mandating a voter-verified paper trail and mandatory audits."

Zimmerman noted that while most of the Commission's recommendations were on-the-mark, others -- such as permitting states to decide for themselves whether paper or electronic ballots would rule in the event of disparities -- didn't go far enough.

EFF strongly opposes the Commission's privacy-invasive recommendations regarding voter identification, however. The report suggests that voters should be required to present the National ID card mandated by the recently passed Real ID Act at the voting booth.

"Tying voter ID requirements to the REAL ID Act is bad for voting and for privacy," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "There's scant evidence that inadequate voter ID is a factor in election fraud. And the Commission admits to concerns that voter ID requirements could disenfranchise eligible voters, adversely affect minorities, or be used to monitor voting behaviors are 'serious and legitimate.' Moreover, the REAL ID Act turns drivers' licenses into de facto national IDs by forcing states to link their DMV databases so that drivers' personal data will instantly be available to a wide range of state, local, and federal officials. Once created, history has shown that law enforcement, employers, landlords, credit agencies, mortgage brokers, and direct mailers will find a way to access, and in all likelihood abuse, those databases."

More on e-voting.


Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Lee Tien
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation