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Agency critical of paperless e-voting

December 01, 2006|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Paperless electronic voting machines used across much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The assessment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the government's premier research centers, is the most sweeping condemnation of such voting systems by a federal agency.

In a report hailed by critics of electronic voting, the agency said that voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine's software. The recommendations endorse "optical-scan" systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts.

The recommendations are to be debated next week before the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, charged by Congress to develop standards for voting systems. To become effective, the recommendations must then be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission, which was created by Congress to promote changes after the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida.

If the commission agrees, the practical impact may not be felt until 2009 or 2010, the soonest that new standards would be implemented.

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