For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 26, 2003

Flawed E-Voting Standard Sent Back to Drawing Board

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Victory for Fair Elections

Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today applauded a technical working group for heeding critics who called for rejection of a flawed electronic voting standard proposal that failed to require adequate security measures.

The working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) drafted the electronic voting standard in an environment plagued by a lack of consensus, procedural misconduct, and serious security oversights.

EFF last week called on IEEE members and other citizens to voice their concerns about the standard. Nearly five hundred people wrote to IEEE leadership pointing out flaws in the draft standard. On September 22, the first working group ballot on the draft failed overwhelmingly, causing the simultaneous ballot at the sponsor level to fail as well.

"Defeat of the initial flawed IEEE electronic voting standard is a victory for IEEE's democratic process," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We are glad that the majority of the IEEE working group recognizes the serious problems with this current electronic voting standard proposal and hope that the working group will now fix the standard to reflect current security norms."

Critics pointed out that one of the most glaring problems with the draft was its failure to require, or even recommend a mechanism to allow a true manual recount or auditing of votes. Some voting machine companies already offer one such mechanism, known as a voter-verifiable paper audit trail. These machines produce a paper ballot for each voter and allow voters to see a summary of their votes to confirm that election officials are recording their votes accurately.

Florida's Broward County - one site of the infamous hanging, dimpled, and pregnant chads - announced on September 24, 2003, that it will consider adding the audit capability to its new $17 million dollar voting system due to concerns about potentially undetectable election fraud.

"The American public deserves voting technology that we can trust," said EFF Activist Ren Bucholz. "Today, that means requiring a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, or its equivalent, in all electronic voting systems."

This week, the Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) released a report that confirmed earlier concerns about Maryland's Diebold voting system. Maryland officials hired the private security firm in response to a July 2003 report critical of the Diebold system by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Rice University. The SAIC report generally reinforced and expanded upon the security flaws discovered by the university researchers, concluding that the Diebold voting system was "at a high risk of compromise."

The IEEE standard will now go back to its drafting committee, Project 1583, which holds its next meeting in Austin, Texas, in October. Once finalized, the U.S. and other governments worldwide will likely adopt the IEEE electronic voting standard, since IEEE sits on a technical advisory board established by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

EFF has renewed its call for interested scientists to participate in the IEEE processes.

Links:

Contact:

Cindy Cohn
  Legal Director
  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  cindy@eff.org

Ren Bucholz
  Activist
  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  ren@eff.org

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/