Voter Action Press Release
Groups Renew Call For Paper Ballots in the PrimariesJan 21 2008 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In the wake of problems with touch screen voting machines in South Carolina's Republican Presidential primary, a coalition of civic organizations from nine states has renewed calls for the Presidential candidates to request paper ballots in all remaining primary elections. On Saturday, some voters in Horry County, SC were turned away from the polls because machines throughout the county would not activate.
“If they were using paper ballots and optical scanners in the first place, voters would have not experienced the slightest inconvenience,” said Joyce McCloy, founder of the North Carolina Coaltion for Verified Voting.
Since 2004, more than half the states passed requirements for auditable voting systems. Many are moving toward a paper ballot and optical scan system, in which voters mark a paper ballot by hand or by using an assistive device for voters with disabilities. The paper ballot is then read by an optical scanning machine, and can be recounted by hand.
“But the worst problem with South Carolina's touch screens is what you can't see,” said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity. The machine used in the state, the ES&S iVotronic, lacks a voter-verifiable paper trail and has been severely criticized by computer scientists for security vulnerabilities. Last month, an expert report commissioned by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner found, among other grave weaknesses, that the iVotronic could be manipulated by a person with a magnet and a personal digital assistant.
In the wake of the Ohio report, Edward Felten, head of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, wrote that the iVotronic is “too risky to use” in elections (see letter). Ohio is moving to scrap the iVotronic, and Colorado decertified the machine last month. “Even worse, it is common for machines to be sent home with pollworkers days before the election,” said Flaherty. This practice risks the security of the election, because many of the security weaknesses found by computer scientists can be exploited with only brief access to the machine, and one corrupt machine can corrupt the results in an entire county.
The primaries following South Carolina are of no less concern. Six of the states that will vote on “tsunami Tuesday” February 5 use paperless e-voting machines either as the statewide system or as the system used in many counties. The machines used in these states, made by several vendors, have all been found by computer scientists to be hackable in ways that would be very difficult to detect (see letter and fact sheet, “Paperless Primary States”).
““Voters must still turn out to vote, because the one way to be sure your vote doesn’t count is not to show up. But they should insist that their state take immediate steps to shift to paper ballots, which can be audited. There is, unfortunately, no basis for confidence in the results of elections that use these paperless machines,” said Flaherty.