The Post-Standard

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Those pesky voting machines


Fasten your seat belts: Counting the votes in the presidential election of 2008 is likely to be another bumpy ride, as it was in 2004 and 2000. It might be less bumpy in New York state, but that's no reason to cheer.


Last week Debra Bowen, the elections chief in California, "decertified" the state's new, touch-screen computer voting machines - then "recertified" them hours later, after attaching strict new security requirements.


At Bowen's request, researchers tried to hack into the computers and succeeded with all three major models, gaining the capacity to alter the vote outcome.


Company representatives complained the researchers had access to software, manuals and passwords, so it wasn't a fair test. But you don't to be a conspiracy junkie to imagine insiders of the opposite party getting the same access and wreaking havoc.


Now voting officials in California must adopt tighter controls.


Problems with the touch-screen systems are widespread. Florida, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey have abandoned their investments and switched to the more verifiable, optical-scan machines.


New York is the last state out of compliance with new federal rules - the result of indecision, incompetence, abdication and genuine difference of opinion. As problems with computer voting proliferated nationwide, Congress relaxed its deadlines, so New York can continue to use its lever machines for a while without jeopardizing federal assistance to upgrade voting systems.


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