Are voting machines vulnerable to political manipulation? Can they change the outcome of the election?
Voting machines are vulnerable to political manipulation in the 2008 election as long as there are ways the machines can be tampered. In past elections, voting machines have confused voters and have posed serious security concerns, resulting in a real danger to the integrity of both local and national elections. A study by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice lists more than 120 security threats affecting U.S. electronic voting machines. While there have not been any documented cases of voting machines being hacked, the study says the risks of glitches, political manipulation and fraud are severe enough to warrant countermeasures and improvements to voting-machine technology for the 2008 presidential election. In fact, 35 states use some sort of voter-verifiable paper record with their voting systems statewide. Another four states have laws on the books requiring voter-verifiable paper, but will not have the requirements in place for the Presidential primaries. Among the four states, Florida and New Jersey have committed to deploying their requirements in time for the general election of 2008. Yet, even electronic systems that use voter-verified paper records are subject to attacks unless they are regularly audited, according to a recent Brennan Center report. Congress is currently considering a bipartisan bill that would require all touch-screen voting machines in the 2008 general elections to produce a paper record of each vote. However, the widespread adoption of paper trails does not resolve all of the problems the Brennan Center identified in its report. In fact it says there is a long way to go until security issues with electronic voting in the United States are solved.
In the News
Maryland Disses Diebold (Jan 21, 2008)Maryland is the latest state to abandon touch-screen voting machines in favor of paper ballots read by optical scanners. Election reform advocates have opposed the use of touch-screen machines, made by Diebold, because they don't permit a manual recount.
Watch Down for the Count, our full report on voting machines and their makers, and Read more "State Election News" in our Democracy Toolkit
MORE FROM NOW
Interview: Deforest Soaries on the Politics of Voting
Brennan Center for Justice: The Machinery of Democracy: Voting System Security, Accessibility, Usability, and Cost
Brennan Center for Justice: Restoring Trust in Elections
Project E V E R E S T: Evaluation and Validation of Election Related Equipment, Standards and Testing
The New York Times: Can you count on voting machines?