- SAN JOSE (AP) -- Electronic
voting has made its debut in the US as election officials beefed up security
for the record number of voters expected to cast E-ballots for the first
- Scattered technical problems were reported in the early
hours as voters in 10 states, including California, New York and Ohio,
went to the Super Tuesday polls to choose a Democratic presidential nominee
and decide primary contests for congressional and state races.
- Advocates of electronic voting say paperless ballots
save money and eliminate problems common to old systems. But the technology
brings a new breed of security concerns, like software errors and hackers
that could make the results unreliable.
- In California, new security measures range from random
tests of touch-screen machines by independent computer experts to a recommendation
that poll workers prevent voters from carrying mobile phones or other wireless
devices into booths.
- Overall, some 10 million people in at least two dozen
states were expected to cast ballots in primaries this year on machines
built by Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, Electronic Systems & Software
and other vendors.
- And the electronic voting trend is accelerating: In November's
presidential election, at least 50 million people will vote on touch-screens,
compared with 55 million using paper, punch cards or lever machines, according
to Washington-based Election Data Services.
- One Maryland polling place had to switch to paper ballots
on Tuesday because its new electronic voting machines didn't work. State
elections supervisor Linda Lamone said technicians expected to have the
problem fixed quickly.
- Voters also had to start out using paper ballots in Georgia's
Effingham County. Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Secretary of State Cathy
Cox, said county officials apparently forgot to program the encoders -
devices used to tell ballot access cards, which voters insert into the
machines, what ballot to display.
- A security issue also arose in Georgia.
- Georgia Tech student Peter Sahlstrom said he found 10
Diebold terminals sitting unprotected in the lobby of the school's student
centre Monday. Mr Sahlstrom photographed the machines in their unlocked
- "Frankly, this makes me nervous and ... it validates
a lot of the concerns I already had," he said.
- The paperless ballots eliminate problems like hanging
chads and make it impossible to accidentally vote twice for one position.
The machines also can toggle between different languages for people who
don't speak English.
- "The modernisation of the nation's voting infrastructure
is long overdue," said Alfie Charles, spokesman for Oakland-based
Sequoia, which built the machines being used by as many as 4 million voters
in California and Maryland.
- But computer scientists have been protesting the switch.
They're particularly concerned that few of the computers provide paper
records, making it nearly impossible to have meaningful recounts, or to
prove that vote tampering hasn't occurred.
- Politicians, voter-rights advocates and even some secretaries
of state have acknowledged that the systems could theoretically fail -
with catastrophic consequences.
- In several software and hardware tests, critics have
shown it's easy to jam microchip-embedded smart cards into machines, or
alter and delete some votes - in some cases simply by ripping out wires.
They've cracked passwords to gain access to computer servers and showed
that some systems relying on Microsoft Windows lacked up-to-date security
patches that should have been downloaded from the internet.
- California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley directed
elections officials last month to bolster security in 12 counties using
touch-screens. Those counties account for about 41 per cent of California's
registered voters. Shelley also wants independent, random tests of touch-screen
- Maryland, which spent $US55.6 million on 16,000 touch-screen
computers earlier this year, also took precautions.
- Computer experts told Maryland lawmakers in January that
the hardware contained "vulnerabilities that could be exploited by
malicious individuals." Among their surprises: all of Maryland's machines
had two identical locks, which could be opened by any one of 32,000 keys
or be easily picked.
- Copyright 2004 News Limited.