State Plans Audit of Electronic Voting System

State Plans Audit of Electronic Voting System

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- State elections officials will convene an audit committee to evaluate votes cast on Utah's ATM-style voting machines to be used in November's general election.

The audit will ensure the accuracy and security of electronic voting, said Joe Demma, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.

A recent report said electronic voting machines are vulnerable if no audit system exists.

"As long as we're in this office, we want to do everything we can to ensure the security of the vote," Demma said.

Audit procedures have yet to be determined, but are likely to be conducted administratively though the state elections office.

The scope of the audit will depend heavily on its associated costs. No money is currently appropriated in the state budget for an audit, although Demma said it's likely funds for audits in future elections could be sought from the Legislature next year.

There's also talk about whether legislation should be passed requiring audits, Demma said. But since electronic voting machines are so new, audit procedures are still being developed, which makes crafting specific language for legislation difficult.

"We don't know what will work and what won't work," he said. "But we hope to use this one go-around to determine some of the better methods."

Audits protect against fraud and malfunctions. Without them, even machines with paper receipts, like those used in Utah, are vulnerable, a report released last week from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School said.

Lawrence Norden, associate counsel for the Brennan Center and chair of the task force that put together the study, said audits need to be "random and transparent" and happen as quickly as possible after an election to be effective.

The more random the audit, the better the test of election security, said David Dill, founder of Verified Voting and a computer science professor at Stanford University.

An ideal audit would randomly select about 1 percent of machines used statewide, he said. Most states only select machines from random precincts.

Dill also cautions state officials against conducting audits simply to prove they're not necessary.

"It's a very good thing to try different audit measures out, but it has to be done with a good-faith effort. If you want to prove that audits are too expensive or unnecessary, then that's probably the result you can find," Dill said.


Information from: The Deseret News,

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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