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More from the e-voting front

Two more stories about e-voting machines were reported this week. The first is about a report from Princeton University that says an e-voting machine in New Jersey can be hacked in seven minutes.

In its report, the university says it is possible to hack the Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.00H DRE (direct-recording electronic) voting machine by loading fraudulent firmware.

Sequoia has responded to the Princeton study with a report of its own, rebutting many of the claims in the Princeton report.

Princeton’s report, which was conducted during the summer as part of a lawsuit in New Jersey, was allowed to be released just a couple weeks ago. The lateness of the report — and the examination of the e-voting systems — is because of the time it has taken a 2004 lawsuit against the state for using DRE machines to progress.

In 2004 a group of public-interest plaintiffs sued the State of New Jersey over the State’s use of DRE voting machines. The plaintiffs argued that the use of DRE voting machines is illegal and unconstitutional.

The case was dismissed in January 2005 by a trial court, but then appealed. While the appeal was pending, the state legislature passed — and the governor signed — a bill requiring that no later than January 1, 2008, any voting system in New Jersey must produce a voter-verified paper ballot.

In 2006 the Appellate Court reinstated the lawsuit and instructed the trial judge to monitor the progress of State election officials in meeting the legislature’s deadline. In 2008 the executive branch twice requested delays to the deadline and the legislature obliged.

Based on concern that the state would not meet the deadline, the lawsuit was allowed to continue and the judge ordered that the state provide to the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses the voting machines complete with their source code. The witnesses, who are authors of the Princeton report, examined the voting machines and their source code during July and August 2008 and delivered their report to the court on Sept. 2. A court order permitted them to make their findings available to the public 30 days later.

So, the state of New Jersey had four years to improve its e-voting systems and prevent a lawsuit, yet it did not. And now voters in that state once again are using machines that can be tampered with and don’t produce paper ballots — and once again face the possibility that their votes may not count.

E-voting problems in Finland
The other story being reported is that usability problems in Finland’s pilot e-voting system caused 2% of votes cast to be lost.

With that system, voters were required to insert a smart card to identify the voter, type their selected candidate number, press “OK”, check the candidate details on the screen and then press “OK” again. Some voters did not press “OK” a second time and instead removed their smart card prematurely, causing their ballots not to be cast.

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