Saturday, December 02, 2006

"E"-Voting? Nope

The Nat'l Institutes of Standards and Technology has released its conclusions on voting machine upgrades, and to no one's surprise (except certain States like Texas) NIST has recommended that "pure E-voting" is not a good idea.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says the U.S. government should decertify "direct-record electronic" machines that are not "software independent," according to a draft report (PDF).

Direct-record electronic, or DRE, systems, NIST said, "in practical terms cannot be made secure" in their current form because the results can not be independently verified. The report stresses the necessity of "software-independent" systems for verifying votes.

Instead of DRE machines, NIST recommends optical-scan machines and DRE machines with voter-verified paper audit trail systems, or DRE-VVPAT systems.

Optical-scan machines require voters to mark paper ballots that can be quickly scanned to be counted, but also saved for a recount. They work in the same way as Scantron or SAT tests, with people filling in circles with a pen or pencil.

DRE-VVPAT machines offer voters a touch screen to vote on, followed by a printout of how they voted. Voters then verify the printout's accuracy before finalizing their vote, and that paper record can be used in a recount.

It's reassuring to note that the concept of "audit trail" remains valid.

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