E-Vote Firms on the Defensive

Bad press sparks new PR campaign


| October 23, 2003


Manufacturers of electronic touch-screen voting machines, stung by criticism from activists and a string of bad publicity from a study exposing security flaws, are considering a major PR effort to convince voters their products are safe. As Kim Zetter reports in Wired News, a study published in August by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities exposed serious technical flaws in the leading e-voting system, manufactured by Diebold Election Systems.

In response, notes Zetter, Diebold and several other voting machine manufacturers are working with a strategic lobbying firm on a media campaign to 'generate positive public perception' of the companies and to 'reduce substantially the level and amount of criticism from computer scientists and other security experts about the fallibility of electronic voting systems.'

David Dill, a voting expert on the computer science faculty at Stanford, is not impressed. 'The voting machine industry doesn't have a PR problem,' he told Zetter. 'It has a technology problem. It is impossible to determine whether their machines, in their current form, can be trusted with our elections.' Dill's website, VerifiedVoting.org, calls for voting machines to print out a paper receipt for each voter. That way there is a verifiable paper trail in the event an election is challenged or must be recounted.

According to industry insiders, some voting machine makers are even considering dropping their long-standing opposition to the printed receipts, to mollify state election officials' concerns and improve their shot at the $500 million Congress approved last year for modernizing election systems across the country.
-- Leif Utne

Go there>> E-Vote Firms Seek Voter Approval

RELATED: Truthout's William Rivers Pitt recently sat down for several hours with three of the top computer scientists critical of touch-screen voting machines, David Dill, Rebecca Mercuri, and Barbara Simons. For a detailed primer on the ins and outs of the problems with e-voting machines, read their interview.
Go there>>Electronic Voting: What You Need To Know