New AAAS report cites 'serious concerns' with electronic voting


WASHINGTON DC -- Just days before a closely contested presidential election, AAAS has released a final report on the state of electronic voting systems and the need for extensive research to define problems and possible solutions. "Making Each Vote Count: A Research Agenda For Electronic Voting" is the result of a workshop that brought technical and cyber-security experts, election officials, social and behavioral scientists and other to AAAS for two days in September.

The panel of experts concluded that research into new voting technology and the behavior of voters, election officials and poll workers will be essential to reforms that ensure maximum voter participation, trust and confidence while guaranteeing privacy and the integrity of the results. Experts on election technology warned that the American system of voting is broadly vulnerable to error and abuse, and called for a crash-course of study and reform to make results more reliable and to promote better access by voters, especially those who have historically encountered serious impediments to exercising their right to vote. The research -- and the reforms -- will become increasingly important as the United States considers moving toward an Internet-based voting system, the panelists said.

"In some instances, voting, and all of the procedures associated with it, have proceeded without a hitch," the report says. "In other cases, there have been accusations of tampering and fraud, and litigation challenging the accuracy and reliability of the voting systems used. Serious concerns remain about the design, use, and impact of electronic voting methods, even as we move inexorably toward the November 2004 general election."

AAAS's Science and Policy as well as Education and Human Resources staff organized the workshop, with funding from the National Science Foundation, to develop a research agenda on electronic voting technology amid growing concerns about the electoral system's integrity. While pointing out that problems can arise with any form of casting votes, the panelists noted that new touch-screen computer technology has come under sustained attack because most such systems leave no paper trail to verify the final count. An interim report was released last month.

Reflecting the breadth of the issue, participants in the workshop included social and behavioral scientists, experts in cybersecurity and voting machines, representatives of public interest groups, and workers in the trenches -- the election officials who actually oversee the whole voting process. Since any practical research agenda will require funding, the two-day session also included representatives of government and nonprofit funding agencies as observers.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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