- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

A federal panel yesterday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines whose results could be verified independently.

A committee of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) voted 6-6 not to adopt the recommendation by the agency’s staff.

The NIST staff warned in a report released last week that the paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.

Eight votes are required to pass a measure.

Members of a NIST advisory panel said that requiring voting systems that use paper or have independent audit trails could further strain state election officials who already have testing and security measures in place.

Congress created the panel after vote-counting problems in the 2000 presidential election to advise the federal Election Assistance Commission.

Some panel members worried that systems with audit trails could present problems of their own, including printer errors.

Others said it was not clear that voters who are blind or have other disabilities could use paper records.

A computer scientist on the panel warned his colleagues that software errors in the paperless machines could go undetected without a way of verifying the voting results.

That could lead to a scenario in which officials have “an election result that is wrong and you have no evidence to show that it’s wrong,” said Ronald Rivest, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The paperless machines essentially are laptop computers that allow voters to cast their ballots by touching a screen, and then tally the results. They are widely used across the country.

The NIST panel is drafting recommendations for the election commission, which then will issue its own set of recommendations to state voting boards.

Recommendations by the panel are not binding but are followed by many states.

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