- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Computer savvy voters could sabotage elections by casting “as many ballots as they want” during a single trip to the voting booth, critics of new touch-screen voting technology warned yesterday.

“We found that a normal voter could walk into a polling place and cast as many votes as they want,” said Dan Wallach, a Rice University computer scientist.

“Anybody could make changes to the election tabulation system and there would be no evidence of the tampering,” Mr. Wallach said.

The comments by Mr. Wallach came during a press conference by the activist group True Majority yesterday in the District. True Majority announced that it had raised more than $100,000 to support a nationwide campaign to convince state officials that computer voting systems must include a backup paper trail, similar to receipts.

Mr. Wallach said he tested voting systems manufactured by Diebold Election System Inc., an Ohio-based firm, which supplies the machines currently in use in Maryland.

He co-authored a study released in July 2003 that found “common voters without any insider privileges can cast unlimited votes without being detected.”

The study authors said if a single computer could be stolen, then it also could be disassembled to determine its code.

“An attacker who was able to compromise a single voting device would have access to the keys for all other voting devices running the same software,” according to the study authors.

Critics of Diebold and other touch-screen voting manufacturers say for security the machines should be able to print out ballots in the event of tampering or a computer malfunction.

Secretaries of state for Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire spoke in favor of the initiative during yesterday’s event.

“You don’t have the security right now,” said Bill Gardner, secretary of state in New Hampshire. “We need to have confidence in our elections.”

Officials from Diebold, which holds a $55.6 million contract to supply Maryland with touch-screen technology, disagreed with critics yesterday.

“Electronic voting is safe, secure and accurate,” said David Bear, spokesman for the company.

Diebold officials said the study by Mr. Wallach and his colleagues at Rice University was flawed because of inadequate research, false technical assumptions and “lack of presentation and/or understanding of the full electoral process.”

In a written rebuttal to the report, the company said votes were safe from tampering. “The election data is stored on memory cards only … continuously controlled by local election officials,” the company report said.

A separate study commissioned by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services and released last month found the new voting technology contains “considerable security risks” yet is still “worthy of voter trust.”

Consultants from Columbia-based RABA Technologies recommended that machines be protected with security tape giving each device a separate security code.

“The security issues have been addressed,” Mr. Bear said, responding to the RABA study. “There has never been an instance in which an election has been compromised because of electronic voting.”

Critics disagree: “That’s pure nonsense,” said Delegate Karen Montgomery, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County. “We have problems in this system.”

Mrs. Montgomery has introduced legislation that would require the state’s voting systems to produce a paper printout. She said an amendment under consideration would set a deadline of 2006.

“I have found that Diebold doesn’t have as much under control as they say they do,” Mrs. Montgomery said. “Every once in a while, the little blinking lights will do what they want to do.”

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