- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — Armed with a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Johns Hopkins University has announced a new center to study the reliability of electronic voting machines.

The center’s goal is to design the most foolproof, transparent voting system possible, officials said.

“I don’t think with today’s technology we can have a voting system that is fully electronic that can be trusted,” said Avi Rubin, a computer-science professor at Hopkins and longtime critic of the state’s electronic voting machines.

Mr. Rubin, who will head the center, told the Baltimore Sun that he hopes to provide information in time for the 2008 presidential contest, but the research work will take longer.

The center will be called Accurate, an acronym for A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections.

The money will be divided among six institutions, bringing researchers with a range of specialties, including human behavior, into the mix.

In 2003, Mr. Rubin co-wrote a report with two graduate students that delayed a $55 million state purchase of machines from Diebold Elections Systems of Texas.

The report — which found that the Diebold machines were vulnerable to hackers, multiple votes and vote-switching — drew national attention and made Mr. Rubin a frequent TV guest.

Mr. Rubin and other critics said the machines were vulnerable to tampering and did not provide a paper trail to prove to voters that their votes were counted properly.

After extensive public debate, Maryland ultimately made the investment in Diebold, placing the company’s voting machines in nearly every precinct in the state.

The Hopkins grant is part of the National Science Foundation’s new $36 million commitment to support cyber-security research and explore ways to increase the dependability of computers.

The project, called the 2005 Cyber Trust program, also is sponsoring a center at the University of Illinois that will examine the best way to build and secure the next-generation electric power grid.

“These two centers represent opportunities to find solutions for urgent national problems,” said Carl Landwehr, coordinator of the Cyber Trust program.

Hopkins will receive $1.2 million over five years for the voting center. The rest of the grant will go to center participants at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Iowa, Rice University and SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research group in Menlo Park, Calif.

They will tackle a range of related issues, including the legal and public policy questions involved in making the transition to electronic voting.

During the 2004 election, 32 states used some type of computerized voting, according to the Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in San Francisco.

Verified Voting has tracked 1,700 complaints nationwide about electronic voting since the election, said Will Doherty, the group’s executive director.

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