US e-voting proposal draws mixed reactions

Electronic voting machines will receive some of the $3.9bn funding President George W Bush has allocated for the replacement of...

Electronic voting machines will receive some of the $3.9bn funding President George W Bush has allocated for the replacement of outdated lever and punchcard voting machines across the US.

But despite the furore in Florida surrounding the presidential election in 2000, where cards were not properly punched, some claim that e-systems would make it easier for corrupt election officials or hackers to skew election results.

Unlike paper-ballot systems, it is impossible to verify that a vote cast electronically is recorded properly. Votes displayed correctly on screen could easily be recorded incorrectly within the system or not recorded at all, argued Peter Neumann, principal scientist at SRI International, a nonprofit research institute.

Researchers have been looking into potential solutions to the problem, like an electronic system that would print out a paper copy of each voter's ballot after submission.

Voting technology experts insisted e-voting is quite secure.

"These systems are very reliable. They're tested extensively, and they're not allowed into use until their reliability and accuracy have been demonstrated," says Brit Williams, professor emeritus of computer science and information systems at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

While computer systems are vulnerable to tampering, Williams said that absentee paper ballot scams or tried-and-true vote-buying schemes would be much easier to pull off than the vast conspiracy required to manipulate an e-voting machine.

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