Trusting the e-vote

An electronic voting machine is setup for Miami voters to learn from before casting their ballots during early voting August 21, 2006.

KAI RYSSDAL: Billions of federal dollars have been spent upgrading state election systems the past couple of years. The Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002. But with the '06 mid-terms just weeks away, it might be a day late and a dollar short. From North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin reports.


JANET BABIN: Thirty-ninen states will count ballots with electronic voting machines this year, but at least 10 percent of them don't have paper trails that voters can see. They've also experienced technical problems. That's led many to question the reliability of the machines.

But U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Paul DeGregorio says people can have complete confidence in the system no matter where they vote, because under federal law:
PAUL DEGREGORIO:"The devices still keep an audit of everything that happens with the electronic voting system."

But the systems may still be vulnerable to undetectable fraud. Avi Rubin wrote "Brave New Ballot." The book outlines security problems he found in Diebold voting machine software in 2003. While manufacturers have made changes since then, Rubin still expects the upcoming election to be fraught with glitches:

AVI RUBIN:"I think we're likely to have more problems than we did in 2004, just from the sheer number of places that are using electronic voting that have never used them before."

Many cities are even hiring college students to troubleshoot the machines. Cleveland area election official Jane Platten says she recruited college and high school kids as tech support for Election Day:

JANE PLATTEN:"They tend to have had significant experience with ATM machines and their home computers, and it's a natural fit that they would then be able to deal with anything that might come up with the electronic voting device."

The voting machines are expected to get quite a workout this November. Turnout in Cleveland is expected to be as high as 50 percent.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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