Executive Summary

BACKGROUND

Electronic voting is controversial today. Many election officials look to electronic voting systems as a means for improving their ability to conduct and administer elections more efficiently. At the same time, many information technologists and activists have raised important concerns regarding the security of such systems. Social scientists have studied election issues for many years and have identified a host of issues that have significant impact on the conduct of elections. Policy makers are caught in the midst of a controversy with both political and technological overtones.

Given this backdrop, the National Research Council (NRC) sought to examine this issue from the ground up—that is, from a broader perspective than simply addressing the most salient points in the public debate. A first meaningful step in such an examination should be the articulation of important questions and issues that election officials, policy makers, and informed citizens should ask concerning the use of computers and information technology (IT) in the electoral process. In addition, the NRC’s Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting reached a number of conclusions that help clarify the nature of the debate over electronic voting systems and provide a framework for putting these questions into perspective.



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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting Executive Summary BACKGROUND Electronic voting is controversial today. Many election officials look to electronic voting systems as a means for improving their ability to conduct and administer elections more efficiently. At the same time, many information technologists and activists have raised important concerns regarding the security of such systems. Social scientists have studied election issues for many years and have identified a host of issues that have significant impact on the conduct of elections. Policy makers are caught in the midst of a controversy with both political and technological overtones. Given this backdrop, the National Research Council (NRC) sought to examine this issue from the ground up—that is, from a broader perspective than simply addressing the most salient points in the public debate. A first meaningful step in such an examination should be the articulation of important questions and issues that election officials, policy makers, and informed citizens should ask concerning the use of computers and information technology (IT) in the electoral process. In addition, the NRC’s Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting reached a number of conclusions that help clarify the nature of the debate over electronic voting systems and provide a framework for putting these questions into perspective.

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting FINDINGS The committee found that electronic voting systems offer potential for voting and election management that is an improvement over what has thus far been available. However, the realization of this potential requires a commitment to this path by the nation, the states, and local jurisdictions that is not yet evident. Taking this path will require, among other things, research, funding, educational efforts, and new standards and testing processes. A second important point, obvious yet often overlooked in the public debate, is that the introduction of electronic voting systems is intended to make elections better. That is, the desirability of electronic voting systems should be judged on the basis of whether their use will significantly improve the process of election administration. When new voting systems offer an opportunity to significantly improve at reasonable cost the process of election administration in multiple dimensions over what it is today—for example, to make election administration more efficient, less costly, more trustworthy and secure, and so on—it makes sense to consider their deployment. But merely marginal improvements are rarely if ever worth the cost of the disruption associated with introducing new systems. Third, judgments about the ultimate desirability and feasibility of electronic voting systems should not be limited to the features and flaws of the systems demonstrated to date. Today’s debate over electronic voting systems has been framed largely by examination of the electronic voting products of today. But technologies improve over time, and it is thus inappropriate to make strong generalizations about the systems of tomorrow based on inspection of the systems of today. At the same time, there are some technical realities that are exceedingly likely to persist over the long run. Conclusions based on such realities do have a staying power that conclusions based on today’s state of technology do not. Fourth, trusted election processes should be regarded as the gold standard of election administration, where a trusted election process is one that works, can be shown to have worked after the election has been held, can be shown to have not been manipulated and to have not led to a large number of mistaken or lost votes, and can be shown to reflect the intent of the voters. Trusted election processes increase the likelihood that elections will be regarded as fair, even by the losing side and even in a partisan political environment. Fifth, the committee believes that many parties have made important contributions to the public debate over electronic voting: Electronic voting skeptics have raised important questions about the security of electronic voting systems that should not be discouraged

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting or suppressed. Electronic voting systems, like all complex systems, are fallible and susceptible to deliberate or accidental compromise, and some kind of backup against the possibility of fraud or malfunction should be available if and when allegations of such occurrences arise. The paper trail may be a mechanism that can serve this function, but whether it is the only or most appropriate such mechanism has yet to be determined. Political scientists who have studied elections for many years have identified data whose collection would enable the public to judge the accuracy and usability of voting systems in use and the accuracy and reliability of the voter registration systems used by states, counties, and municipalities. Independent observers need relevant and reliable data in order to judge the adequacy of the systems in use, and election officials should be encouraged to acquire such data and to make it publicly available. Legislators in many states have publicly aired many important issues related to electronic voting. In so doing, they have placed a considerable amount of useful information on the public record, and they have successfully balanced a variety of concerns in some of their legislative efforts. At the same time, election officials are properly and appropriately concerned about many aspects of election administration, and they must balance a variety of considerations—including security, speed and accuracy of reporting election results, usability, affordability, voter turnout, and compliance with federal, state, and local election laws. It is entirely reasonable and understandable that they take an operational perspective, as might be expressed in the question, Will a particular electronic voting system help to significantly improve election administration and management with respect to all of those considerations? If they can in good conscience answer this question in the affirmative, acquisition of such a system is justifiable. SETTING THE STAGE Three threads combine to set the stage for the bulk of the work of the Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting. The first is the electoral process, which is complex and highly decentralized. The Constitution of the United States has given to the states the rights and responsibilities for conducting elections for more than 200 years, and 9,500 jurisdictions within the 50 states and the District of Columbia have developed a wide variety of election processes. Election administration in the United States at all levels costs an estimated $1 billion per year. The second thread is the need for public confidence in democratic

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting elections. A sine qua non for the legitimacy of democratic government is elections that are perceived to be fair by both winners and losers. Indeed, it is often said that the main purpose of election fairness is to convince the loser and his or her supporters that the election was lost fair and square—winners rarely complain about the fairness of an election. Certain aspects of the political environment today make it more difficult for certain elections to be perceived as fair. Bitter political campaigns and an evenly divided electorate are breeding grounds for postelection rancor, on the theory that even a small amount of deliberate fraud or accident or mishap or improperly followed procedure might have tipped the election the other way. Elected public officials such as governors and secretaries of state are usually associated with one party or another, and decisions that favor their own parties are often seen as partisan. The cost of some elections (primaries, in particular) exceeds $100 per vote received and has led some analysts to wonder if this high cost raises the incentives to cheat in an election. And, vendors of electronic voting systems have not always been seen as politically neutral. The third thread is voting technologies (i.e., technologies for casting and counting ballots). A variety of electronic voting systems have been proposed to improve election administration and to reduce the problems and errors associated with nonelectronic systems. In the public debate, the term “electronic voting system” has been used to refer to a computer-based voting station located in the polling place with which citizens interact directly to cast their ballots. (A voting station refers to a single unit, usually used in the polling place. An electronic voting system refers to the generic hardware and software involved.) But computer-based systems can and do support the electoral process in at least three other important ways: voter registration lists are maintained on computer-based databases, and vote tabulation and ballot definition are election-related tasks conducted on computer-based administrative systems. Electronic voting is appealing to election officials because it promises significant reductions in the logistical burdens of election administration. In addition, election officials believe that the level of expertise required to commit election fraud is much greater than when nonelectronic systems are used. If greater expertise is required, fewer people will be capable of perpetrating election fraud. From a usability perspective, electronic voting systems offer programmable user interfaces that provide a high degree of customization to voter needs or preferences (e.g., voters more comfortable in languages other than English, or voters with disabilities). For these reasons, it is likely that over the long run, electronic voting systems will supplant nonelectronic voting systems. But acknowledging this trend over the long run does not mean that acquisition of such systems should happen before important questions about these systems are resolved. It is in this spirit that the questions posed in this report are offered.

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR VOTER REGISTRATION Voter registration is affected by information technology, and yet the subject receives little attention in the public debate. Voter registration is the gatekeeping process that seeks to ensure that only those eligible to vote are indeed allowed to vote when they arrive at the polls to cast their votes. Voter registration is a complex process, and maintaining voter registration databases is highly dependent on information technology. Two primary technology-related tasks for voter registrars are to keep ineligible individuals off the registration lists and to make sure that eligible ones who are on the lists stay on the lists. These tasks arise because individuals identified as eligible voters may lose their eligibility to vote for a number of reasons (e.g., death) or their eligibility to vote in particular electoral contests (e.g., because of a change of address). Because lists of registered voters contain millions of entries, the removal of ineligible or improperly registered names from a voter registration list (purging) must be at least partially automated. That is, a computer is required to compare a large volume of information received from other sources (e.g., departments of vital statistics for death notices, law enforcement or corrections agencies for felony convictions, departments of tax collection or motor vehicles for recent addresses) against its own database of eligible voters to determine if a given individual continues to be eligible and properly registered. Any purging process is prone to two types of error. Some properly registered voters will be incorrectly identified as ineligible and thus improperly purged. Also, some ineligible voters will not be identified as such and thus will remain on the list. It is a fundamental reality that the rate of these errors cannot be driven to zero simultaneously. The more demanding the criteria for a match, the fewer the matches that will be made. Conversely, the less demanding the criteria, the greater the number of matches that will be made. The choice of criteria for determining similarity is thus an important policy decision, even though it looks like a purely technical decision. Questions About Voter Registration Systems 4-1. Are the relative priorities of election officials in the purging of voter registration databases acceptable (placing greater importance on preventing the improper purging of eligible voters or on purging all possible ineligible voters)? 4-2. What standards of accuracy should govern voter registration databases? 4-3. How well do voter registration databases perform?

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting 4-4. What is the impact on voter registration database maintenance of inaccuracies in secondary databases? 4-5. Will individuals purged from voter registration lists be notified in enough time so that they can correct any errors made, and will they be provided with an easy and convenient process for correcting mistakes or making appeals? 4-6. How can the public have confidence that software applications for voter registration are functioning appropriately? 4-7. How are privacy issues handled in a voter registration database? 4-8. How can technology be used to mitigate negative aspects of a voter’s experience on Election Day? 4-9. How should voter registration systems connect to electronic voting systems, if at all? INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR VOTING The main technology discussion of this report addresses two areas of particular significance: security and usability. Security Security issues in voting are among the most complex that arise in the development of secure systems for any application. Systems to manage financial transactions, for example, must also be highly secure, and much of the experience and knowledge needed to develop financial systems is directly applicable to electronic voting systems. But one key difference between financial and voting applications is the need to protect a voter’s right to a secret ballot. Developing an audit procedure (and the technology to support audits) is enormously more difficult when the transactions of an individual must not be traceable to that individual. A second important point is that election systems must declare a winner even when the margin of victory is minuscule. That is, when the vote is close, a very small number of votes can sway the election one way or another. Thus, in closely contested races, a person intent on committing election fraud must manipulate only a small number of votes in order to obtain the desired outcome—and small manipulations are intrinsically more difficult to detect than large ones are. Much of the public debate over electronic voting systems has been driven by computer scientists, for whom security is a particularly elusive goal. It is elusive because no reasonable amount of system testing can prove that a system is free of security vulnerabilities, and because would-be attackers are motivated to continuously explore a system for such vulnerabilities. When approaching any computer security problem, the

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting computer scientist’s perspective can be summarized as a worst-case perspective—if a vulnerability cannot be ruled out, it is necessarily of concern. Computer scientists are also concerned because the use of computers for voting purposes enables small numbers of individuals to practice fraud on a much larger scale than has been the case with nonelectronic systems. The perspective of the election officials is quite different. Election officials are responsible for the safety and security of an election, and as a rule, they accept that the burden of assurance properly rests on their shoulders. But even with traditional voting systems, vulnerabilities to the integrity of an election abound. The administrator is concerned with the integrity of the election from the point of voter registration to the moment of winner certification. Within that entire process, there are many opportunities for something to go wrong—both deliberately and accidentally—that can potentially affect election outcomes. Election officials do not have the resources to deal with all problems or vulnerabilities, and they necessarily leave some unaddressed. Within the constraints of their limited resources, they tend to address problems as they become known (that is, as they are shown to affect actual elections), and so the election official’s perspective is one of seeking incremental improvements in existing systems or to existing procedures. Consider how these different perspectives play out in the consideration of election fraud. Election fraud, or the appearance of fraud or impropriety, can undermine public confidence in elections. But whereas computer scientists will presume that a vulnerability is significant until shown otherwise, election officials are willing to presume that the integrity of an election has not been breached until some evidence is produced to the contrary. This difference in perspective largely accounts for the tendency of some election officials to blame electronic voting skeptics for scaring the public about security issues, and for the tendency of some computer scientists to say that election officials have their heads in the sand. Questions About Security 4-10. To what extent and in what ways has a realistic risk analysis been part of the acquisition process? 4-11. How adversarial has the security assessment process been? 4-12. How has the system’s ability to protect ballot secrecy been assessed? 4-13. How is the security of voting stations maintained to ensure that no difficult-to-detect tampering can occur between receipt from the vendor and use in the election?

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting 4-14. What steps have been taken (either technically or procedurally) to limit the damage an attacker might be able to inflict? 4-15. How can election officials be sure that the voting systems in use on Election Day are in fact running the software that was qualified/certified? 4-16. What information must be collected on Election Day (and in what formats) to ensure that subsequent audits, recounts, or forensic analysis can take place if they are necessary? 4-17. How are anomalous incidents with voting systems reported and documented? 4-18. What is the role of parallel testing? 4-19. What physical security provisions will be put into place at polling places after the voting stations have been delivered but before the polls open? 4-20. What physical security provisions will be put into place immediately before the polls open and immediately after the polls close? 4-21. What physical security provisions will be put into place at polling places while the polls are open? 4-22. How are the results from polling stations communicated to the central tabulation authority? 4-23. How does the central tabulation authority aggregate vote totals? 4-24. What physical security provisions will be put into place at the central tabulation authority? 4-25. What roles can postelection auditing and investigation routinely play to increase the likelihood that fraud or other problems will be detected? Usability and Human Factors Engineering All voting systems face the usability problems of accurately capturing the voter’s intent in casting a ballot and being easy for voters to use, and there are numerous challenges with regard to the behavior of human users. Indeed, the importance of usability was highlighted by the infamous butterfly ballot in the 2000 presidential election in Palm Beach County, Florida, which allegedly confused many voters into casting a ballot that was contrary to their intent. Electronic voting promises many advantages from a usability standpoint, but there is no single best way to capture voter intent. Consequently, different vendors and different election officials can legitimately and ethically make different decisions about how best to present information to the voter and how best to capture the voter’s vote.

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting For much of the past, usability issues in ballot marking systems were limited to a consideration of physical accessibility of the voting booth to the voter and translation of the ballot into other languages for non-English-speaking voters. But as the 2000 election demonstrated so clearly, there is much more to usability than access. Indeed, in a voting context, usability includes human factors (perceptual, cognitive, and motor capabilities); background (language, education, culture, past experiences); complexity and extent of the task (arrival, departure, waiting in line, asking for help, etc.); situational and environmental contexts, such as the physical situation (adequate lighting, electricity, heating, etc.) and the social situation (crowds and time limits); sociological issues (privacy, confidence in technology, and equity issues); psychological factors (workload, attention, situation awareness, and distraction) that constrain people’s actions; and differences between designers and users in their perceptions of what a system should do. Participatory design, in combination with rapid prototyping, is a widely used method for user-centered development of new technology systems, especially where usability concerns are important (e.g., consumer products that compete in the mass marketplace and safety-critical systems). Ballot marking systems pose a particularly difficult usability challenge. Ballot marking systems must be highly usable by the broad public. A citizen in the voting booth facing an electronic voting system may not feel comfortable with information technology, may not be literate (with everyday reading and writing, to say nothing of being computer literate), may not speak English, may have physical disabilities that interfere with the actions needed to cast a vote, and is generally alone in the booth (and thus may not be able to call for help from friends or colleagues). Perhaps most important, very few voters have a chance to vote more than once or twice a year and thus have little opportunity to develop experience or familiarity with the system. Questions About Usability and Human Factors 4-26. How does a voter receive feedback after he or she has taken an action to cast a vote? 4-27. How is an electronic voting system engineered to avoid error or confusion? 4-28. What accommodations have been made to address the special concerns and needs of people with disabilities? 4-29. What accommodations have been made to address the needs of non-English speakers, voters with low literacy skills, and citizens from various cultural, ethnic, and racial groups?

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting 4-30. How and to what extent have concerns about the needs of these parties been integrated into the design of the system from the start? 4-31. What are the ballot definition capabilities offered to jurisdictions? 4-32. How is provisional balloting managed? 4-33. What is the range of the subjects used in testing usability? 4-34. What is the error rate in capturing votes of any given system? How is that error rate determined? 4-35. What are the submetrics of usability that are applied to evaluate and compare systems? 4-36. To what extent, if any, do problems with usability systematically affect one party or another, or one type of candidate or another? 4-37. How is feedback from actual usage incorporated into upgrades to currently deployed systems? 4-38. How does usability testing incorporate the possibility that different jurisdictions may create ballots that are very different from one another? 4-39. Who should conduct usability testing on specific ballots? 4-40. How long does it take a first-time user to become familiar enough with the system to use it reliably and with confidence? 4-41. What kinds of educational materials should be prepared and distributed in advance? 4-42. To what extent are practice systems available for use before and on Election Day? 4-43. What voter assistance can the voting station itself provide to users? Reconciling Security and Usability Election officials often believe that security and usability are necessarily traded off against one another. However, in the design of electronic voting systems, the trade-off between security and usability is not necessarily so stark. That is, there is no a priori reason that a system designed to be highly secure against fraud cannot also be highly usable and “friendly” to a voter, even if these goals may be in conflict at some point after attempts at “better design” or “better engineering” have been exhausted. THE LIFE CYCLE FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS The initial decision to procure an information technology system is only one dimension of the life cycle of that system, and the acquisition of information technology has many other dimensions. The life cycle of a system begins with its initial purchase or acquisition—that is, when the system is first delivered. Concurrently, people must be trained to use,

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting operate, and maintain the system. Problems in operation are inevitably discovered, ranging from small software bugs to major design flaws—and many of these problems must be fixed. Fixing a problem involves the development of a putative fix itself and then testing the fix to determine that the problem is resolved and that no other problems are introduced. Then the problem fix must be deployed to the entire installed base of systems. In addition, new capabilities are often desired by the user, and a vendor may develop upgrades to accommodate those needs; upgrades must go through the same process of development, testing, certification, and deployment as do problem fixes. The initial procurement cost of any information technology system is generally only a fraction of its total life-cycle cost, which includes additional costs associated with operations, maintenance, upgrades, and training. (Put differently, within a few years of initial purchase, many states have found that other nonprocurement expenditures exceed the initial purchase cost.) In addition, costs beyond initial procurement can increase dramatically in later years if vendor support for the purchased configuration is not available. Over some period of time, it is likely that this will be the case, either because the vendor will have made available upgrades to the initially deployed system and no longer supports that system, or in less common instances because the vendor has simply gone out of business. Given that elections happen relatively infrequently, continuity of the election process is an important requirement. Purchasers of electronic voting systems (that is, states or local election jurisdictions) must have assurances that a vendor will be able to support those systems for an extended period of time. Questions About the Life Cycle of Electronic Voting Systems 5-1. What is the life-cycle cost of any particular electronic voting system? 5-2. What assurances can a vendor offer with respect to long-term support? 5-3. What are alternatives to purchasing complete integrated voting systems? 5-4. How difficult will it be to change vendors if the original vendor becomes unresponsive or too expensive? 5-5. What logistical and administrative issues arise regarding the physical management of a voting system? POLL WORKER TRAINING Poll workers play an essential role in the electoral process today. But in the context of electronic voting systems, the range of things a poll worker might be responsible for doing is arguably even larger than when

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting nonelectronic systems are used. This is not to say that every poll worker will necessarily experience a wider range—only that he or she must be trained to handle a larger number of contingencies. In general, poll workers must know how to use the systems at least as well as any voter would need to know, and they must know still more than that, because they will be the first line of assistance for voters who are confused about how the system works. Poll workers must know enough about the system in use to be able to recognize a problem that arises at a voting station, and then to take action to correct the problem. Questions About Poll Worker Training 5-6. What is the nature and extent of the training required to make poll workers sufficiently knowledgeable about an electronic voting system? 5-7. How will election officials know that a poll worker has been adequately trained? 5-8. How will poll workers get help when unanticipated questions or issues arise? 5-9. What is the nature of the help mechanism(s) provided by the vendor? 5-10. What consequences flow from any vendor inability to provide adequate problem resolution on Election Day? 5-11. How can local election officials attract and ensure an adequate base of volunteers who can cope with the challenges of new electronic voting systems? DATA Data are lacking on many aspects of the electoral process that are needed to make improvements or to conduct audits. With high-quality, consistent data in hand, a great deal can be learned about the workings of voting machines, voter registration systems, and reforms in different states that would inform the election administration process. Also, because voting is a decentralized affair, data must be very fine-grained as well as systematically collected to be most useful. Questions About Data Needs 6-1. What is the relative contribution of different sources of error in converting a voter’s ballot intention to a final tabulation of votes?

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting 6-2. What data collection must be mandated by states? 6-3. What data are needed to evaluate the performance of electronic voting systems? PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN ELECTIONS Election officials have been very concerned that various election problems in recent election years (most particularly in 2000, and to a lesser extent in 2002 and 2004) have shaken public confidence in elections, with the likely impact of depressing voter turnout in the short term and potentially undermining the legitimacy of government in the longer term. Questions About Public Confidence in Elections 6-4. What are the factors that influence public confidence in elections? 6-5. How do confidence in and knowledge about elections and voting mechanisms vary across demographic groups? 6-6. What would be the impact on voter confidence of giving independent observers the ability to audit or scrutinize the conduct of an election? TESTING, CERTIFICATION, AND EVALUATION The process of testing and certifying electronic voting systems is complex. Yet states and local jurisdictions rely on testing and certification for indicators of whether a system is safe or unsafe to acquire. Today, the process is based on federal qualification and state certification. But the qualification and certification process is cumbersome and slow, and subject to potential conflicts of interest. Questions About Testing, Certification, and Evaluation 6-7. What are alternatives to the current testing and certification infrastructure? 6-8. Who will conduct testing that is needed beyond what is required by the qualification and certification process? 6-9. What certification requirements, if any, should be imposed on statewide voter registration systems? 6-10. How will election officials respond if, after all is said and done, voters use voting systems that are running uncertified software?

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting FUNDING AND SUSTAINING IMPROVEMENT Although the Help America Vote Act of 2002 provided substantial funding for the procurement of new voting systems, it was never intended to assume an ongoing federal role in supporting and operating these systems. Because ongoing operations and maintenance of hardware and software are in general much more expensive than the initial procurement cost, questions arise about long-term sustainability and improvements. Questions About Funding and Sustaining Improvement 6-11. How will funding be provided for the periodic refreshment of electronic voting systems? 6-12. How will research and development on electronic voting systems be supported and performed? 6-13. What is the impact of evolving standards on deployed electronic voting systems? 6-14. What are the incentives for and barriers to improving electronic voting systems? 6-15. What lessons learned relevant to electronic voting can be found in other regulated industries (e.g., gambling, finance) and government? ELECTION INSTITUTIONS Nonelectronic voting systems have had a long history of operation, one measured in decades. But information technologies change much more quickly, and an electronic system used to process the presidential vote in any given year may never be “the same” in any subsequent presidential election. Questions About Election Institutions 6-16. How can election officials obtain sources of information about electronic voting systems other than the sources provided by vendors? 6-17. How can election officials obtain the knowledge and information needed to respond to and manage change effectively? 6-18. What institutional infrastructure is necessary to support cost-effective use of electronic voting systems over the long term? 6-19. What do the equal protection requirements of voters enunciated in Bush v. Gore mean for decisions about voting technologies and their supporting infrastructure?

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting THE ROLE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN ELECTION ADMINISTRATION Election administration has never been a function performed entirely by government. Private political associations (interest groups and political parties) have been involved in the administration of elections for a very long time. Private firms have also been increasingly involved in election administration, as in many other governmental functions. For example, private firms have for many years routinely undertaken certain election administration tasks such as the design, layout, and printing of ballots. But local governments are also turning to private firms to provide electronic voting systems, program them appropriately, and repair and maintain them over time. Similar comments at the state level apply to many statewide voter registration databases. For both electronic voting systems and voter registration databases, vendors are often the primary and most important source of expertise. It is not known whether the involvement of private firms tends to improve election administration in some overall sense. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the role of private firms is increasing across the board. Still, to the extent that private firms are involved in those aspects of election administration that relate to electronic voting systems, a number of important questions do arise, some of which cut across other areas discussed elsewhere in this report. Questions About the Role of the Private Sector in Election Administration 6-20. What security concerns arise with the intimate involvement of private firms in the operation and maintenance of voting systems? 6-21. What are the roles of vendor certification and a code of ethics for vendors? 6-22. What would be the impact of consolidation among voting systems vendors? 6-23. How will contractual responsibilities be maintained over time (cf. question 5-2)? 6-24. Who owns the data associated with the holding of an election? 6-25. Who bears responsibility for failures or irregularities in the election process? RESEARCH QUESTIONS Much of the basic knowledge and information about voting and elections that one might hope had been codified does not exist in a form that is easily accessible or even available.

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Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting 6-26. What new options (or variants on existing options) do electronic voting systems enable? 6-27. How can electronic voting systems be made more secure? 6-28. What are the operational implications of the voter-verified paper audit trail? 6-29. What special data collection requirements are associated with auditing elections conducted with electronic voting systems? 6-30. What are the costs and benefits of open standards that could facilitate the design of interoperable components for electronic voting systems? 6-31. What are the implications, for security and otherwise, of using multipurpose hardware for voting purposes? 6-32. What would be the desirability and content of a model election code to govern elections undertaken with electronic voting systems? 6-33. How and to what extent have notions of voter privacy and secrecy changed over time and with the introduction of new voting technologies? 6-34. How and to what extent is secure absentee voter registration feasible? IN CONCLUSION In developing this report, the committee took note of the significant emotion and passion felt by all participants in the public debate about electronic voting. Although such passion and emotion are often regarded as impediments to a reasoned and thoughtful public debate, the committee believes that these passions reflect—at heart—a very emotional and gut-level commitment to the notion of democracy. One can—and people do—take issue with various arguments about technology or organization, but on balance, the committee believes that the nation is much better served by passionate engagement than by dispassionate apathy, and so the passions expressed by the various participants on all sides of the debate are to be commended rather than disparaged. The committee further hopes that the questions that it has articulated in this report can help the nation overcome political and technological barriers that may impede the improvement of its election systems in the future.