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Brennan Center: Paper Trails Alone Won’t Protect the Vote

March 20, 2007

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jonathan Rosen, BerlinRosen Public Affairs (646) 452–5637

Brennan Center: Paper Trails Alone
Wont Protect the Vote

Congressional Testimony from Top Security Expert to Detail Need for Audits

Washington, D.C. One of the nations leading experts on voting system security will tell Congress this morning that voter verified paper records, by themselves, will not help election officials and the public determine the real outcome of close or disputed elections.

Coming on the heels of a highly charged recount tinged by accusations of programming errors, software bugs or corrupt software changing the outcome of a Congressional election in Sarasota, Florida, Lawrence Norden, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will urge Congress to adopt nationwide standards mandating routine audits of paper records produced by electronic voting machines.

Requiring all electronic voting machines to produce an audit record is critical but its not a panacea. In fact, without routine, random audits of paper records paper records alone might end up providing voters with a false sense of security about the outcome of close elections, said Norden.

Voter-verified paper records will only have real security value if they are regularly used to check electronic tallies.  Currently, only thirteen states require both voter-verified records and regular audits of those records.

Paper records will not prevent programming errors, software bugs, or the insertion of corrupt software into voting systems. Only regular audits will catch problems and guarantee a secure and accurate tally, said Norden.

Norden will propose nine measures Congress can adopt to guarantee that candidates, election officials and the public can have greater confidence in the outcome of close or disputed elections.

The debate over voting system security ultimately isnt about audits or paper trails or even technology. Its about whether or not we want a system that we can all have faith in when we go to the polls on Election Day. Thats whats at stake here today, said Norden.

Norden is the principal author of The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World.  In 2005 and 2006 Norden led the Brennan Centers Security Task Force, a gathering of the nations leading technologists, election experts, and security professionals to analyze the security and reliability of the nations electronic voting machines.

His full testimony is available here.