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Election Civil Rights Groups and Computer Scientists Call for New Security Measures for Electronic Voting Machines

June 28, 2004

For Further Information, Contact:
Ed Rothschild, 202 879–9317
Scott Schell, 212 998–6318

U.S. Election Assistance Commission to Consider Incorporating Proposals in Effort to Support Local Officials

Washington, DC—To increase security and improve public confidence in the voting process, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (BC) today released a new report providing specific recommendations for elections officials planning to use electronic voting machines in the 2004 elections.

The BC-LCCR recommendations are aimed at ensuring access and security in the voting systems used by 675 counties. Responding to new challenges presented by the widespread adoption of electronic voting machines, the reports recommendations have gained unprecedented support from civil rights organizations and computer scientists. In addition, DeForest Soaries, Jr., Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, has pledged to study how the recommendations can be incorporated in the Commissions work with local officials. Virtually all of the top computer scientists dedicated to improving the security of voting technology have endorsed the report, as have numerous civil rights groups. The recommendations also received strong endorsements from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the National Committee on Voting Integrity. (For the list of endorsers and their statements of support click here.)

The recommendations of this report are common sense solutions agreed upon by both the civil rights community and some of the nations leading computer security experts, said Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition. Assuring the security of everyones votes is no less important than having the right to vote.

Strengthening the security of electronic voting systems while preserving access to all voters is the goal of our report, said Deborah Goldberg, Democracy Program Director, Brennan Center for Justice. We believe those jurisdictions that now use electronic voting systems have the time necessary to protect their systems, train their officials, and implement the recommended security procedures.

The new report, Recommendations for Improving Reliability of Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems, while neither an endorsement nor indictment of electronic voting systems, identifies specific actions that should be taken prior to the 2004 elections to increase security and improve public confidence. Some of the comprehensive recommendations for all jurisdictions include:

  • Retaining independent security experts to assess potential vulnerabilities through such tools as “red team” exercises to test electronic voting machines under election-day conditions. The experts also will recommend specific protocols and practical steps for improving security. The assessment should cover, at a minimum, hardware design, hardware and firmware configuration, software design and configuration, election procedures and physical security.
  • Providing a thorough training program for all election officials and workers on security procedures to ensure that the protocols recommended are not disregarded under the pressure of Election Day.
  • Establishing a permanent independent technology panel at the state and local levels that includes both experts in voting systems and computer security, and citizens representing the diverse constituencies in the region, to serve as a public monitor over the entire process and to perform post-election security and performance assessment.
  • Establishing standard procedures for regular reviews of audit facilities and operating logs for voting terminals and canvassing system to verify correct operation and to uncover any evidence of potential security breaches.
  • Preparing and following standardized procedures for responses to alleged or actual security incidents. This includes a standardized system for reporting and publication of incidents.

With only four months to go before the election, the best way to address the current crisis in voting for 2004 is to bring in security experts with a mandate to discover the problems and find practical ways to mitigate the risks, said Avi Rubin, Technical Director, Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, and first author of the much noted Hopkins study of DRE voting machines. The LCCR / Brennan Center recommendations explain specifically how to go about this process and supply a model RFP to speed the work of the states. Election officials should move forward rapidly.

These recommendations represent important options that address the nations need for strategies to enhance security and public confidence in the use of electronic voting systems, said DeForest Soaries, Jr., Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Next week, I will recommend that our Technical Guidelines Development Committee review this report and recommend to the full Commission how we may consider incorporating the reports conclusions in our efforts to assist local election officials prepare for the November election. The Election Assistance Commission is a clearinghouse to gather and disseminate information to local election officials across the U.S. on a variety of matters, including technical guidance with respect to voting systems and security. The Commission was created in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act.

According to David Jefferson, Computer Scientist at the Center for Applied Scientific Computing, and Lawrence Livermore at the National Laboratory, the recommendations of the LCCR and the Brennan Center can dramatically improve the reliability and security of the November, 2004 election. "I would hope these recommendations would be quickly implemented everywhere that electronic voting machines are used. There is no time to lose.”

Lillie Coney, Senior Policy Analyst with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) thanked LCCR and the Brennan Center for their efforts to provide clear technical recommendations to election administrators on methods to improve some of the security problems associated with DRE voting technology in time for the upcoming general election. It is my hope that these recommendations will be followed aggressively in an effort to restore voter confidence in the election’s process.

The full report can be accessed by clicking the appropriate links above or by visiting the following sites: