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Balloting Has Tradition To Surmount

January 5, 2007
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, Courant Staff Writer

Susan Bysiewicz

"Our office has explored a number of voting technologies as we looked for a suitable replacement for our lever voting machines. After much research, wejoined 26 other states in selecting optical scan voting. We specifically rejected ATM-style machines, given the security issues presented.

Optical scan voting is the most secure and reliable form of voting technology available in the United States today. After checking in, each voter is given a paper ballot and makes selections by filling in ovals next to the choice of candidates. The voter then feeds the ballot into the voting machine. This ballot creates a paper trail for the entire election - a trail that makes audits and recounts more effective.

We developed a partnership with the University of Connecticut's Department of Computer Science and Engineering to ensure the ongoing security of this technology. This past November, 25 cities and towns used these new machines, and post-election audits showed that they performed extremely well.

Over the coming months we will roll out optical scan technology in our remaining 144 cities and towns. We are confident it will continue Connecticut's tradition of reliable and secure elections."

- Susan Bysiewicz, secretary of the state of Connecticut

Brian M. O'Connell

"Electronic voting methods rely heavily on computer programs that record individual votes, tally them and deliver a report - all in a convenient package. But the price paid for this convenience is that the results, including those from optical scanners, dependon a complex set of coded instructions that most people cannot read, and therefore cannot check for accuracy or integrity. Computer scientists and engineers have found that it is very possible to modify programs and data to change vote counts in a way that is virtually undetectable. That means we're forced to place a great deal of trust in the programmers and manufacturers of these machines.

Computer devices that monitor hospital patients and airplane flight are subjected to stringent standards that currently don't exist for this vital activity of voting in a democracy. Paper trails and random audits can help when checking accuracy, but they're not foolproof. Before accepting electronic voting, we should insist that independent experts inspect all programs and componentsand that the strictest possible standards of testing be established."

- Brian M. O'Connell, associate professor of ethics, law and computing at Central Connecticut State University and past-president of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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