Professors cite flaws in e-voting plan

Published July 21, 2004 1:42 am
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A group of computer-science professors believe Utahns want strict security guidelines for any computerized voting machines the state may purchase.

And the professors - eight from the University of Utah, three from Brigham Young University and one from Stanford (Calif.) University - say the state's "aggressive" schedule to begin using new machines next year puts voting in jeopardy.

They suggest waiting at least a year and beefing up criteria the new technology must meet.

State officials have released bid specifications for the potential $20.5 million contract to provide new voting technology. A committee plans to decide in December which equipment Utahns will use.

"We strongly feel that the present [proposal request] is an insufficient basis upon which to acquire voting machinery [that] will inspire public confidence," the professors wrote in a 12-page letter sent Tuesday to Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie, the state's top election official.

Former state chief information officer, Phil Windley, now an associate computer science professor at BYU, says the request for proposals is flawed.

"It's almost like telling vendors, 'Come and tell us what we need,' " he said. "That's dangerous with any purchase, especially with the problems with voting technology."

State Elections Director Amy Naccarato was out of town and unavailable for comment Tuesday, but she previously said the bid request is meant to be broad.

The professors list several reasons they believe the process is problematic, including:

l The schedule is too quick to give enough time to study the bidders' products, and better technology might appear next year.

l Bid specifics do not allow for a good enough security review or even specify what "ease of use" means.

l State should require some type of paper trail in case a recount is needed.

l Vendors do not have to guard against tampering when the machine is off.


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