Saturday, February 17, 2007

H.R. 811, the new Holt bill

Earlier this month, US Congressman Rush Holt (D, NJ) introduced H.R. 811, a bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require a voter-verified paper ballot. I have read the bill, as well as some of the criticism by various activists.

In my opinion, passage of the Holt bill would be the single most positive development in this country this decade to ensure the security, integrity and verifiability of elections. As a federal law, this legislation would establish a baseline for all states that would exceed the security and audit of elections in most states today.

The bill is well thought out. It addresses the issues of audit, security, privacy, recounts, conflicts of interest, testing, certification, and cost. I was personally privy to discussions on these issues as the text for the bill was being drafted, and I believe that the reason that this bill handles all of these difficult issues so well is that the Holt staffers took their time, acted deliberately, and consulted with the top experts, until they got it right.

The primary criticism from a subset of the activists is that the bill does not go far enough. For example, it does not ban DREs, as long as they are equipped with a voter verified paper record that is not kept in sequential order. Personally, I would support a ban on all DREs, with paper trails or without. However, the lack of such a ban does not detract from the fact that the Holt bill as it reads would do more to improve election integrity, security and audit than anything that anybody else is doing.

Similarly, when I read the NIST report about software independence (SI), and the resulting recommendation that legacy systems be allowed, and that only future systems will require SI, I would have preferred that all non-SI systems be immediately decertified. But, the net result of that report was positive and will ultimately lead to better elections in this country.

As we move forward, it is important to constantly improve our elections. I believe that the Holt bill has the potential to take the biggest step this country can take towards the ultimate goal of minimizing fraud and error, while increasing access, confidence, and thus, hopefully, participation in public elections in the United States.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ACCURATE 2006 annual report available online

I am the director of the NSF ACCURATE center. People often ask me what the center does. I'm asked when our new voting system will be ready, or if we can hack some other voting system. Well, we are not building a voting system, and hacking voting systems is also not in our charter. However, we have prepared an annual report detailing our activities in 2006. The report is available online.