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US Gov warned on messed up e-voting systems

No magic bullet, people

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As the UK braces for electronic voting trials in the next round of local elections, the US Government Audit Office (GAO) has warned that e-voting systems could undermine the integrity of the whole election process if not properly managed.

It also argued for a greater commitment from government to the various bodies charged with overseeing elections in the US.

In a statement (pdf) entitled: "All Levels of Government Are Needed to Address Electronic Voting System Challenges", Randolph Hite, director of IT architecture and systems at the GAO, writes:

"Voting systems are one facet of a multifaceted, year-round elections process that involves the interplay of people, processes, and technology, and includes all levels of government.

"No voting technology, however well designed, can be a magic bullet that will solve all election problems."

He also acknowledges wider concerns about the security and reliability of machine voting, saying that the concerns are legitimate, and "merit the combined and focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration".

The testimony is the latest in a string of publications on the subject from the GAO since the 2000 elections. After the debacle of the Chads, the GAO set about examining the election process in detail. Its initial findings were instrumental in framing the Help America Vote Act - legislation that resulted in the roll-out of large numbers of voting machines across the country.

Subsequently, concerns about these very machines have been raised, and the GAO felt it had to revisit the issue.

Hite also notes that despite receiving various recommendations from the GAO, the Electoral Assistance Commission (EAC), charged with overseeing the election processes in the US, and particularly regarding systems standards and best practice, has done little to implement them.

"While the EAC agreed with the recommendations, it stated that its ability to effectively execute its role is resource constrained.

"In our view, critical to the commission's ability to perform its leadership role will be the adequacy of resources at its disposal and the degree of cooperation it receives from entities spanning all levels of government." ®

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