The Help America Vote Act is the result of Federal
legislation introduced following the 2000 Presidential election recount in
Florida. The bill was stalled in Congress until after a State of Emergency
was declared during Florida’s 2002 Fall Primary election that resulted from
problems in the use of over $50M in newly deployed, state and NASED certified
electronic voting equipment. Although the Florida situation in 2000 and 2002
indicated that elections require:
1. Assurance that the ballots cast
accurately reflect their voters’ intentions
2. Ability to perform recounts in an
unambiguous and unimpeachable fashion
these controls have not been put in place, despite the authorization of $3.8B
in public expenditures.
HAVA mandated the formation of a Presidentially appointed 4-member Commission
(by February 26, 2003), as well as a 14-member Technical Guidelines Development
Committee and a 110-member Standards Board, but the Commission was delayed
by nearly a year in formation, and as of this date, the composition of the
Technical Committee and Standards Board has not been established. The HAVA
Technical Guidelines Committee was supposed to have been charged with the
production of a set of recommended voluntary voting system guidelines, but
this has not yet occurred. Regardless, state election officials were
required to submit their HAVA plans within the deadlines or request extensions,
even though guidance was completely lacking. In the meanwhile, certification
continues under the program established by the Federal Election Commission
(FEC) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) despite
the fact that their 2002 voting system standard has been criticized by technologists
as flawed and full of security loopholes.
Specifically, the 2002 FEC guidelines do NOT:
- Ensure that equipment certified under this program will be compliant
with the HAVA standards (if and when those are formulated).
- Require that the levels of security appropriate for other government
computer-based products (such as those applied by the FDA, FAA and DoD) be
used in the construction of electronic voting systems.
- Outlaw the use of confusing layouts such as the butterfly ballot.
- Ensure that voting systems are appropriate for unassisted use
by the broad range of disabilities covered under HAVA and the ADA.
- Prohibit the use of proprietary or trade-secret products,
reconfigurable components, transmission and reception devices, and the highly
susceptible Internet in voting systems.
- Demand that voting products be independently auditable.
- All electronic voting systems must, until full reliability and
independently auditability can otherwise be guaranteed, provide a secure
voter verified paper ballot to be used for spot checks and recounts.
- Legislation must fund replacement or retrofit of voting systems
purchased after 2000 that are later deemed non-HAVA compliant.
- For now, municipalities should consider purchasing only mark-sense
(optically scanned) voting systems for general use (as these have been deemed
the most reliable) supplemented with a population-appropriate percentage
of electronic (kiosk/DRE) systems for the disabled.
Credentials: Rebecca Mercuri is internationally
recognized as one of the leading experts on electronic voting. Her
14 years of research on this subject include her present affiliation with
Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and prior work at the University
of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering. Body of work includes 24 technical
papers on computer security and electronic voting, and sworn testimony for
Congressional, State, and Municipal hearings as well as expert witness statements
for court proceedings. Dr. Mercuri has observed elections as a scientist,
poll-worker, and committeewoman in various US States, and has provided formal
comment on voting technology to the House Science Committee, Federal Election
Commission and the UK Cabinet.
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