Reports on Lack of Security Standards for Electronic Voting Machines...
Kitty Pilgrim: 'The federal government has basically dropped the ball'
By John Gideon on 7/11/2006, 4:49am PT  

On Monday night, Lou Dobbs and his correspondent, Kitty Pilgrim, again did a segment on "Democracy At Risk" on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight.

Tonight's report (text transcript at bottom of this article) featured a discussion of the certification standards used (or, more accurately, not used) for the certification of voting machines by the US Government. Featured in tonight's segment were Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center For Justice, John Washburn of VoteTrustUSA, and Rev. DeForest Soaries who resigned from his post as the first chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC).

Soaries was also recently interviewed by Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson.


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The complete text transcript follows...

Lou Dobbs Tonight Transcript
Airdate: July 10, 2006

Tonight, the federal government is failing to protect our democracy from an imminent threat. Electronic voting machines are open to fraud and can be compromised by hackers. But the federal government cannot enforce security standards for electronic voting machines. It hasn't set specific standards yet. Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than half of all American voters will vote on electronic voting machines in upcoming elections. And watchdog groups want the federal government to be more aggressive to prevent fraud.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: The federal government, through the election assistance commission, should be training local officials in how to do the right kind of audits of these voting systems. That can happen right away. That doesn't need new legislation. It should be the job of the federal government to do the kind of threat analysis that private groups and computer scientists have done.

PILGRIM: Federal guidelines for designing and testing electronic voting machines were drafted by a federal advisory board in 2005. But those standards are voluntary and won't be officially into effect until December 2007.

DeForest Soaries was the first chair of the Federal Election Assistance Commission set up after the hanging chad controversy of 2000 to oversee election reform. Soaries resigned April of last year.

DEFOREST SOARIES, FORMER CHMN, ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMM.: Well what's wrong with the standards is they are not standards, they are recommendations at best. I'm worried about electronic voting because we've done such inadequate research that we don't know what we don't know.

PILGRIM: Computer engineers say the guidelines are not enough to actually check the machine that is in place at the polling station.

JOHN WASHBURN, VOTETRUSTUSA: We don't know enough about the system in front of you to know if it is or is not the same as the one that was tested. So any statement about the tested system may or may not apply to your system.

PILGRIM: Also watchdog groups say guidelines allow for an acceptable failure rate for electronic voting machines that is too high.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: The Federal Election Assistance Commission says voting guidelines have always been voluntary and left up to the states. Now the Help America Vote Act sets minimum guidelines, but doesn't say what kind of technology should be used or require how it should be verified. That decision, Lou, is local.

DOBBS: It may be local, but this is a national issue for certain. The idea that we can be a matter of months away from the upcoming midterm elections and not have any assurance whatsoever that these machines work, can't be tampered with or that fraud will occur is just mind boggling.

PILGRIM: No, the people that we talk to who watch this are absolutely in shock over this. And they're very upset that local officials aren't taking the energy to check and connect with people.

DOBBS: Well what in the world is the federal government doing?

PILGRIM: The federal government has basically dropped the ball on this, Lou.

DOBBS: Dropped the ball. Minor thing with our Democratic republic at stake. Not that we don't have enough issues to deal with, the fact that we can't even rely upon a vote. We'll continue with your excellent reporting on this issue, very important issue. Thank you, Kitty Pilgrim.