Says Machines Should be Decertified! Also Says So-Called 'Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) Should Not Be Used' in Voting Systems!
By Brad Friedman on 11/29/2006, 2:37pm PT  

Huge news. Michael Hickins of has the scoop. Here are the highlights...

A federal agency is set to recommend significant changes to specifications for electronic-voting machines next week, has learned.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is recommending that the 2007 version of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) decertify direct record electronic (DRE) machines.
According to an NIST paper to be discussed at a meeting of election regulators at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., on Dec. 4 and 5, DRE vote totals cannot be audited because the machines are not software independent.

In other words, there is no means of verifying vote tallies other than by relying on the software that tabulated the results to begin with.

The machines currently in use are "more vulnerable to undetected programming errors or malicious code," according to the paper.

The NIST paper also noted that, "potentially, a single programmer could 'rig' a major election."

This is a tremendously important development!

To be clear, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the group that oversees the formulation of the so-called federal "Voting Systems Standards." Those are the standards, such as there are any, which are in effect today at the federal level to determine federal certification of voting systems. NIST hosts the Technical Guidelines Developement Committee for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and they are the body who developed the current standadards now in use. This report will likely have an enormous impact in shaping whatever may happen next concerning any upcoming Election Reform or legislation in DC.

But wait, it gets even better!...

Apropos of an article here at BRAD BLOG earlier today, in which we tried to make clear that paper trails on touch-screen machines (versus paper ballots as used with optical-scan or hand-counted systems) are not an adequate solution to the nation's --- or even Florida 13's --- current voting dysfunction, NIST agrees that paper trails don't cut it according to Hickins:

The NIST is also going to recommend changes to the design of machines equipped with paper rolls that provide audit trails.

Currently, the paper rolls produce records that are illegible or otherwise unusable, and NIST is recommending that "paper rolls should not be used in new voting systems."

...And, of course, BRAD BLOG Guest Blogger and erstwhile election watchdog/champion John Gideon of --- previously a supporter of the so-called Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) "solution," such as the one which would be standardized by Rep. Rush Holt's HR550 election reform legislation --- now concurs that VVPAT on touch-screen and DRE systems is no longer a viable option.

Joining a growing group of folks who have changed their view on this point in the wake of the various disasters of 2006's Election Meltdown, he's quoted by Hickins thusly:

Many former advocates of VVPAT, including John Gideon, executive director of VotersUnite, now favor requiring that all votes be recorded on paper ballots.

"DREs are unacceptable as voting devices and ... the addition of a VVPAT on a DRE is only a placebo to make some voters feel more comfortable," Gideon said in an e-mail.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win...?

Stay tuned.