The recent report about security flaws in the Diebold AccuVote TSX and TS6 touchscreen election systems are educational on several levels.
First, consider what it says about the certification process for voting machines. The problems associated with the Diebold machines, it would seem, should have been noted in the certification process. This is especially true with the hardware issues that have been raised.
Second, think about the bind Diebold–and its customers–are in because of the certification process. If Diebold fixes the problems that have been raised, it could create certification problems for its equipment. The current certification process is neither quick or easy, so making a fix to a voting system is not the same as Microsoft providing an instant update to a security flaw. There needs to be an expedited process created to address critical problems that arise.
Third, the Diebold system problem is a Diebold problem, not an electronic voting system problem. As recent studies by the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland have shown, voting machines are very different and the experience voters have with these machines vary greatly. Just because Diebold machines have been found to have a problem does not mean all machines have a problem.
Fourth, this report illustrates the importance of states having effective and clear laws governing the security of voting equipment before and during elections. As a part of the work we are doing studying vote counts and recounts for the EAC, I have read every state’s laws and regulations related to voting system security and there is great variation in the scope and level of detail across the states. A state like Georgia–which has the most detailed laws on security on the planet–is not likely to have problems with the Diebold system. In fact, Georgia’s machines do not have any of the physical problems that have been reported because the state forced Diebold to modify the casings and create sealed covers over the screws and external ports. It will be interesting to see if other states follow this lead.