Markowitz moves to insure voting machine integrity

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(Host) The State of Vermont is taking steps to ensure the integrity of voting machines throughout the state.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the reforms are being implemented following the release of a national report that analyzes security flaws in most electronic voting systems.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The report was conducted by the Brennan Institute for Justice at the Law School of New York University. The study marks the first time an independent organization has comprehensively analyzed potential security flaws associated with electronic voting machines.

There are several kinds of systems in place including machines that allow individuals to vote by touching a computer screen. Some of these machines print out a paper copy of the ballot and some don’t.

Touch screen machines aren’t used in Vermont – instead the 80 towns that have an electronic system in place use an optical scan device. People mark their votes on special paper ballots and these ballots are then fed into a machine that reads the results.

The Brennan report concludes that the touch screen machines are subject to a number of security flaws including the tampering of the tabulation software. But these flaws aren’t present with the optical scan devices.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz thinks the Brennan report provides some very important information for state election officials:

(Markowitz) “Clearly there’s a very different risk though from a touch screen machine where’s there no ability to audit the results than from a paper based system which is what we use here in Vermont.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz says Vermont will implement a key recommendation of the report during the upcoming November election.

She says her office will conduct random audits of optical scan machines throughout the state. It marks the first time this kind of review has taken place:

(Markowitz) “At the end of the day we do a random hand count to test the machine. If we were to find some sort of funny business we would know who was accountable. We could hold somebody accountable for it and that’s seen as an additional deterrent.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz has just been named as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and she says she wants to make election reform one of her top priorities during the coming year.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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