E-voting verification pilot planned in fall

An electronic voting machine company has agreed to load election security technology from VoteHere Inc. on some of its machines to test the encrypted vote verification system in the fall election.

The Bellevue, Wash., company has developed software that produces an encrypted receipt that could let voters verify that their ballots were accurately counted.

The product, VoteHere Technology inside, or VHTi, will be installed on machines from Advanced Voting Solutions Inc. of Frisco, Texas.

The companies have not announced the jurisdictions where the pilot will be conducted.

'They are in discussions,' said VoteHere founder Jim Adler. 'We're trying to figure out who would be optimal.'

Adler said most of AVS's customers are in Virginia and other southern states.

Direct-recording electronic voting machines, often laptop computers with touch screens, are seen by some states as viable replacements for troubled paper ballot and mechanical voting systems.

But some computer scientists have raised questions about security, and organizations are calling for a mechanism to produce a paper trail that could be verified by voters.

California recently decertified DRE machines unless they can produce a paper trail.

VHTi produces a paper receipt with a ballot sequence number unique to each vote cast, generated by a cryptographic engine. 'You know that number stands for Bush,' for example, 'but nobody else does,' Adler said.

The list of encrypted ballot sequence numbers can be published online, so voters can check that their ballots were included in the count.

The pilot would be conducted at real polling places during the general election, but not on live voting machines.

After casting their votes, voters would be invited to try out the new technology set up on separate voting machines that will not be included in the election.

It is too late this year for the technology to be adopted in a live election, Adler said. 'But that's all right. Most of the procurement is going to happen in '05 and '06. So we want it to be evaluated now.'

Adler said his company has gotten the attention of governments and voting officials but is working now to become accepted by companies producing the voting machines and software.

To help answer public concern bout electronic voting, VoteHere this year released its source code for public evaluation and has submitted it to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's National Software Reference Library.

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