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PA Voters on e-voting: Trust but Verify

By       Message Linda Harbrecht       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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*Pa. voters on e-voting: Trust, but verify*

/In the first joint Lehigh-Muhlenberg poll, voters surveyed said they
want a paper trail when they cast ballots electronically./

A survey conducted by Lehigh University and the Muhlenberg College
Institute of Public Opinion
in late September found
that, when it comes to e-voting, Pennsylvania voters are following
former President Ronald Reagan's famous adage: Trust, but verify.

The survey found that voters overwhelmingly -- more than 80 percent
--agree on the importance of voters having the right to verify on paper
that their vote is being counted fairly and accurately. The findings cut
across all demographic divides, including party affiliation.

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Other major survey findings include:

The commonwealth's electorate also overwhelmingly believes every
Pennsylvania county should use the same kind of voting machine. (91

While the majority of voters believe electronic voting systems have
been carefully tested and are secure from tampering, more than a third
believe it would be easy to rig the systems to alter election results
and almost two-thirds do not have a lot of trust that they will
accurately count their vote.

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Overall, voters trust electronic voting machines much less than they
do ATM machines, but more than they trust making Internet purchases
securely or being accurately screened at airport security checkpoints.

"Pennsylvania voters make it quite clear they believe there is a need
for a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail," says Dan Lopresti
, an associate professor of
computer science and engineering at Lehigh and e-voting expert
collaborated on the project with Ziad Munson
, assistant professor of
sociology at Lehigh; and Chris Borick, professor of political science at
Muhlenberg College and director of the college's Institute of Public

"It is reassuring to see that the warning flags raised by the computer
security community have not been missed, at least by voters," Lopresti
adds. "One can only hope that our elected and appointed public officials
take note and demand that the vendors of these systems take action
before the worst-case scenario so many of us fear plays out in a real

*"An extraordinary amount of agreement among regular voters"*

Borick, a frequently consulted expert on political polling, concludes
that the electorate sees both promise and peril in the introduction of
e-voting systems.

"For their part, Pennsylvania voters express moderate levels of
confidence in the new systems and believe they will make voting easier,"
Borick says. "At the same time, they overwhelmingly support ensuring
that the machines show voters paper verification of the votes they cast."

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That view, he adds, "reflects the importance placed on the voting
process in a democratic system, as well as knowledge of past problems
with voting fraud and a general wariness of technological innovation."

Adds Munson: "These findings demonstrate that Democratic and Republican
voters are equally concerned about the erosion of the democratic process
in recent years. There is an extraordinary amount of agreement among
regular voters. The results indicate that the adoption of voter verified
paper audit trail systems will be important to the public's trust of the
country's democratic process in the coming years."

Pennsylvania has joined dozens of states in purchasing touch-screen
electronic voting systems to comply with the 2002 Help America Vote Act
(HAVA), which was designed to phase out lever and punch-card machines
after the Florida "hanging chads" debacle during the 2000 presidential
election and recount.

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Linda Harbrecht conducted an joint e-voting survey for Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College.

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PA Voters on e-voting: Trust but Verify