National Committee for Voting Integrity

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June 14, 2004

The Honorable DeForest Soaries, Jr.,
U.S. Election Assistance Commission
1225 New York Avenue, NW
Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Chairman Soaries:

On behalf of the National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI), I would like to commend you for your bold and decisive call for electronic voting companies to make the underlying software code of electronic voting technology available to election administrators. Your recommendation that election software be open to inspection follows one of the principles that our committee has outlined as being key to restoring trust in public elections.

Inspection of voting machines source code will go a long way in addressing many of the concerns voiced by a majority of computing security experts. However, as you know the Federal Election Standards currently being used to certify voting technology are weak. Further, vendors have demonstrated a disturbing practice of secretly loading uncertified versions of their voting software without the knowledge or consent of election administrators.

For these reasons, we suggest that the evaluation should also include tabulation software, firmware, and hardware used in optical scan and punch card voting systems. Second, election administrators should allow qualified computer security experts to independently study the voting technology that vendors propose for public elections. Third, the evaluation should be based on the software and firmware that will be present on voting systems at the time of the election. Fourth, the evaluation of the technology must also include recommendations of remedial steps that should be taken if weaknesses are discovered in the underlying software, firmware or hardware. Fifth, computer security experts should be able to release executive summaries of their findings that do not disclose proprietary information about the systems they investigate.

Last, we suggest that prudent measures be taken under the advisement of computer security professionals that may offer guidance to election administrators regarding the use of electronic voting technology in the November election.

Our Committee would like to thank you for your efforts to bridge the communication gap between election administrators, the industry, and technologists on the issue of voting equipment security and reliability.

Peter G. Neumann
National Committee on Voting Integrity

Committee Members: Peter G. Neumman, Chair * David Burnham * David Chaum* Cindy Cohn * Lillie Coney * David L. Dill * David Jefferson * Jackie Kane * Douglas W. Jones * Stanley A. Klein * Vincent J. Lipsio * Rebecca T. Mercuri * Justin Moore * Jamin Raskin * Marc Rotenberg * Avi Rubin * Bruce Schneier * Paul M. Schwartz * Barbara Simons * Sam Smith

The National Committee for Voting Integrity was established to promote voter-verified balloting and to preserve privacy protections for elections in the United States. The National Committee is a non-partisan organization made up of leading technical experts, lawyers, journalists, and citizens.