Granny Rant
Sunday, December 14, 2003
:::A Couple of Whoopie Links :::

Thank God someone is finally
calling for Hearings On Patriot

"Critics representing a wide range of ideological perspectives have raised serious questions about how the Justice Department has used its legal tools, including the Patriot Act, to investigate individuals with no apparent link to terrorism," the lawmakers write. "At a time when the department is seeking additional powers in the name of fighting terrorism, we think the committee should review the impact of existing investigative authority and tactics on innocent individuals and important political freedoms, including the rights to privacy and free speech." As chairman, Sensenbrenner has the sole authority to schedule hearings of the House Judiciary Committee, which has legislative jurisdiction over the Justice Department. It is uncertain whether a Republican would call attention to a politically charged issue in a presidential election year, when Democrats plan to target the Bush administration's record on civil liberties

::: More News on Black Box Voting Scandal :::

Criticism of Electronic Voting Machines’ Security is Mounting

Views range top to bottom on the scale of folks worried about having or not
having a paper trail from electronic voting machines. As the debate rages on,
the Presidential Election of 2004 draws near. Will we be ready?

The issue has grown in urgency thanks to the Help America Vote Act of 2002, Congress' attempt to forestall a repeat of the infamous Florida election debacle of 2000. The bill, known as HAVA, makes as much as $3.8 billion in funding available to states in the short term for replacing older punch card and lever election equipment -- reforms that must be implemented by January 2006.
Seattle software developer Erik Nilsson's experience writing database code in the historic 1994 South African election made him feel "like a small cog in an overwhelming and complex process," he said. Technologists have to gain an understanding of the difficulty of running elections if they are to contribute to solving software security and quality problems, he said, because "there aren't very many coders who understand elections and not very many elections people who understand code."

Nilsson, who chairs the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility working group on voting, is scathing on the subject of poor software quality in DREs. The lack of improvements to computer security since he became involved with it in 1987 has led him to conclude that for the time being, paper -- that is, an audit trail outside of self-contained DRE computers -- is still needed for safe elections.
David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., is a recent arrival to the electronic voting discussion: He said that prior to January 2003, he wasn't deeply involved in any policy debates. But about a year ago, "it occurred to me that people were buying these machines, and nobody was minding the store," Dill said.
Ted Selker, an associate professor at MIT's Media Lab, professes to be "as worried as the next guy about security." But he maintains that verification can be provided without paper, and he has developed what he claims is a secure voting architecture that uses multiple redundant software components. Selker said IT professionals need to get involved locally, but he wants to broaden the conversation to include how technology can improve other parts of the electoral process, such as voter registration.

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