the TACIR Report
The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations
(TACIR) is releasing an interim report on their thorough study of
voting systems and that they will present at a hearing in Tennessee
today. TACIR’s report presents a range of recommendations for
improving the security and reliability of its voting systems, shown
in context of the current state of systems nationally. Its report
includes a discussion of many of the significant recent developments
that have affected the debate about voting technology, notably the
ground-breaking California “Top to Bottom Review” reports, the most
comprehensive study of voting systems of its kind. Ohio is embarking
upon a similar review of their state’s voting systems, and Alaska is
considering such a review.
endorses many of the Commission’s recommendations, which closely
parallel positions that we have advocated since our inception. Key
among those is that without voter-verified paper ballots, it is not
practical to provide reasonable assurance of the integrity of
electronic voting systems by any combination of design review,
inspection, testing, logical analysis, or control of the system
Recognizing that the paperless DREs
used in 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties “allow no check on the
electronically-generated count other than the same machines and
software to recount the same electronically recorded votes,” the
Commission appears to support the adoption of a paper ballot optical
scan voting system in conjunction with ballot marking devices, with
which we agree strongly. Optical scan balloting systems are reliable
and cost-effective, and with ballot-markers, more accessible than
most DRE systems.
The Commission correctly notes that a
paper ballot would facilitate another of their recommendations:
mandatory post election audits. Such audits are routinely conducted
in a number of other states and are neither difficult nor expensive
to do; the benefits accrued in voter confidence and security are
immeasurably greater than any costs involved.
TACIR will also recommend that voting machine vendors be
required to escrow all of their proprietary software so that it can
be reviewed by experts, as well as strengthened security and
pre-election testing, and parallel testing on Election Day.
VerifiedVoting.org supports all of these suggestions, with the
caveat that none of these can substitute for the implementation of
voter-verified paper ballots and mandatory post-election audits of a
portion of those paper ballots, in randomly selected jurisdictions,
sufficient to ensure the accuracy of the outcome. Security measures
and testing can and should be carried out in concert with the
implementation of paper and audits.
In order to provide
Tennessee with the most accessible and reliable range of options for
voter-verified paper ballots, we urge the adoption of the
recommendations contained in the TACIR studies and we further urge
that the state promptly evaluate accessible ballot-marking systems
for certification. These can offer a significantly wider range of
assistive features than most DREs, allowing voters with disabilities
and different language abilities to privately and securely mark a
paper ballot which can then be scanned and counted with all other
voters’ ballots. They are federally qualified and in current use in
thousands of jurisdictions around the U.S. We also strongly
recommend that the use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting
machines for any purpose be strictly curtailed, as soon as alternate
accessible systems can reasonably be put in place.
we commend TACIR for hearing from technical experts with a
background in voting system security research and for also listening
to the most important voice – that of the voters themselves. We
would be pleased to provide additional information upon request.
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