Problems with Voting Systems and the Applicable Standards
Testimony before the
U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science
Washington D.C., May 22, 2001
Douglas W. Jones
Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Iowa
Chair, Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems
Member, Iowa Election Reform Task Force
Indexed on the web at http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/voting/
Elections are a defining feature of democratic government, but all too frequently, we take the actual mechanics of the election for granted. We speak at length of such issues as who is allowed to vote, how campaigns are conducted, and how they are financed, but prior to the events in Florida last November, most people's understanding of the actual voting process was something like the following: "You go to the polls, cast your vote, and then they count it and they announce the winner."
Here, my focus is on how you cast your vote, who they are who count it, how they go about counting it, and how the winner is determined. I will begin by discussing this in a historical context, and then I will discuss the regulatory environment that controls this process, I will give examples of significant shortcomings in this regulation, and finally, I will discuss changes that might be made.
Some of the material here duplicates material that I presented in testimony before the United States Civil Rights Commission hearings in Tallahassee last January 11, but here, my focus will be on the relationship between the problems we have with today's voting machines and the current system of Federal and state standards that govern the use of these machines.
Problems with Voting System Standards