May 11, 2004
Kurt Gallagher
(202) 639-6491

National Union Offers Common Sense Suggestions on Electronic Voting

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Federation of Government Employees offered advice to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is expected to issue preliminary guidelines on electronic voting this week.

"The United States has always been a nation that looks to the future, but we must not rush to adopt new methods of voting without also implementing safeguards to ensure the integrity of the democratic process," said AFGE National President John Gage.

AFGE offered four suggestions to ensure that electronic voting does not create a repeat of the election 2000 Florida fiasco or worse.

1. All votes cast must be recorded using physical and verifiable methods, such as a printout. Every voter must be provided a physical record, such as a printout, of votes recorded so they can be confirmed. All physical records would be retained by the appropriate authority in the event a recount is necessary. Without the ability to conduct a recount, it is conceivable that a second election would have to be held following a contentious vote.

2. Voting machines/polling Local Area Networks (LANs) should remain disconnected from the Internet until voting totals are known and data is backed up. Attention has been given to the possibility that hackers might be able manipulate the recording of votes, vote calculations, and transmission of vote totals. By keeping polling machines offline until all votes are cast and counted, it would be possible to audit vote totals prior to transmission to a centralized database and confirm that correct totals were received.

3. All voting data should be backed up on an offline device, such as a CD, prior to connection to the Internet. A backup of voting data prior to connecting voting machines/LANs to the Internet would help to ensure the integrity of all data and offer a layer of protection from hackers.

4. Open source code for all voting machines and software. Only by making all programming code available for public review will conspiracy theories about vote hijacking be refuted. Open source code could make voting machines vulnerable to attack from hackers, but by following suggestions 1-3, any attempt to hack the vote would prove ultimately futile.

AFGE is the nation's largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas.

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