ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT ELECTRONIC VOTING

Richard Celeste, Dick Thornburgh, and Herbert Lin, editors

Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT ELECTRONIC VOTING Richard Celeste, Dick Thornburgh, and Herbert Lin, editors Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting Computer Science and Telecommunications Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Award Number IIS-0436133. However, in accordance with National Research Council policy, the NSF did not review this report before publication, and the opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. International Standard Book Number 0-309-10024-0 This report is available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: National Research Council, Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting This page intentionally left blank.

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting COMMITTEE ON A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING ELECTRONIC VOTING DICK THORNBURGH, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, LLP, Co-Chair RICHARD CELESTE, President, Colorado College, Co-Chair R. MICHAEL ALVAREZ, California Institute of Technology THOMAS SHERIDAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (retired) JOSEPH A. SMIALOWSKI, Freddie Mac ANTHONY STEVENS, State of New Hampshire PETER WEINBERGER, Google Inc. HERBERT S. LIN, Senior Scientist and Study Director KRISTEN BATCH, Research Associate TED SCHMITT, Consultant BRANDYE WILLIAMS, Staff Assistant

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting COMPUTER SCIENCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS BOARD JOSEPH F. TRAUB, Columbia University, Chair ERIC BENHAMOU, Benhamou Global Ventures, LLC FREDRICK R. CHANG, University of Texas at Austin DAVID D. CLARK, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CSTB Chair Emeritus WILLIAM DALLY, Stanford University MARK E. DEAN, IBM Almaden Research Center DAVID DEWITT, University of Wisconsin-Madison DEBORAH ESTRIN, University of California, Los Angeles JOAN FEIGENBAUM, Yale University KEVIN KAHN, Intel Corporation JAMES KAJIYA, Microsoft Corporation MICHAEL KATZ, University of California, Berkeley RANDY H. KATZ, University of California, Berkeley SARA KIESLER, Carnegie Mellon University BUTLER W. LAMPSON, Microsoft Corporation, CSTB Member Emeritus TERESA H. MENG, Stanford University TOM M. MITCHELL, Carnegie Mellon University FRED B. SCHNEIDER, Cornell University WILLIAM STEAD, Vanderbilt University ANDREW J. VITERBI, Viterbi Group, LLC JEANNETTE M. WING, Carnegie Mellon University RICHARD ROWBERG, Acting Director JON EISENBERG, Acting Associate Director CHARLES N. BROWNSTEIN, Director through August 2005 KRISTEN BATCH, Research Associate JENNIFER M. BISHOP, Program Associate JANET BRISCOE, Manager, Program Operations RENEE HAWKINS, Financial Associate MARGARET MARSH HUYNH, Senior Program Assistant HERBERT S. LIN, Senior Scientist LYNETTE I. MILLETT, Senior Program Officer JANICE SABUDA, Senior Program Assistant GLORIA WESTBROOK, Senior Program Assistant BRANDYE WILLIAMS, Staff Assistant For more information on CSTB, see its Web site at http://www.cstb.org; write to CSTB, National Research Council, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001; call at (202) 334-2605; or e-mail at cstb@nas.edu.

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting Preface The public debate about electronic voting is characterized by a great deal of emotion and rhetoric. Today, the major protagonists seem to be election officials who hope that electronic voting systems can improve their ability to conduct and administer elections more efficiently and computer scientists, information technologists, and election activists who are skeptical about the viability of using such systems (electronic voting skeptics) for functions critical to the operation of a democracy. Policy makers are thus caught in the midst of a controversy with both political and technological overtones. However, as is often the case, the public debate captures only some of the important elements of the issue—most notably, security. As a variety of social scientists have argued and demonstrated, there are a number of other issues relevant today that have a dramatic and significant impact on the conduct of elections. To understand the larger debate and gain a fuller appreciation of its complexity (that is, accounting for security as well as other important dimensions of the issue), the National Research Council (NRC) began with an internally funded meeting on the subject on July 13-14, 2004. The July 2004 meeting was well attended by a variety of individuals with diverse points of view and expertise. These individuals (listed in Appendix C) included computer scientists and information technologists with expertise in security, user interface design, and large-scale system deployment; political scientists; election officials; civil rights advocates for

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting minorities and people with disabilities; and election systems vendors. This meeting was designed to air issues and to raise important questions, rather than to come to consensus on any particular topic. After this meeting, the NRC received support from the National Science Foundation to take a first step in a more thorough examination of this subject by developing a reasoned understanding about it. In the present case, the NRC decided that the approach of focusing on questions and raising issues would be a good way to develop such an understanding. To support the work of the cognizant committee, known as the NRC Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting, two open sessions were held in which the committee heard from various participants in the public debate over electronic voting; Appendix C lists the briefers at these open sessions. In addition, the committee issued an Internet call for white papers on electronic voting; the papers received are listed in Appendix C and can be found online in their entirety at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/cstb/project_evoting.html#papers. The committee was able to draw on a rich base of information and expertise to inform its deliberations, including the proceedings of the July 2004 meeting. PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF THIS REPORT The primary intent of this report is to describe some of the important questions and issues that election officials, policy makers, and informed citizens should ask about the use of computers and information technology in the entire electoral process, thus focusing the debate on technical and policy issues that need resolving. The material in this report is not intended to turn election officials into computer scientists, but rather to help election officials to better understand the perspectives of electronic voting skeptics who have been active in the debate, to help them understand what the electronic voting skeptics are saying and why they are saying it, and to appreciate some of the questions about electronic voting technologies that worry many technologists. The committee also hopes that this report will inform in the reverse direction as well, helping electronic voting skeptics to better understand election officials, the pressures that drive them, and the demands they face from various quarters. In the months preceding the start of this project, a number of participants and advocates in the public debate over electronic voting took issue with this focus on questions and the timing of the effort. Some asserted that the debate over questions had already been settled and that what was needed now was authoritative answers. Others asserted that by the time this report was released, the states would already have made commitments to purchases of electronic voting systems, and that the only meaningful advice to be given would be to throw out those systems and start

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting over again. Indeed, some of these advocates thought that this would be a good idea. From the committee’s perspective, the prior groundbreaking work undertaken by many of these advocates helped enormously to inform its effort. Nevertheless, the committee believes that a “ground up” understanding of what the issues are—developed by individuals who for the most part have not taken a stand on them—has analytical and probative value. As for the timing, the committee believes that the electronic voting issue will be with us for many years into the future because of upgrades, changes in the vendor base, and rapid change in the underlying technology base. The committee does agree that a consensus on authoritative answers should be developed. Had this project not been constrained by time and funding, it would have been the committee’s desire to seek such a consensus. It is the NRC’s and the committee’s hope that this report will nonetheless be a step in that direction. Finally, the committee cautions that the questions it poses in this report should not in themselves be interpreted as a vote of confidence or of no confidence in electronic voting systems. As with the adaptation of technology for a variety of different purposes and applications, such a vote depends on the maturity level of the technologies involved and how they are used—and the questions posed by the committee are intended to help election officials gain more insight into these matters. PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE CHAIRS Those thoughtful about the nature of democracy realize that democracy is always an exercise in managing and dealing with risk, a never-finished piece of business. That is, in the course of governing, some things will always go wrong, and action will be needed to set things right—and some things about elections, as a part of democracy, are no exception. As former participants in public life, we have both won and lost elections and obviously care deeply about the extent to which elections can be said to reflect the will of the people. In addition, we both know of instances in which problems in a particular election may have affected the outcome and certainly did affect the final vote tallies. But as distressing as such errors or problems are, we remain confident in the strength of democracy to take steps to ensure that these errors or problems do not occur again, and to move on. New information technologies have profoundly changed the sectors of society where information is involved, and there is no reason to expect that elections will not be subject to the same kinds of influences as other areas of society and national life where accurate and reliable information

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting gathering is at a premium. At the same time, and as would be true for the early stages in the adoption of new technologies for any application, there are many currently unresolved issues related to changes in the voting environment. It is for this reason that both of us joined this project—to understand the ramifications of electronic voting for the conduct of elections. We believe that those ramifications are indeed complex, but not so complex as to defy rational and systematic investigation. We believe that the issues associated with electronic voting are not partisan issues, not systematically associated with the interests of either Republicans or Democrats. We believe that the questions for election officials developed in this report represent a good start on such an investigation. We believe that the voting public should be involved in asking these same questions—and paying heed to the answers they receive. We extend the committee’s appreciation to those who took the trouble to contribute to the committee’s deliberations in person and in writing. Without them, this report would simply have been a distillation of our personal prejudices and intuitions. We appreciate the wisdom, insights, and tutelage of our fellow committee members. And we offer special thanks to the National Research Council for providing a stellar study director, Herbert Lin, whose tenacity and commitment made a world of difference to our project. Richard Celeste, Co-chair Dick Thornburgh, Co-chair Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting Acknowledgment of Reviewers This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Stephen Ansolabehere, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Elwyn Berlekamp, University of California, Berkeley, Henry Brady, University of California, Berkeley, David Jefferson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Butler Lampson, Microsoft, Inc., Neil McClure, Hart Intercivic, J. Brad Mooney, Independent consultant, Sharon Priest, Downtown Partnership, Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas, Scott Robertson, Drexel University, and Fred Schneider, Cornell University. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the con-

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting clusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Lewis Branscomb of Harvard University. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM   17     1.1 The Electoral Process,   17     1.2 Scale of the Electoral System,   24     1.3 Observations,   25 2   PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN ELECTIONS   29     2.1 The Relationship Between Democracy and Elections,   29     2.2 Legitimacy in a Democracy,   29     2.3 Desiderata for Elections,   32 3   VOTING TECHNOLOGIES   34     3.1 Introduction,   34     3.2 Electronic Voting Systems in Use Today,   37     3.3 The Larger Context,   42 4   TECHNOLOGY ISSUES   45     4.1 Information Technology for Voter Registration,   45     4.2 Information Technology for Voting,   54     4.2.1 Approaching the Acquisition Process,   55     4.2.2 Security,   57     4.2.3 Usability and Human Factors Engineering,   82     4.2.4 Reconciling Security and Usability,   95

OCR for page R1
Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting 5   LIFE-CYCLE AND TRAINING ISSUES   96     5.1 The Life Cycle for Information Technology Systems,   96     5.2 Poll Worker Training,   100 6   THE BROADER CONTEXT OF ELECTRONIC VOTING   106     6.1 The End-to-End Nature of the Electoral Process,   106     6.2 Data Issues,   107     6.3 Public Confidence in Elections,   108     6.4 Testing, Certification, and Evaluation,   110     6.5 Funding and Sustaining Improvement,   114     6.6 Election Institutions,   118     6.7 The Role of the Private Sector in Election Administration,   120     6.8 Research Questions,   122 7   FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS   130     APPENDIXES         A Glossary   137     B Committee and Staff Biographies   139     C Contributors to the Study   144     What Is CSTB?   147