E-Voting: No Chads, But ...

Today's presidential primaries in the South are not only a dry run for the issues in November -- but also for new high-tech voting machines.

Judging from their use in other states so far, touch-screen voting may not be foolproof -- or tamperproof.

Ads promoting computerized voting make fun of the 2000 electoral mess in Florida.

"This chad. I can't tell if it's hanging. That's no way to vote,'' says one commercial.

But as CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, experts nationwide have found serious security problems with the new touch-screen voting systems.

"If there's another close election, we might not be able to do any kind of meaningful recount," says Rice University computer scientist Dan Wallach. "We might not be able to really figure out who won the election."

Wallach, who is affiliated with a group called verifiedvoting.org, obtained the secret programs that run the most widely used technology, made by Diebold Elections Systems.

"We found a number of interesting flaws with the Diebold system, any one of which could allow somebody to corrupt an election," says Wallach.

During a test, it took only seconds for Michael Wertheimer and his team of former National Security Agency experts to break into Diebold voting machines in Maryland.

"It is definitely within the realm of possibility, strong possibility, that an election could be thrown and nobody would know," says Wertheimer, a computer security expert for RABA Technologies.

They picked locks, reprogrammed machines -- and the so-called smart cards given to voters -- allowing them to change votes or to vote as often as they liked. It's a flaw Diebold knew about three years ago according to this internal e-mail: "Our smart card format has absolutely no security …. They could stand at the ballot station and quietly burn new cards all day."

The company says it has corrected any security problems as they've been discovered. We tried to ask Diebold's president Bob Urosevich about that, but he declined to talk to CBS News, referring us to a spokesman.

"When people have a chance to use these systems they see they're secure, they're accurate," says Bear. "There's many, many levels of checks and balances to insure the safety and security of the vote."

For a system they can believe in, a handful of states are now requiring a paper backup be printed with every vote.

"Maybe it will cost $100 a machine, maybe it will cost $500 a machine," says Wallach. "What's the price of democracy?"

But it's unlikely the changes will be ready in time for this year's presidential election, in which nearly one-third of voters may cast their ballots electronically.
  • Jaime Holguin

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