By Timothy Lee
Ernest Zirkle was puzzled. The resident of Fairfield Township in Cumberland County, NJ, ran for a seat on his local Democratic Executive Committee on June 7, 2011. The official results showed him earning only nine votes, compared to 34 votes for the winning candidate.
But at least 28 people told Zirkle they voted for him. So he and his wife — who also ran for an open seat and lost — challenged the result in court. Eventually, a county election official admitted the result was due to a programming error. A security expert from Princeton was called in to examine the machines and make sure no foul play had occurred. Unfortunately, when he examined the equipment on August 17, 2011, he found someone deleted key files the previous day, making it impossible to investigate the cause of the malfunction. A new election was held on September 27, and the Zirkles won.
A decade ago, there was a great deal of momentum toward paperless electronic voting. Spooked by the chaos of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress unleashed a torrent of money to buy new high-tech machines. Today, momentum is in the opposite direction. Computer security researchers have convinced most observers that machines like the ones in Fairfield Township degrade the security and reliability of elections rather than enhancing them. Several states passed laws mandating an end to paperless elections. But bureaucratic inertia and tight budgets have slowed the pace at which these flawed machines can be retired.
Source: Ars Technica