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E-voting won't be verified until 2006

A federal security-check process will be ready in 2007, not in time for next year's elections, a government report says.

Electronic voting systems aren't likely to be sufficiently secure even by the 2006 elections, government auditors warned Friday.

Existing systems are , the Government Accountability Office said in a 107-page document (click for PDF). The list of vulnerabilities included everything from easily-guessed administrator passwords and voter-verified paper-trail design flaws, to incorrect software installation and system failures on Election Day.

The Election Assistance Commission, created in 2002 to help states and localities implement e-voting systems, has neglected to lay out a clear timeline for addressing those problems, the report said. It also says that it's unrealistic to expect anything to change by next fall.

Even as a dozen or more non-governmental groups have begun drafting their own standards, federal agencies are still in the process of writing their own voluntary guidelines for voting systems and procedures for certifying them, the GAO determined.

The agencies are slated for early 2007 to determine if the laboratories designed to examine voting equipment are fit to do so, but the agencies haven?t started yet. They also haven't set up a proper "clearinghouse" where election officials can share problems they've had with the voting systems.

The agencies also haven't updated the national reference library for voting system software--intended to help state and local election officials ensure they're running the proper software on their machines--since the 2004 elections.

"Without the continuous incorporation of certified software into the library and processes that can be effectively implemented by state and local governments, these entities are likely to face difficulty in ensuring that their tested and operational voting systems are the same as those that were certified," the report said.

Representatives from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform said they were disappointed by what the report findings and suggested that politicians may need to step in.

"It is totally unacceptable that in 21st century America, we would allow faulty machines and systems to rob citizens of their voting rights," said Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat. "While GAO offers some modest recommendations for improvement, it is incumbent upon Congress to respond to this problem and to enact much-needed reforms such as a voter-verified paper audit trail that protects all Americans' right to vote."