For Immediate Release
Thursday, July 3, 2003

Contact: Kim Alexander

California Secretary of State Releases Touch Screen Voting Task Force Report

Task Force Members Stress Importance of Voter-Verified Audit Trail

Sacramento, CA -- California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley yesterday released the much-anticipated Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force report, online at:

The report is the result of the work conducted by a nine-member group appointed by Shelley in February to study security issues relating to the use of computers in the voting process. Shelley's task force was the first of its kind in the nation to thoroughly examine the risks and consequences of relying on computers and software to cast and count ballots.

"The task force reached consensus on several important security issues," said Kim Alexander, a member of the task force and president of the California Voter Foundation (CVF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advancing the responsible use of technology in democracy. "However, we were sharply divided on the question of whether computerized voting systems must provide a voter-verified paper backup of digital ballots."

Alexander and two of the other members of the task force, computer scientists David Dill and David Jefferson, insisted that there be a voter verified audit trail requirement implemented immediately. All three also support exploring non-paper based, electronic verification methods as a potential alternative to paper in the future.

Although Alexander, Dill and Jefferson were unable to persuade other task force members that a paper trail is necessary, members did reach consensus that some kind of verification process should be required, with the remaining task force members supporting the idea of electronic verification. "This report establishes for the first time a vital principle: that voters must be able to personally verify that their votes are properly recorded by the voting machine," noted Dr. Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and member of CVF's board of directors.

The task force did reach consensus that California counties should at a minimum have the right to choose a computerized voting system with a voter-verified paper ballot backup, as several counties have already indicated they prefer, and also agreed that a permanent paper record of every ballot cast must be produced and retained, as required under the new, federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Other important election security recommendations made by the task force include testing voting machines when they are in "live" mode, stronger federal testing procedures, and requiring independent experts to scrutinize voting software. "If implemented, this recommendation would end the inexcusable practice of hiding, even from election officials, the complete logic used inside voting machines," Jefferson noted.

The task force report is released at a time when momentum for a voter verified paper trail and improved election security is rapidly building across California and the U.S. as states and counties work to implement new voting requirements imposed under HAVA. California is at the forefront of the election security debate because it is moving faster than other states to replace its voting systems due to a federal court order to replace Florida-style punch card voting machines, as well as the availability of $200 million in state matching funds for counties to improve their voting systems.

The rush to electronic voting is leading many to question why voters should trust a one hundred percent computerized voting system run on secret software. "Computerized voting as it exists today is not transparent," Alexander noted. "It's like we've had a window into our elections but it's in the process of being shuttered."

However, she noted that activists all over the country are mobilizing to support reliable computerized voting. A petition supported by Martin Luther King III to raise awareness of computerized voting risks has collected over 36,000 signatures. A bill to require a voter verified paper trail that was recently introduced in Congress has already attracted 16 co-sponsors. And hundreds of computer scientists and technologists have endorsed David Dill's "Resolution on Electronic Voting" calling for a voter-verified audit trail. "The fight for the right to inspect a paper backup of one's digital ballot could end up being the voting rights struggle of our time," Alexander said.

California's Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has invited the public to read and comment on the task force report over the next thirty days before he decides how to implement the recommendations. Comments can be submitted via fax, email or U.S. Mail to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, Attn: Touch Screen Report, 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 ,, fax (916) 653-9675. More information about computerized voting security is available online at

Additional Contact Information:

Dr. David Jefferson/925-422-0463,
Professor David Dill/650-743-6139,
Doug Stone, California Secretary of State, 916-653-6575,

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This page was first published on July 3, 2003 | Last updated on July 3, 2003
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