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Federal Advisory Committee Proposes Stronger E-Voting Guidelines

A committee of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission recommended that new election machines should be required to have paper or other software-independent means of auditing election results. But local, county and state officials would decide for themselves whether to replace existing systems.

A federal advisory committee on e-voting voted Tuesday in favor of a resolution to require paper or other software-independent means of auditing election results.

One day after deadlocking on a similar resolution, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, which advises the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, agreed unanimously Tuesday to apply the requirement to new voting machines.

That means that local, county and state officials would decide for themselves whether to replace their existing electronic voting systems. New machines would have to meet the standard, if federal regulators adopt the advisory committee's guidelines. The requirement could be met by using paper trails or a new technology.

The committee passed the resolution after a National Institute of Standards and Technology released a draft report revealed that it is unlikely that programmers could create code that is resistant to all possible threats.

Researchers released their report on voting system vulnerabilities after interviews with election officials, voting machine vendors, computer scientists, other experts, as well as a review of literature and reliance on their own expertise.

The resolution will not become law until a public comment period expires and government leaders review and finalize it as part of a broad set of guidelines likely to be in place for the 2008 presidential election.

The voting system guidelines could also include another recommendation supported in a separate resolution the advisory committee passed this week. That resolution calls for the prohibition of all wireless technology, except shielded infrared signals, in voting machines that record, count and report votes.

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