NPR: “Critics Concerned Electronic Voting Not Secure”

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Who: Avi Rubin (JHU), ACCURATE Director
What: Interview, Talk of the Nation
Date: October 27, 2006

Summary: Computer scientist Avi Rubin talks about the plusses and minuses of electronic voting. Critics say that with just weeks to go before the election, some serious flaws in electronic voting systems have yet to be resolved.


This is TALK OF THE NATION Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow.

The midterm election’s just a few days away and if the primaries are any indication, we can expect some trouble at the ballots, because more than a third of American voters will be casting electronic ballots, using electronic voting machines. Many of these machines lack a system for verifying the vote. My next guest has been closely following our country’s transition to electronic voting since back in 2003, when a colleague called him to tell him that a secret code of voting machine maker Diebold’s machines was available on the Internet.

And just recently, someone again has released a Diebold secret code and his phone rang again. Here to talk about it is Avi Rubin, professor of computer science and the technology director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University. His new book is called, Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting.

Welcome back to Science Friday, Dr. Rubin.

Doctor AVI RUBIN (John Hopkins University): Hi, nice to be here.

FLATOW: Tell us about that original phone call in 2003.

Dr. RUBIN: Well you know, I was a pretty new professor. I’d been working at AT&T labs for many years and I had just gone to John Hopkins to be a professor in the computer science department. My area of research is computer security and applied cryptography.

And I had been interested in voting systems. I had attended some meetings in Washington and written a couple of articles. But, you know, it wasn’t my primary area, and then I got a call from Professor David Dill at Stanford University asking me if I was interested in looking at the source code, which is the software for the Diebold voting system.

And my reaction at the time was, well, what is Diebold? And he explained to me that they were the leading manufacturer of electronic voting systems. And it took a little while for me to understand that he was talking about the software for the actual voting machines that people were using to vote.

And, of course, you know, as a professor always looking for good research Problems, that was like a – you know, the jackpot falling in my lap.

Listen to or read more of the interview here…