Computer Scientists Defend Voting Machines

When more than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County, Fla., failed to cast a vote last November in the hotly contested Congressional race between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan, many suspected that electronic voting machines were to blame. Mr. Buchanan, a Republican, was officially declared the victor, but only by about 400 votes.

Florida's secretary of state asked Florida State University to investigate the problem. On Friday the university released a report concluding that iVotronic touch-screen machines made by Election Systems & Software Inc. and used by Sarasota County voters "did not cause or contribute" to the unusually high undervote in the Congressional race. Eight computer scientists who undertook the study did not probe other possible causes of the problem. But they said iVotronic machines were susceptible to viruses and bugs that could compromise an election.Edward Felten, a renowned computer-science professor at Princeton University, is unconvinced by his colleagues' conclusion."The study claims to have ruled out reliability problems as a cause of the undervotes, but their evidence on this point is weak, and I think the jury is still out on whether voting-machine malfunctions could be a significant cause of the undervotes," writes Mr. Felten on his blog. –Andrea L. Foster

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