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Pentagon Decides Against Internet Voting This Year

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2004 – The Defense Department is deep-sixing an Internet voting program over concerns about security, a Pentagon spokeswoman said today.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program, which aids Americans serving overseas in the voting process, will not use the SERVE system in November. The acronym stands for Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment.

"The department has decided not to use the SERVE program in the November elections because of our inability to ensure the legitimacy of the votes," the spokeswoman said. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz signed the memo on SERVE Jan. 30.

The cancellation follows a report by four of the 10 computer security experts asked to test the system. Those four concluded the system did not ensure the legitimacy of votes. The report they issued said there were a number of ways that computer hackers could crack into the system.

Wolfowitz said he will reconsider his decision only if researchers can prove integrity can be maintained, the spokeswoman said.

The program is not new. In the 2000 election, counties in South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Florida participated in a proof-of-concept demonstration. A total of 84 voters in 21 states and 11 countries voted in those jurisdictions. DoD had hoped to expand the program to include about 100,000 voters.

The program was open to U.S. citizens who fall under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

Congress mandated the program in the fiscal 2002 National Defense Authorization Act. DoD will seek legislative relief from the project if it's needed.

The decision does not end Internet voting research, the Pentagon spokeswoman said. Research will continue. Under the project, eligible voters would have been able to register and vote electronically via any Windows-based personal computer with Internet access from anywhere in world. Seven states had signed up for the project: Arkansas Florida, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Washington

Overseas voters can still vote by regular paper ballots, or via fax. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has more information on its Web site, and service members also can contact their unit voting assistance officers.

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Biographies:
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz

Related Sites:
Federal Voting Assistance Program



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