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Craig Holcomb <[log in to unmask]>
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Craig Holcomb <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 4 Oct 2010 23:49:05 -0400
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Baltimore ACM Members and Friends,

     With the prospect of an exciting election in November, the Baltimore
ACM Chapter invites you to join us for an informative evening on Voting in
the Age of Technology, which will cover many misunderstood and controversial
topics of electronic voting systems.

     When: Thursday, October 21st, 8:00 PM

     Where: The Engineering Society of Baltimore

     11 W. Mount Vernon Place

     Baltimore, MD 21201

     This meeting is free and open to the public.  While not required,
please RSVP to Craig Holcomb, [log in to unmask], so we can get an estimate of

*Voting in the Age of Technology*

William A. Edelstein, Ph.D.

* *

     The contentious presidential election in 2000, with its infamous
"hanging chads," motivated Congress to pass the 2002 Help America Vote Act
(HAVA) that supplied substantial funds to upgrade America's voting
technology. In practice, this opened a giant can of worms creating questions
about all means of voting. The fundamental problem is that voting must be
anonymous. In contrast, bank activity or financial transactions over the
internet have identifiable records visible in multiple ways to bank/company
staff and to users. The two most common voting systems now in use in the US
are touchscreen voting machines, aka Direct Recording Electronic devices
(DREs) and paper ballot optical scan (PBOS). DREs do not have permanent
records of individual votes that can be independently checked, and DREs
cannot be audited or recounted. DREs have caused very long lines and
consequent waits (in Maryland, for example) because they are expensive and
there are never enough. Multiple investigations by computer security experts
have demonstrated that DREs can be hacked, and there is always the worry of
malware infection. Although no examples of hacking have yet been
conclusively demonstrated in actual elections, the possibility remains that
this could be done in future, for example, by the government owners of the
voting system, i.e. an insider attack. DREs have, in numerous cases,
simply failed
and irretrievably lost votes. PBOS systems are now in the majority. These
are more cost effective than DREs and can be audited or recounted, as was
done effectively in the 2008 Minnesota senatorial contest. The security of
PBOS is much improved over the ballot stuffing days of Mayor Daley in
Chicago, but there is much room for further work, particularly in carrying
out random audits to confirm results. There is now a push for internet
voting. This is almost universally condemned by computer security experts
but their objections have been brushed aside by many election officials for
whom convenience trumps all. There have been serious election technology
disputes or problems around the world, such as in the UK and India. Voting
technology is a fascinating and important subject which will garner a lot of
activity for the foreseeable future.

*     William Edelstein, Ph.D.*, physicist, is Visiting Distinguished
Professor of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine ( ). His main research interest is Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI). For his MRI work he was awarded the Gold Medal
Prize from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
(ISMRM) in 1990 and the Industrial Applications of Physics Prize from the
American Institute of Physics in 2005. He is a Fellow of the American
Physical Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK) and a Fellow of
the ISMRM. He has been working on voting technology issues for the past 5


     Light Rail:

     From the light rail stop at Howard and Centre, walk a block north, turn
right on Monument, then go four blocks east to Mt. Vernon Place.

The light rail schedule is on the web at:

     Driving Directions:

     From the south:

     Either take 95 to Exit 53 and follow the signs to Inner Harbor, or take
295, continuing as the freeway ends and becomes Russell St.

Turn Right on Pratt Street. Turn Left on Charles Street (one-way North).
Follow Charles Street north one mile to Baltimore's Washington Monument. At
the monument, turn left on Monument Street (also known as Mt. Vernon Place).
Follow one block to Cathedral Street and turn left. Go one short block
across the square. The Engineering Society will be on your left. The Peabody
Court Hotel is immediately on your right, facing the Washington Monument.

     From the north:

     Take 83 south and exit on Guilford Ave. Turn right on to Madison St.

and take it west, crossing Charles St. and then left to Cathedral St.

Then directions are as above.

     Additional directions, details, and a Google Maps link are here: .


     Valet parking is available for $10 (with ESB validation) at the Peabody
Court Hotel across Cathedral St. or in the Walters Art Museum lot for $8 at
Cathedral and Centre St.

     Thanks for your attention,

     The BACM Executive Committee

        Craig Holcomb, Chair

        Bill Edelstein, Vice Chair

        Roy Albin, Secretary

        Jason Pyeron, Treasurer