Hoke Presided over Cross-Cutting Program on Election Law and Voting Technology at the AALS

Professor Candice Hoke

Professor Candice Hoke co-organized (with Martha Mahoney- Miami) and presided over a Cross-Cutting Program at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on January 5, 2012.  The program, “The Law and Science of Trustworthy Elections: Facing the Challenges of Internet Voting & Other E-Voting Technologies” featured elections law and technology experts from throughout the nation.

In the heated 2012 presidential election cycle, most Americans will cast primary and general election ballots on aging computer-based voting systems built to standards that date at best from the early 2000s. At least 33 States now permit email, e-fax, or other internet transmission of voted ballots for military and civilian overseas absentee voters.  This cross-cutting program made high-tech election issues accessible for law professors through presentations from experts in computer science, statistics/political science, and government as well as legal scholars. The program identified legal and regulatory issues in urgent need of attention from legal scholars in fields that include administrative law, computer and internet law, election law, legislation and the political process, and other areas.

Premier computer scientists have evaluated currently deployed electronic voting equipment, finding flawed software and an ease of tampering even by hackers with little expertise. Yet those repeatedly confirmed scientific findings have yielded little effect on the voting technology approved for use. In 2008, States that produced at least 160 electoral votes and elect substantial portions of the U.S. Senate and House used voting equipment that has received grave criticism for being easiest to manipulate in ways that may be undetectable. In 2012, this flawed equipment will largely determine a similar number of Electoral College votes and scores of legislative seats, Federal and State.

The program’s first panel, “Understanding Computer Vulnerabilities” featured Professors Andrew Appel (Princeton) and David Wagner (Berkeley), both experienced in translating computer science into comprehensible insights for policymakers.  It provided an overview of the ways in which computers have been integrated into the election process, explain the design flaws that can cause serious undetectable problems in election results, and identify safeguards that are essential – though largely unused — to assuring votes are recorded and counted accurately.  The second panel, “Understanding the Risks of Internet Voting For Accurate, Accessible Elections” included Professor Alex Halderman (Michigan) who discussed how his team broke in, took control, and secretly re-voted ALL cast ballots for write-in science fiction characters in the District of Columbia internet voting public test in 2010. Computer scientist David Jefferson (Lawrence Livermore National Lab) explained the internet voting risks that cannot be managed in the foreseeable future with implications for national security and accurate elections.  Law professor Martha Mahoney (Miami) presented her study of a Federal pilot internet voting project that sought to establish that the internet can transmit voted ballots in compliance with laws requiring accuracy and ballot secrecy.  C|M|LAW’s Professor Candice Hoke identified federal agency activities promoting internet voting and litigation that has thus far unsuccessfully sought to establish voting rights to accurate election technologies.

In addition to an introduction and panel presentations, the program featured a roundtable discussions on the “Legal Implications and Recommendations.”  The roundtable featured presentations and interchange among Debra Bowen (Secretary of State of California), Richard Hasen (U.C. Irvine, Law), Walter Mebane (Michigan, Political Science and Statistics), and Daniel Tokaji (OhioState), on how to protect voting rights, election integrity, and national security in light of the voting system defects and risks presented in the earlier panels.

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