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The Almanac


February 9, 2005




Warren Slocum named to panel setting voting machine standards



The competition of the marketplace is often cited as an efficient method for picking winners and losers, whether it's a cell phone plan or a new car. How about a voting machine?


A group of academics, security experts, manufacturers, election officials and others -- including Warren Slocum, the chief elections officer of San Mateo County -- is now at work creating a voting machine rating system that could result in a merit-based competition among manufacturers.


The group -- now with about 50 members nationwide -- came together at the request of DeForest B. Soares Jr., chair of the U.S. Federal Election Assistance Commission, to address the technical and qualitative challenges posed by electronic voting.


"Lost votes and security questions point out the flaws in the standards that we use to certify our election systems," said Mr. Slocum of the November 2004 election. The new rating system will test a machine's security, privacy, transparency, accessibility, usability, accuracy and reliability, he said.


"What could be a more fitting process for improving the machinery of our democratic system?" said Mr. Slocum. "If we shine the light on the marketplace, critique the products and encourage people to build a better mousetrap, ultimately our democracy wins."


Non-voting memberships are open to the public. For information, go to the Web site for the Voting System Performance Rating at