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October 15, 2008 (512) 463-0300

COMMITTEE LOOKS AT ELECTION SECURITY

(AUSTIN) -- With the general election only a few weeks away, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony Wednesday related to the security of elections conducted in Texas. Following passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, all polling places in the US are required to offer electronic voting options at elections. State officials testified that the Texas election process is secure and efficient, but later testimony warned of possible gaps in election security.

Ann McGeehan, director of the Elections Division Office for the Secretary of State, testified that there has never been a documented case of voting system manipulation in Texas. Her office has approved three different companies that make electronic voting machines for use in the state, and sets standards for chain-of-custody of voting data, testing of machines and disaster recovery of ballots. Most of the work of preserving the fairness of the electoral process, she said, falls to county elections officials.

There have only been a handful of prosecutions for election related crime in Texas; 28 since 2005, according to Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Eric Nichols. While there have been instances of people trying to cast votes for others, Nichols said there is no evidence of manipulation of electronic voting machines.

Later testimony cast doubt on the security of electronic voting machines. Dr. Dan Wallach, a professor of computer science at Rice University, called these machines "amazingly insecure". The machines are easy to tamper with, he said, and tampering with one machine can compromise every machine in a given jurisdiction. One recommendation he offered was following the lead of states like California and Ohio, and reducing the number of electronic voting machines in favor of traditional paper ballots.

The Senate State Affairs Committee is chaired by Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock and vice-chaired by Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands. It consists of Senators Leticia Van De Putte, Chris Harris, Eddie Lucio, Jr, Mike Jackson, Rodney Ellis, John Carona and Troy Fraser.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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