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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Panel Discussion: “Election Reform: A Systematic Business Solution”

How all of this is going to wind up is unclear, but I think certainly there’s a lot of dedicated engineering and technical focus being given to when we do produce this equipment out there that it’s going to be done using best practices and the best kind of experience that we have out there.

The second technology topic is a little controversial.  And that basically is associated with the use of digital certificates and tokens and biometrics.  As we migrate as a society towards greater and greater and even ubiquitous use of the Internet for everything – work and home and personal purposes – we need to find a means by which we’re going to be able to associate a person with an electronic identity in a very strong manner.  The advanced mathematics and technology associated with digital certificates and the cryptography associated with it offers that promise, but again, this isn’t going to happen overnight.  You know, just as it took us a while to get used to credit cards and online banking, similarly it’s going to take quite a while before we feel comfortable with the concept of digital certificates and any such electronic mechanism to help prove who we are out in the Internet.

The last item is something that kind of I’ve been associated with for three years, and that was Internet voting.  To read a lot of the public debate on this you find that there are a lot of folks who feel very strongly that we should not be doing this.  My position is, yes, there’s a lot of dangers, there are a lot of concern.  However, that doesn’t mean that we stop all progress in that area.  What we do is take a concerted engineering approach.  We look at the risks associated with it.  What are they?  What are the consequences of them?  And then we proceed forward in a concerted, careful, well-deliberated manner in terms of managing those risks.

If we were to stop in any instance whenever we encounter risk, progress would never get anywhere in terms of our society or technology.  Thank you.

MR. GERENCSER:  Thanks, Ed.

I think what we heard is a high degree of convergence around the people, process and technology and how that might integrate together.  And since that’s converging, I don't think that’s of interest to debate.

What we will talk about, though, is Dr. Ornstein and Secretary Priest, you both mentioned the need for additional funds to get the job done.  The question I have for you is what kind of strings should come attached with those funds from the federal government, if any.

MS. PRIEST:  Of course, we would all like to find a bird nest on the ground and have funding without conditions.  But I think that that’s impractical and I think, in fact, if we did that, we would be asking Congress to violate their fiduciary obligation. So I do think that minimum standards of some sort ought to be set.  I think again, in terms of the issues of consistency.  There isn’t any secretary of state in this country who would tell you that they want a federal ballot or a federal system of voting that would be consistent across the country.  But they would also probably tell you they don’t want any mandates.

But minimum standards like, for example, some of the things we’re talking about now, for military and overseas voters.  That those votes will be counted, that they will come in but they’ll be counted.  I think the centralized voter registration database is an important part and something that I would like to see.  And I think there are other minimum standards that would be accepted and can be accepted by state and local government.

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