A University of Iowa computer-science professor who’s become an expert in touch-screen voting machines has spent the summer traveling the country, employed by local groups concerned about suggestions they could malfunction. Douglas Jones was hired first by a group of advocates opposing the computerized machines in Florida, and then by the Miami-Dade County election commission to check its program to review the performance of the machines. After it all, he says, his worries about voting errors have waned. He actually has hopes this’ll be more fair and honest than any in recent history, “simply because there’s so much suspicion” and so many people will be watching the process so closely. Jones says there is concern when a voting system’s designed to register and count ballots without a step where a human actually reviews the data. But the whole country’s now alert to that possibility, and he says that’s some pretty powerful oversight. He says if we could produce a system of elections to be really proud of, if we can make routine the degree of public distrust we have right now. Jones says on the other hand, with so many observers it’s likely we’ll catch problems that might have been overlooked, so though we may have the best election in recent years, “we may not know it was the best.” Jones is an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and has been quoted in national media in recent years for his analysis of computerized touch-screen voting machines that are being installed at more and more polling places.
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