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Sidebar: Skeptics Create System to Monitor E-voting 
News Story by Elizabeth Heichler

OCTOBER 25, 2004 (COMPUTERWORLD) - A group of technology experts concerned about the fate of electronic voting machines on Nov. 2 used some tools of the trade the Web and open-source technologies to create a system to monitor e-voting on election day.

The new technology, dubbed the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS), was developed by technologists from the Verified Voting Foundation and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR). The system will be used by the Election Protection Coalition, which consists of a variety of organizations, to identify and fix problems with DRE machines on Nov. 2.

Work on EIRS started about four months ago, according to Will Doherty, Verified Voting's executive director. Since then, a team of 30 to 35 people mostly volunteers has worked to ready the system by Election Day.

The team includes five core developers, five testers, three user-interface specialists and a four-member architecture team responsible for security and hardware, said Erik Nilsson, chairman of the CPSR working group on voting technology.

The team gained an advantage from using open-source tool kits, such as PHP Surveyor, to create online surveying instruments and manage the results, he said.

Other open-source software used in the EIRS project includes AdvoKit, which manages tasks, campaigns and volunteers, and MapServer, which produces clickable maps that can show the locations of past problems.

Doherty said the developers are working on a final feature that will offer more detail about election incidents at a specific site. Currently, when a user clicks on a map to view incidents in a specific location, only the number of incidents is displayed. The upgrade will provide far more details of particular incidents, Doherty said.

If all works as planned on Election Day, incidents reported via EIRS will prompt the timely dispatch of experts to problem locations. The team includes some 1,300 TechWatch volunteers recruited by Verified Voting to monitor the DREs.

"We're placing big bets on this," said Nilsson.

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