Are Electronic Voting Machines Secure? As the election season begins in earnest, guests discuss the technology of voting machines. How can designers improve security, reliability, and usability?

Are Electronic Voting Machines Secure?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News in New York, this is TALK OF THE NATION SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

With the election season upon us, this hour we're going to look at voting technology. How can we make sure the electronic voting leads to accurate, secure results? And what's the best design for an electronic ballot?

Then a major advance in computer chip design, a chip that can produce a laser beam. Researchers have managed to integrate components that make laser light right on to the surface of a silicon chip. We'll talk about why that matters.

And a new report says that despite years of effort, there is still bias against women in science and that universities need to take immediate decisive action to end it. We'll talk to one of the authors about the findings. All coming up after this break. Stay with us.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of newsbreak)


This week, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich suggested that in the face of some problems with electronic voting machines in the state's recent primary, that the voting machine should be scrapped and replaced with good old-fashioned paper ballots. He later backed down from that proposal, calling for voters in the state to file paper absentee ballot instead. Now there have been many stories about flaws with electronic voting systems, machines that don't work right, that are too easily hackable.

There are also concerns that the workings of the machines aren't transparent, you really can't tell what's going on inside there - making it harder to put a voter's trust in the system. So how do we know that the voting machine hasn't already come pre-loaded with votes? You can't open it up, look inside like you're kind of mechanical lever and see the counter is set to zero. On the other hand, the electronic systems do allow for votes to be quickly counted and they allow better accessibility to voters with disabilities.

This hour we're going to be talking about the electronic voting systems, their strengths, their weaknesses, how to improve them, what we should think when we talk about them. Our number is 1-800-989-8255. 1-800-989-TALK. And of course you're always welcome to join us and to surf aboard to our website,

Ed Felten is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. He joins us here in New York. Welcome to Science Friday.

Professor ED FELTEN (Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University): Thank you.

FLATOW: Larry Norden is an associate counsel and director of the Voting Technology Assessment Project at the Brennan Center for Justice. That's at the NYU Law School here in New York. Welcome to Science Friday.

Mr. LARRY NORDEN (Technology Assessment Project, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU Law School): Thanks, Ira.

FLATOW: Let me begin you, Ed, you wrote an article, actually, called the Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine - a scathing analysis of this voting machine and the possibility, or how is it easy to hack into it. Tell us about this machine and what concerns you about it.

Prof. FELTEN: Sure. This is the voting machine that's used in the state of Maryland and the state of Georgia, and over-all by about five percent of U.S. voters. And along with my student colleagues Ari(ph) Feldman(ph) and Alex(oh) Holderman(ph), our team looked at one of these machines, we managed to get our hands on it. We took it apart to see how it worked, what were the security mechanisms. And what we've discovered was that some very serious security attacks on this machine were possible.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. And how were they possible?

Prof. FELTEN: Well, essentially the machine it - like every electronic voting machine is just a computer and so it's subject potentially to some of the same problems that any computer would have, in this case, a virus. And what we found was that there is essentially no defense in this system against a computer virus and they're able to build a demonstration computer virus that can spread from one voting machine to another and then flip votes almost undetectably in a real election.

FLATOW: This could corrupt the whole voting system - wherever these machines are used?

Prof. FELTEN: Wherever these machines are used if the virus can spread through…

FLATOW: Right.

Prof. FELTEN: …the whole population it could potentially steal a large number of votes.

FLATOW: Did you tell Diebold about this?

Prof. FELTEN: Of course. They well aware of this. We told them and we told public officials and the public, because we thought the people needed to know.

FLATOW: And were does this machine stand, is it still being used - as a standard machine?

Prof. FELTEN: Yes. The machine - the same equipment that we studied is being used by about five percent of U.S. voters.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. Larry, what's your reaction to this?

Mr. NORDEN: I was very happy to see Professor Felten's report. Certainly, isn't something that surprised us at the Brennan Center. We worked with a task force of security experts and computer scientists from both the government and private sector over the past year and a half. And we identified many problems, not just with Diebold but with all the electronic voting machines, as Professor Felten mentioned. This is something that - essentially computers - they run on a lot of software and there are a lot of opportunities for people with bad motives - if they have them - to take advantage of that fact. And as we also know, there are plenty of reliability problems with these machines as well.

FLATOW: Why is that? Is it because the machines are rushed - they were rushed to meet the standards of the legal system?

Mr. NORDEN: I think a big part of it is that there was this - the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002. It did a lot of good things, but one of the things that it set in motion was this - a massive transformation in the United States, as to what kinds of voting systems we're using.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NORDEN: Just this year alone, 31 million Americans will vote on new voting systems for the first time. When you have that kind of a massive implementation of new technology across the country, there're bound to be problems with it.

FLATOW: Are Americans more trustworthy of the old system or of the new system? Or any new electronic system?

Mr. NORDEN: That's a good question. I'm not sure of the answer to that. What I can say is, one of the reasons that the Brennan Center got involved in this is because our work revolves around promoting effective democracy and we were concerned there seemed to be an increasing controversy over whether or not these machines were safe and reliable. And I think one of the worst things that you can imagine in a democracy is that people don't have confidence that their votes are going to be counted.

FLATOW: And they begin to think that there are conspiracy theories about this.

Mr. NORDEN: Yeah. Absolutely.

FLATOW: Especially with the Diebold machine. We know - Mr. Diebold was very close to the Republican Party.

Mr. NORDEN: That's right. In the run up to the 2004 election - I believe it was the chairman of Diebold turned out to be a leading fundraiser for the Bush campaign -

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NORDEN: - in Ohio. And if you're inclined to conspiracy theories this is obviously something you're going to latch on to.

FLATOW: So when you hacked in to this machine did you find it was just sloppily programmed, or was it a conspiracy?

Mr. NORDEN: No. No. It didn't look like a conspiracy to us.


Mr. NORDEN: What it looked like was a system that was designed with relatively little attention to security.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NORDEN: And…

FLATOW: Go ahead.

Mr. NORDEN: Certainly I think a devious conspirator would have done a much better job of hiding the backdoors that were in the system.

FLATOW: So how should a good security system be made?

Mr. NORDEN: Well, there are a lot of details that you have to get right. Certainly, one of the lessons that experienced teaches in computer security is get the details right. And obviously, probably neither you or your audience wants to have that detailed discussion right now.

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. NORDEN: But that's why it's important that experts look at the systems. But there are some safe guards that we can put in place that everyone can easily understand. One of them is a voter verified paper audit trail that creates a paper record of your vote and how you meant to cast it, which can be used afterward in case there's any dispute.

Prof. FELTEN: Yeah. And actually and I would add to that this is something that we spent a lot of time on. Having an audit trail by itself, I would say, isn't necessarily enough. At this point, in the United States, we have 35 states that have either mandated by law or just as a matter of what they chose, have machines that have voter verified paper audit trails.

But if that paper isn't actually been looked at afterwards, if it isn't being audited - and the fact of the matter is, in the vast majority of states that have this paper trails, they're not looking at the paper afterwards as a matter of routine. Then, I'm not sure how much added security that paper will have.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255 is the number. Let's go to the phone. Joe in Macomb, Illinois.

JOE (Caller): Good afternoon.

FLATOW: Hi there.

JOE: Hi. I've been an election judge here for, I can't tell you how long, and have handled everything from punch cards up to a machine very similar to what you're talking about - except it was not made by that company. You know, the - one thing that I'll say right off to start - I can't remember who this quote is from, but it's if you try to make something idiot-proof, they'll just go and invent a better idiot.

So, you know, everything is going to have problems. But the new machine that we used in this last primary worked real well for us. It was a touch-screen computer, it allowed review, and voter could scroll back and forth, change votes, they could do write-ins. It also had a paper trail, which was the one problem we did have with the machine - the printer kept jamming on us. But besides that, it worked quite well. And we had one voter who has voted in my precinct for years. She's totally blind, comes in with a guide dog, and in the past two election judges have always had to go on to the voting booth with her - one from the Democratic Party, one from the Republican Party - we read the races to her and the choices and she has to give us her answer, you know, the two - one from each party is there to verify that the proper circle is filled in on the ballots.

With this new system, she was able to put on some headphones and do the voting entirely by herself. And she was just so elated. She made the comment afterwards: in all her years of voting, this was the first time she'd ever been able to cast a private ballot and she was able to do it unassisted. And she was just so enthused by that that, that…

You know, the problems are there, yes. But I think that moving forward and helping people out with disabilities - I think it's worth the effort and worth working out the problems to make the systems go.

FLATOW: Thanks, Joe, for calling.

Mr. FELTEN: Yeah, I, Ira, I would agree with that comment very much. There are many benefits to electronic voting, and not at least of which is they have the potential anyway to allow disabled voters who make up for very large percentage of disabled - there are about 40 million disabled people of voting age, according to the 2000 Census - potentially vote independently in private.

I would say that I think in many cases those - the things like the audio ballot need to be improved. They're not necessarily always usable for voters. But that's certainly an area where electronic voting machines add a lot on to the voting process.

What I would say though is that - as I mentioned before - there has been this huge transformation in the country and the systems that we vote on - and we have to catch up in terms of the procedures that we have in place, to make sure that what happened in Maryland just last week, where voters were turned away from the polls because poll workers and officials didn't get everything right. That should never happen. People shouldn't be turned away when they come to the polls. That's one of the worst things that can happen in a democracy. People set aside an hour to vote in the morning. They can't necessarily come back to vote later.

And there are things that we can do. We can make sure that there are enough emergency paper ballots available at a polling place, so that if something does go wrong - which inevitably somewhere in the United States it will because something always does go wrong - that people aren't turned away, that they can vote.

FLATOW: We're going to take a quick break and come back and talk with more of Ed Felton, professor in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Senate for Information Technology Policy at Princeton. And Larry Norden, associate counsel and director of the Voting Technology Assessment Project at the Brendan Center for Justice at the NYU Law School. Our number 1-800-989-8255. Stay with us, we'll be right back after the short break.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking about voting machine security this hour with Ed Felten and Larry Norden.

We were talking about the Diebold machine and about other machines. Is there a standard for every machine that it works the same way - all of voting machines, Larry?

Mr. NORDEN: There certainly isn't. There are - depending on what county you're in, and even in sometimes in the same county, you may find a different voting machine when you go to vote.

FLATOW: And that must be a problem.

Mr. NORDEN: It's a problem in the sense that there are some designs that are better than others, I think. And particularly, one of the things that we studied was the usability of the systems - the ballot, how confusing they are to voters. Certainly, anybody who remembers the 2000 election, remembers Palm Beach County. Sometimes, the way ballots are setup can confuse people and leave them to make choices that they didn't intend to.

So I think that in that area there's the potential for great improvement.

FLATOW: Well, let's talk about that. What would be a good way to look at the screen - you have a screen of TVs, a computer screen - and what would be a bad computer screen?

Mr. NORDEN: Well, for touch-screens, if you're actually looking at a computer screen, one of the things we count is to have every race and every candidate on the screen, as some screens are designed, is not a good idea. It's overwhelming to the voters. It's confusing so you could have, you know, five candidates in each race, 10 races, if it's all at once what happens is voters miss some of the races. A lot of private vendors in other areas have learned these lessons and that's why when you go to an ATM machine, you're not asked all at once: how much money do you want to withdraw? What's your code? Do you want a receipt? You're asked those questions each separately.

When voters are presented with information that way, there's a much greater chance that they're actually going to get all of their intended votes in and record it accurately.

FLATOW: So making them more like the ATM machine. You know, we get menus - you press one choice, you go to the next menu, the next menu…

Mr. NORDEN: Yeah. Actually - absolutely. For touch-screen voting machines - that's the best design. Unfortunately, in a lot of states like New Jersey and Delaware and potentially here in New York, they have either purchased or looking at purchasing these huge - on top of everything, they're gigantic, which makes them more expensive to deal with - these screens where you have a million choices basically at once.

FLATOW: Can a town or county bring its own auditors in to check the count of the machine - it's like to verify it? Can you do it and you can go inside the machine and do that?

Mr. NORDEN: I'm not sure if I understand what you mean. You can certainly - it depends - you can certainly look at the totals that the machine has provided and check them against whatever was recorded in the county.

FLATOW: But let's say, but I get the machine. I get the machine and I want to make sure there's nothing in it. It's blank, it's no pre-votes, pre-counts inside. Can I do that?

Mr. NORDEN: Not really. The - it's difficult fundamentally to understand what's happening inside the computer system to start with. And on top of that, often the contracts under which, states and counties buy the machines will prohibit the states and counties from bringing in independent experts to really, thoroughly examine the voting machines.

One of the things that's really held back public understanding of these technologies and their risks, is that the vendors had been pretty successful at keeping researchers like our team away from the machines and stopping us from really being able to take them apart and see what's good and bad about them.

FLATOW: That's why you want to get surreptitiously that Diebold machine.

Mr. NORDEN: Well, I don't know. I wouldn't say I was surreptitious but it was, I think a stroke of luck that we're able to get it.

FLATOW: And so when the machine comes in, you have to take it on face value that the supplier, whoever that is, has zeroed out in everything is kosher inside the machine.

Mr. NORDEN: That's right and you pretty much have to take it on face value that it's running the software that it's suppose to be running. That there's nothing malicious in there and that it's going to work accurately.

FLATOW: Why can't we create an open standard and an open source for that?

Mr. NORDEN: There's been some push toward creating an open source voting technology. Unfortunately, it hasn't had a lot of success in the market. This is an - these efforts started after the existing vendors had a pretty good head start and unfortunately, they Help American Vote Act, which Larry referred to before, gave states a pot of money to spend - mostly over a limited period of time to buy machines.

I'll tell you there's another problem with not having some kind of open source, that I've seen a lot of jurisdictions confront. Once the machines are sold, the vendor basically has a monopoly over those machines and any kind of updates there are to the machines. Anything that - any kind of work that needs to be done on the machines. They're the only ones that know what's in those machines.

So for instance, New Jersey has a situation now - and a lot of states have had this situation - where they passed the voter-verified Paper Law, suddenly, they have to have printers added on to these machines. The vendor's in a position where they know nobody else can provide that printer but them, because they're the only ones that know what's in the machines. And the vendors charge, unfortunately often, exorbitant amounts to add those printers. So it puts jurisdictions at a tremendous disadvantage.

FLATOW: And, Ed, having the paper trail, is this key to these voting machines, right?

Prof. FELTEN: Oh we really think it's key to being able to count on the results. And it's also a key as a backup against some kind of glitch or failure. And the reason it's important is that paper records don't fail catastrophically in the way that electronic ones do. Once the paper record is printed it doesn't get unprinted. It doesn't disappear if the power fails and the battery isn't working, it can't be infected - corrupted by a virus and so on.

Mr. NORDEN: And it's a form of verification, in the end. Things going to - of course, things going to happen as paper, a building can burn down. Somebody could steal the paper but in the end, it's one shot against another. And it should make everybody more confident that their votes are counted.

FLATOW: Right.

Prof. FELTEN: The key is that electronic records and the paper records fail in different ways and at different times. And so you're much better with the sort of belt and suspenders approach of having them both.

FLATOW: Let's say we have a clean slate. And we're just start over and create electronic voting. What would be the best way to do that?

Prof. FELTEN: I think you'd want to start out by insuring that you had some kind of transparency so that the public and public officials could really look inside the machines and have them evaluated however they liked. I think that is the most important safeguard that we're lacking - one of the most important safeguards we're lacking right now.

FLATOW: And then you might want to find the best screen, the best input system and make that standard. So you move from state to state of county to county. You're seeing the same screen again.

Prof. FELTEN: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that could be a great help. No question about it.

FLATOW: And who could take this job over?

Prof. FELTEN: You mean, who could mandate something like this?

FLATOW: Yeah. Who could not just mandate it but would you create a whole new voting section of the government, or would it be something else?

Prof. FELTEN: There is. There is an Elections Assistance Commission right now that sets up a lot of the guidelines built for what voting system should be like. And I think in many ways they've done a very good job. I think that they can do a better job in other ways. But that could be an organization that might take over something like that.

FLATOW: Larry? Any comment?

Mr. NORDEN: Well, I do think the Election Assistance Commission has been a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they have not had a lot of resources. I takes a long time in this kind of bureaucratic process to have an influence.

FLATOW: And we are living a very polarized electorate now. How do we make sure that, you know, you don't believe the other guy has put those ballots in his finger or her finger on the button.

Prof. FELTEN: Well, again, I think what Ed pointed to is that a good way - one good way of dealing with that. The situation that we don't want is another 2000 election that's decided by 500 votes. And, look, there had been other situations like that even more recently - the governor's race in Washington state, just a couple of years ago, was decided by basically a hundred votes. Those things happen. It seems like they happen more and more often. The last thing you want is for there to be no way to check that the results were accurately recorded.

FLATOW: And you said one of the worst things is to turn people away.

Prof. FELTEN: Mm-Hmm. Yeah.

FLATOW: Could it - if we computerize everything - if your name doesn't match exactly, you know. If you have a driver's license and you're Joe and Joel or something…

Prof. FELTEN: Yeah.

FLATOW: Could that be a problem for a computer system?

Prof. FELTEN: I think that that is a potential problem. There's been a - under the Help America Vote Act, there is a new requirement that these statewide database is be created. And a lot of states are confronting this issue right now. What do you do when there's - when somebody's driver's license whereas, which is where you might be getting names from for the database, doesn't match exactly the name that they're providing on the voter rolls.

So that actually - I'm afraid that that might be a situation for me here in New York, because on my birth certificate it says Lawrence, on my driver's license it says Larry. I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen when New York State has its new database if I show up that they're going to tell me that I can't vote.


Mr. NORDEN: This is the human element in voting, which will always be there. You'll always have someone, I think, sitting at the front desk in the polling place making judgment calls about situations like this and you may have people challenging it afterward.

FLATOW: Only 1-800-989-8255 is our number. Let's see if we can get a phone call or two in here. Brian(ph) in Clarion, Pennsylvania. Hi, Brian.

BRIAN (Caller): Hi. Good afternoon. I have a comment about effective democracy, and it seems to me the most important thing is voter participation. And I don't see the electronic voting actually increasing the number of people that vote. I think the strain on local election officials is going to be very great. I think the lack of confidence is going to keep people away. And I think the focus should be on trying to get more people to vote rather than the, whatever, less than 50 percent of people that currently do vote for the big elections. That's my comment.

FLATOW: All right. Thanks. Ed?

Prof. FELTEN: Well, absolutely. Confidence is a key all around, that people need to be able to trust the technology to count the votes right. One of the potential drawbacks of electronic voting, especially the first time you use it, is that it can take voters longer to vote. And we saw examples of this in Ohio in the 2004 election where the lines were extremely long in some places.

Now maybe that's just the first time or the first few times and we'll get past that. But it's still something to think about.

Mr. NORDEN: And I would say I don't think identifying where the system could be more open and what the potential security problems in the end is going to decrease confidence; I think it's going to increase confidence. The more people understand the way the system works the more they can participate in - and one of the things that we recommend is that when there are audits, when machines are chosen to be audited and paper trails, that the public sees what's going on.

And if you increase that confidence and if you increase the public investment in the whole process I do believe that ultimately that will increase voter turnout.

FLATOW: Are we ever going to be headed toward electronic voting from home on the Internet, something like - are people working on that concept?

Mr. NORDEN: I think that some people are hopeful about that, and you can ask Prof. Felten what he thinks about this. I think a lot of computer scientists think that might be a security nightmare.

Prof. FELTEN: I think it is a security nightmare. It may eventually happen, but right now the Internet is kind of a wild west. There's all kinds of spyware, viruses and all of this running around. And I think it would be very tempting to someone to try to use the spyware viruses that are out there to swing an election. It because much easier when you're doing it over the Internet.

FLATOW: Yeah. Because then you really leave yourself open to hacking through the Internet.

Prof. FELTEN: Anything that can happen to your PC could happen to the election then.

FLATOW: But on the other hand, if you could get that figured, you would have -I mean the potential to increase participation is enormous.

Prof. FELTEN: It would be a lot easier for a lot of people to vote, although some parts of the population don't have the kind of access to the Internet that many of us are fortunate enough to have. But still I don't think it's worth increasing the risk of fraud to that extent in order to get more people to vote.

Mr. NORDEN: And there's certainly other things that you could do to increase voter participation. Having early voting, having same-day registration so that I somebody says, you know what, I'm really interested in this race, they didn't have to have registered six months ago. They could come to the polling place and say I want to vote now, here's my information, and vote.

FLATOW: What do you think it's going to get the Maryland governor back online here? What kind of, you know - do you think he has to - people like him? I don't mean him, specifically. Have to really see this working and be confident about it before they are ready to throw away those paper ballots.

Prof. FELTEN: Well, I think he's right to be skeptical about this November's election. Maryland is in a spot where they have the particular machines they have with only a few short weeks before the election. And I don't think it's a crazy idea at all to consider going to an all-paper voting system for this election and then to think about what to do about the problem in the longer term.

FLATOW: Because it's going to be the presidential election just two years down the road.

Prof. FELTEN: That's right. It's not too early to start thinking about what technology we're going to be using then.

FLATOW: We're talking about voting this hour on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

Do you see this as something that is really a pressing issue that has to be taken care of very quickly in this election cycle, or certainly before the next presidential election?

Mr. NORDEN: I do. This election, like every election, is important. We're talking about possibly the control of the House of Representatives, potentially the Senate being at stake. We're talking about important statewide election races. And I do think that we need to have confidence in every election.

Prof. FELTEN: Really, What's more important than who's governing our nation?

FLATOW: Yeah. I mean I think, you know, the one thing we have certainly that democracy holds out to everybody else is the ability to vote and that your vote is counted and it's accurate.

Mr. NORDEN: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think there are things we can do short-term, there are things that we can certainly do for this next election. And then there are things that we should be thinking longer term in the next couple of years.

As I said, short-term, having emergency ballots available for everybody so that when they get to the polls, if the machines break down, they can vote is really important. Making sure that the paper that is in these 35 states where there are voter-verified paper records, that they're being audited afterwards, that they're looking at 1 or 2 percent of those votes and saying - at the paper and saying, does it match the electronic record? Was the electronic record accurate?

Those things would go a great way in this next election I think not only to making the election more secure and making us more sure but making the public more sure that their votes were recorded accurately.

FLATOW: And how about flexibility with the closing time? We know that we're in a learning curve. The judges or whatever are, you know, are responsible to lengthening the hours.

Mr. NORDEN: Absolutely, and I mean that is what they did in Maryland when they had these problems. They extended - they opened the polls for another couple of hours. And that's certainly something I think jurisdictions should be prepared to do ahead of time if there are problems.

FLATOW: Should we create a voting machine that's just a voting machine? In other words, not a PC that's been converted to one?

Mr. NORDEN: Well, I think it is worthwhile to have equipment that's specialized. But still even if you do that, when you open it up it's ultimately at bottom of a computer and is going to face some of the same problems.

FLATOW: So it's getting the security, no matter what computer it is?

Mr. NORDEN: That's right. You have to get the details right, and it's important that it be transparent just like the rest of our voting processes.

FLATOW: And how will be go about doing that in the short-term?

Mr. NORDEN: In the short-term it's going to be difficult. In the longer term I think we can have changes in laws, I think we can have changes in the relationship between the voting machine vendors and public officials. And I think we need to keep pushing for more transparency throughout this process.

Prof. FELTEN: And I would say just generally more focus on reliability and security. I think there was a - understandably perhaps after what happened in the 2000 election - a rush to find new machines. And there's no question in that in the past couple of years people and jurisdictions have been thinking about security more and more often.

And I think that that's a very positive step. We're only going to have - as long as the public stays on top of this, we're only going to have more secure procedures in the coming years.

FLATOW: So there was this initial rush after that debacle of an election. Everybody said let's get these machines. And now you're both say let's pull back and make sure we do it right.

Mr. NORDEN: Absolutely, yeah. I think if there's any lesson to come out of the past couple of years with electronic voting machines, that's the key one.

FLATOW: Make sure we get this thing done right because it's going to be around for a long time.

Mr. NORDEN: Yeah.

FLATOW: All right. I want to thank both of you gentlemen for taking time to be with me. Ed Felten is a professor in the department of computer sciences and director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, of course.

Larry Norden is an associate counsel and the director of the Voting Technology Assessment Project. That's at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU Law School here in New York. Gentlemen, thank you both for taking time to be with us.

Mr. NORDEN: Thanks so much.

FLATOW: We're going to take a quick break, and when we come back we're going to talk about a new kind of silicon chip, a new chip that actually can create a laser light. Put in the juice and laser light comes out of it. What can you do with that? Kind of interesting. We'll talk about it. Stay with us. We'll be right back after this break.

(Soundbite of music)


Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.