The Nine Lives of E-Voting
E-voting reformers are starting to see some payoff from their efforts to get high-tech voting machines to produce paper receipts for every vote. Advanced Voting Solutions Inc. of Frisco, Tex., "has agreed to load election security technology from VoteHere Inc. on some of its machines to test the encrypted vote verification system in the fall election. The Bellevue, Wash., company has developed software that produces an encrypted receipt that could let voters verify that their ballots were accurately counted," Government Computer News reported this week.
CNET's News.com explained more: "The companies will team to integrate the technology into AVS's WINvote touch-screen voting terminal and will test the device during the November election. Rather than allow for a centralized re-count, the system gives voters the ability to check their vote online by matching a coded number on a receipt with the same number in a database."
Back in Washington this week, a House panel "struggled with the questions of how to set standards for acceptable error rates in voting technology and how to achieve those standards. Government officials, computer scientists and technology vendors agreed that it is too late for legislation or technology to have much of an impact on the 2004 election," Washington Technology reported.
In other e-voting news, Ohio is the latest state to hand down strict e-voting guidelines. "Three counties that were considering electronic voting machines made by Ohio-based Diebold Inc. cannot switch by November because tests have shown security problems, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said Friday," the AP reported.
IRS Security Slip
More taxpayers than ever flocked to the Internal Revenue Service's Web site this past tax season to file their taxes electronically. But now the agency is getting blasted over security gaffes. "Private contractors revamping IRS computers committed security violations that significantly increased the possibility that private taxpayer information might be disclosed, Treasury Department inspectors say. An investigation by the department's inspector general for tax administration found that employees working for contractors, or an experienced hacker, could use the contractors' computers to gain access to taxpayer data," The Associated Press reported.
Federal Computer Week had more details: "The report, with the contractors' names and other sensitive data removed, revealed that root access privileges had been granted unnecessarily to about 50 contractor personnel. Root access permits users to make changes to computer systems without detection. Other contractor employees had violated IRS security procedures by installing e-mail and instant-messaging software on IRS computers. In some cases, the report says, contractors blatantly circumvented IRS policies and procedures, even when IRS security personnel pointed out the inappropriate practices. The IRS has more than 900 contracts with private contractors and consultants who perform many tax administration activities."
In other IRS news, the agency is touting its new taxpayer database program capable of processing 1040EZ forms for the first time, Government Computer News reported. "For the first time in 40 years, the IRS is processing returns and issuing refunds on a new computer system," said IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, according to GCN. "While long overdue, this is an important first step in modernizing our return processing technologies."
A Welcome Win for EDS
EDS's performance on the massive Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project has been in the spotlight over the past year, as the program incurs cost-overruns and complaints from some quarters about the system's performance (See my June 24 Government IT Review for more background.) But the company has received a welcome contracting win: EDS stands to reap some $93 million over the next decade by offering employee travel services to the Agriculture Department, Washington Technology reported. "The Agriculture contract is the first under the E-Travel vehicle for EDS. According to EDS officials, the department is the largest agency to make an E-Travel award to date. EDS's e-travel system, called FedTraveler.com, handles planning and authorizing of travel, reservation and fulfillment services, approval of travel expenses, and reporting and auditing of travel expenses," the article said.
EDS is scheduled to report its second-quarter earnings next Wednesday.
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