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Lopresti joins national experts in examining e-voting machines

Daniel Lopresti

E-voting expert Daniel Lopresti, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Lehigh University, will join with fellow expert, Rebecca Mercuri, Ph.D., in examining several full-face electronic voting machines that were purchased from counties in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Both Lopresti and Mercuri discussed their plans at a press conference that was held in earlier in March in Doylestown. The press conference was organized by the Bucks County-based Coalition for Voting Integrity, a grassroots organization that opposes the use of electronic voting machines without safeguards throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

Lopresti and Mercuri, whose research into electronic voting methods was most recently conducted at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, will join with representatives from the Princeton University research laboratory in closely examining the controversial e-voting equipment.

The Princeton research team recently garnered national attention when it repeatedly demonstrated the vulnerability and hackability of electronic voting machines, including the Diebold AccuVote-TS machine and Sequoia’s AVC. The Danaher/Shouptonic and Sequoia machines will be examined by all three researchers for various operational issues, including why full-face voting machines have consistently demonstrated the highest amount of lost votes, or undervotes, in the nation.

“Electronic voting is still a controversial issue,” said Lopresti. “Given its fundamental importance to our democracy, there are far too many unanswered questions. That's why we're so excited at Lehigh to now have examples of three such machines used in real elections around the country, including a Danaher/Shouptronic Model 1242 like the kind used in Bucks County.”

Lopresti and his team plan to closely examine the machines to find out certain problems, such as why chronic undervoting in the Danaher system, continue to persist.

An extraordinary opportunity

“This opportunity to study e-voting hardware and software is extraordinary since local elections officials have generally forbidden independent evaluations of their equipment,” Lopresti added.

At Lehigh, Lopresti holds the Class of 1961 Chair and is co-director of the Pattern Recognition Research Lab. He conducts research examining basic algorithmic and systems-related questions in pattern recognition, bioinformatics, and computer security.

He has authored more than 80 publications in journals and refereed conference proceedings on a wide range of topics and holds 21 U.S. patents. He has served on dozens of conference program committees and as editor for six international conference proceedings, and is currently an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence and the International Journal of Document Analysis and Recognition.

Lopresti received his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth in 1982 and his Ph.D. in computer science from Princeton in 1987. After completing his doctorate, Lopresti joined the computer science department at Brown University. He went on to help found the Matsushita Information Technology Laboratory in Princeton, and later also served on the research staff at Bell Labs in Murray Hill. He came to Lehigh in 2003.

Mercuri is globally recognized as a leading authority on computer security and electronic vote tabulation and is a member of the committee that advises the government on standards for electronic voting machines.

A technology specialist with degrees in computer science and engineering, Mercuri happened to defend her doctoral dissertation "Electronic Vote Tabulation: Checks & Balances" at the University of Pennsylvania, just eleven days before the 2000 U.S. Presidential election.

Subsequently, her testimony and opinions were sought in Bush vs. Gore, and by the House Science Committee, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Federal Election Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, the U.K. Cabinet and numerous U.S. state legislatures.

She has been frequently quoted in the New York Times, on National Public Radio, by the Associated Press, in the Congressional Record, and various other venues, including numerous TV appearances.

Having spent the last two years as a fellow at Harvard, Mercuri returned this fall to New Jersey's Notable Software, Inc., the consulting company she founded, to continue her work as a forensic computing expert on a wide range of civil, municipal and criminal cases.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, March 27, 2007

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