An analysis of data from the Aug.15 referendum in Venezuela to recall President Hugo Chávez indicates that certain forms of computer fraud were unlikely to have occurred during the electronic voting process, according to a study by computer science researchers from Johns Hopkins and Princeton universities.
Groups opposed to President Chávez charged that statistical anomalies in polling data indicated that election results were fraudulent. However, an independent analysis of the same data by Edward Felten, professor of computer science at Princeton, and Aviel D. Rubin, professor of computer science, and Adam Stubblefield, a doctoral student, both at Johns Hopkins, did not detect any statistical irregularities that would indicate fraud.
The study and related information are available at www.venezuela-referendum.com.
"The opposition's claims, that statistical anomalies in the reported results indicate fraud, seem to be incorrect," Felten said. "However, this does not rule out the possibility that other types of fraud, which would not have left statistical traces, may have occurred." The researchers classified the study as a statistical analysis and not a comprehensive investigation or audit of election procedures and documents.
Rubin added, "The types of fraud that would be most likely to be employed by a cheating government would not leave the kinds of statistical evidence that opposition groups have been charging. Simply changing some number of 'Yes' votes to 'No' votes inside the machines would not produce statistical anomalies, but could change the outcome of the election."
The researchers warned that electronic voting is susceptible to fraud and that electronic voting systems are generally more susceptible than less automated polling techniques.
A faculty member at Princeton since 1993, Felten's research focuses on computer and Internet security and on technology and the law. Rubin's areas of research are systems and networking security and computer privacy. Prior to joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins, Rubin was a researcher at AT&T Labs.
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