MIT, Caltech join forces to develop reliable, uniform US voting machine - 12/2000

December 14, 2000

The presidents of MIT and Caltech have announced a collaborative project to develop an easy-to-use, reliable, affordable and secure United States voting machine that will prevent a recurrence of the problems that threatened the 2000 presidential election.

The announcement was made in a joint video news conferences at MIT and Caltech on Thursday.

"It is embarrassing to America when technology fails and puts democracy to such a test as it did this month," said Caltech President David Baltimore, who opened the hour-long live teleconference in Pasadena, California.

"Academic institutions have a responsibility to help repair the voting process so that we don't see anything like this again. This project is intended to protect the system from the problems we've seen in the last election," Dr. Baltimore said.

MIT President Charles M. Vest, speaking from Cambridge, echoed Dr. Baltimore's concern for the security and credibility of the voting process.

"We must find a solution. Each of us must be confident that his or her vote has been reliably recorded and counted. A country that has put a man on the moon and an ATM machine on every corner has no excuse," said Dr. Vest.

"America needs a uniform balloting procedure. This has become painfully obvious in the current national election, but the issue is deeper and broader than one series of events," said Vest and Baltimore in a Dec. 12 letter to President Vartan Gregorian of Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Gregorian said, "I want to congratulate the two presidents of our nation's most distinguished universities for their leadership in this welcome and timely initiative on behalf of our election system. Voting is the fundamental safeguard of our democracy and we have the technological power to ensure that every person's vote does count. MIT and Caltech have assembled a team of America's top technology and political science scholars to deal with an issue no voter wants ignored. This research is certain to ensure that America's voting process is strengthened." Gregorian said he will recommend the Carnegie Corporation board fund the $250,000 initial phase of the research.

The grant will be used by a team of two professors from each university who are experts in technology, design and political science. The four members of the team are Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professors Stephen Ansolabehere of political science and Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the MIT Media Lab; and Caltech Professors Thomas Palfrey of political science and economics and Jehoshua Bruck of computation and neural systems and electrical engineering.


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