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Meet the Computer Scientist Who Helped Push for Paper Ballots


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Barbara Simons

Voting by smartphone is "a terrible idea," Barbara Simons says.

Credit: UC Berkeley

Barbara Simons has been fighting for secure elections for two decades. But the award-winning computer scientist, who's also well-versed in voting technology and its security vulnerabilities, doesn't consider herself a security expert. Everything she's learned about election security, she says, came from hanging out with security experts.

"My job had nothing to do with security. My training is in computer science," says Simons, a former ACM president. "I've never hacked [a] machine . . . [but] I think I could learn [how to]," she says.

Simons, 79, has been a major and influential player in the movement to institute paper-ballot backups for electronic voting systems and in warning about the security risks of Internet voting. She and many other computer scientists argue that computers and software alone can't properly handle the task of tallying votes.

"You can't trust computers to work properly [with voting systems]," says Simons. "You need paper as a check on the computers."

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