Course Prospectus

E-Voting: Computers in Elections, 22C:196 Section 1, Fall 2001
10:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday
110 MacLean Hall

Taught by: Douglas W. Jones,
University of Iowa Department of Computer Science

Indexed on the web at

The Florida recounts after the general election in the fall of 2000 were, for many people, an introduction to the weaknesses in the voting systems currently being used in the United States. Even before that event, though, many observers have seen serious problems with the way we conduct elections, and some have suggested, or even demanded, a switch to Internet voting.

This course will examine the problems that any system for conducting elections must solve, focusing on the role of various technologies, notably computers, in solving these problems. We will survey the technologies that have been used or that may be used in the conduct of elections, examine the history of the use of these technologies, and focus on an evaluation of the risks posed by each technology and how we can manage these risks.

This will be a technical course, but not always in the usual sense for comptuer science courses. We will examine the law, Federal regulations, and administrative codes more often than we examine actual computer programs, but we will also examine the application of software engineering methodology to problems in this domain.

Students from outside computer science are welcome! This course is particularly appropriate as an advanced course for computer science minors, and it may be an appropriate elective for students interested in studying election law or the social impact of technology.

Note that the original informal proposal for this course was made in October of 2000, before anyone knew that the general election would lead to chaos in Florida. While those events provide many useful examples, they will not be the central focus of this course.

Douglas W. Jones, associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, serves as Chair of the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems, of which he has been a member for over 6 years, and he serves on the new Iowa Election Reform Task Force. His writings on computers in elections have been cited in the NSF sponsored Report of the National Workshop on Internet Voting; in January, he was invited to testify before the United States Civil Rights Commission about the problems encountered in Florida, and in May, he was invited to testify before the House Science Committee about the role of voting system standards.