Electronic voting in its simplest form could be adopted in Hong Kong in as little as three to four years, said a local academic. Lee Chan-hee, director of the Internet Security and PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) Application Centre at City University's department of computer science, said widespread adoption of electronic voting would provide greater convenience. This would encourage a higher voter turnout, in turn giving a boost to democracy in Hong Kong. He said electronic voting also offered faster, more accurate vote-counting, eliminating a potential problem highlighted by the Florida recount in the 2000 United States presidential election. But Mr Lee warned that a number of security issues needed to be resolved if e-voting was to reach its full potential. The long-term goal of citizens casting their ballots from home over the internet has been ruled out for the foreseeable future by the US National Science Foundation and several other bodies. The foundation has recommended the wide-scale deployment of voting systems be delayed, citing concerns over the possibility for vote-selling and the coercion of voters. Its concern stems from the inability of authorities to monitor someone at a remote location, unlike at a polling station, where a voter's identity can be verified and officials can make sure nobody else is in the voting booth telling them how to vote. Another e-voting option, apart from voting from a remote location over the internet or a mobile phone, involves setting up electronic voting machines at polling stations. These machines allow people to cast their votes by pressing a button or LCD screen, allowing for votes to be counted in real time. But electronic voting machines have their own problems. Last year, the source code for the software used in e-voting machines made by field leader Diebold Election Systems was found on an unprotected site. The discovery, by a woman concerned about ties between Diebold's chairman and the Republican Party, could have led to the machines being reprogrammed. 'The alarming thing is the Diebold case was not discovered by security experts but by an amateur,' Mr Lee said. In the wake of the Diebold case, authorities in the US have ruled that all electronic voting machines must provide a paper trail so that inaccuracies may be checked. Mr Lee said vendors might not have time to implement the changes before November's US presidential election. Given these issues, Mr Lee recommended a simpler solution. He said the best way to harness the speed and efficiency of electronic voting while addressing security concerns was to improve the current polling station system. Instead of voters dropping their completed ballot papers into a box to be counted later, these could be scanned and recorded electronically. This would allow votes to be counted instantly, while ensuring the same level of security as paper-based systems. Furthermore, once a ballot paper had been scanned in, it could be kept in a traditional ballot box, thus providing a paper trail. Mr Lee said such a system could be in use in the US by 2006 and in Hong Kong in the next three to four years.