Armed with a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Johns Hopkins University is leading a new effort to improve the reliability of electronic voting machines.

The project's goal is to design the most foolproof, transparent voting system possible, officials said Monday.

"I don't think with today's technology we can have a voting system that is fully electronic that can be trusted," said Avi Rubin, a computer science professor. He will head a new Hopkins center called ACCURATE, short for A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections.

Rubin told The (Baltimore) Sun he hopes the center will provide information in time for the 2008 presidential contest, but that its research will take longer.

Rubin has been an outspoken critic of computerized voting. In 2003, he co-authored a report that found voting machines from Diebold Elections Systems were vulnerable to hackers, multiple votes and vote-switching.

The Hopkins grant is part of the National Science Foundation's 2005 Cyber Trust program, a $36 million initiative to support cybersecurity research and explore ways to increase the dependability of computers.

Hopkins is leading the effort, but the money will also support research at Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Iowa; Rice University; and SRI International, the nonprofit research group in Menlo Park, Calif.