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Electronic Voting Machines


Outside the Multnomah County election office, a quartet of three women and a man ... the office until the next day having to count the ones that wouldn't read ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Electronic Voting Machines

Electronic Voting Machines
  • James Thompson

Voting in General
  • Keystone to any democratic govt
  • Three required characteristics
  • Security
  • Anonymity
  • Speed

Early Voting
  • Methods included lots, lever based voting
    systems, ballot boxes, etc
  • Forging is possible, human error
  • Time-costly and people intensive to evaluate and

Current Voting Practices
  • Increased movement to electronic voting machines
    since the 2000 Presidental election
  • Two main types
  • Direct-recording electronic voting machines, or
  • Touch-screen, votes recorded digitally
  • Optical Scan voting machines
  • Uses optical scanner to read paper ballot

Current Voting cont.
  • Locally, the City of Roanoke uses DRE machines by
    Election Systems Software or ESS and have
    since the Presidental election of 2004.  
  • Current bill in the House of Representatives to
    make optical scanning the national standard

  • With existing technology, we can make changes to
    DRE voting machines to make them more reliable,
    secure, and trustworthy.
  • Therefore, there is no need to use optical scan
    vote tallying.

DRE Voting Machines
  • Benefits
  • Near instant reports of results
  • Do not use paper ballots
  • "Paper ballots are notoriously susceptible to
    fraud," said Don Norris, public policy professor
    at the University of Maryland. "It takes far less
    skill to stuff a ballot box" than to manipulate
    the computer software in the electronic voting

DREs cont.
  • Drawbacks
  • Unfamiliar
  • Not trusted by some
  • Impractical to do recounts if data is not
  • Rumors of shady programming
  • Most machine code is not made public, and only
    checked by the manufacturers themselves

Examples of DRE Drawbacks/Failures
  • 100 error occurred in the 1998 Orange County,
    California school bond referendum, due to a
    programmers error in reversing the yes and
    no results in the software.
  • 2000 general election, a machine was given 300
    ballots in Allamakee County, Iowa, yet reported 4
    million votes.

  • Keep in mind, voting failure and issues are not
    restricted to just electronic voting prodecures

An Example of Recent Voting Fraud Not Involving
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, in the
    Oregon 2000 election unidentified people
    carrying cardboard boxes popped up all over
    Portland, attempting to collect (absentee)
    ballots. One group set up a box at a busy midtown
    intersection. Outside the Multnomah County
    election office, a quartet of three women and a
    man posted themselves in the middle of the
    last-minute rush of voters. The county elections
    director says she was incredulous when she spied
    people gathering ballots. Nobody knows what
    happened to the ballots after that.

Optical Scanning Drawbacks
  • Slower tallying
  • Often has to be verified by hand when the
    scanning hardware does not read properly
  • Human error
  • Subject to electoral fraud and ballot stuffing
    like traditional paper ballots

Keeping This in Mind
  • It becomes clear that security of the vote
    itself, and not speed, is the primary concern.
  • How can we do this with DRE Voting Machines?

Arguments Against DREs
  • Recounts made impractical, as stated before
  • Vote records not always verifiable by
    voter(depends on manufacturer and machine)

Local Arguments Against
  • In the 2000 election, results from Botetourt
    County were delayed due to every machine calling
    in at once.

Addressing Arguments Made
  • By taking into account the main arguments against
    DREs, we can design a method to minimize these
    drawbacks, and still keep the benefits
  • One such solution is outlined by Dr. Rebecca
    Mercuri in her paper A Better Ballot Box

The Mercuri Method
  • Modifies current machines to generate a paper
  • System records vote electronically
  • Prints paper ballot, which is then displayed
    behind a glass panel (to prevent tampering)
  • Voter reviews paper record of vote
  • If correct, vote drops into ballot box for
    possible auditing
  • If incorrect, voter may call an election official
    to void it, and re-vote
  • Paper ballot is definitive proof of vote

Benefits of the Mercuri Method
  • Vote security while maintaining speed
  • Verification
  • Self-auditing without loss of anonymity
  • At least as secure as optical scanning
  • Physical paper-trail present as record of vote

Closing Summation of Argument for DRE Usage
  • Mercuri Method is one example of a way current
    DRE machines can be made more secure
  • Locally, the Registrar of Roanoke, Beryl Brooks,
    stated her preference for DRE machines, citing
    her dislike for the alternative, optical scanning
  • It was always the optical scan that kept me and
    my staff inthe office until the next day having
    to count the ones that wouldn't read through by

In Conclusion
  • With safeguards like the Mercuri method in place,
    it becomes clear that we can maintain the speed
    of the intial count and ease of use of DREs,
    while still maintaining the security and audit
    capabilites of an optical scan system, without
    encountering the drawbacks.
  • Therefore, a DRE machine with verifiable paper
    trail is clearly a better choice than an optical

Some sources I found useful
  • http//www.avirubin.com/vote.pdf
  • Analysis of an Electronic Voting System
  • http//www.blackboxvoting.org/
  • Black Box Voting
  • http//www.verifiedvoting.org/article.php?id5018
  • Frequently Asked Questions about DRE Voting
  • http//www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2004/08/647
  • Poll Voters Want Paper Trail
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