“Paperless electronic voting is in retreat” – Because It Cannot Be Verified

Electronic Verification for E-voting: A Dead End for Voter Confidence, by By Sean Flaherty, Verified Voting Foundation <read>

There is a small possibility that sometime in the future some smart people will come up with a way that we can vote and verify our votes all electronically, without paper. Yet, it may be impossible. For now at least, voter verified paper and manual counting or manual audits are required.

Paperless electronic voting is in retreat, its popularity done in by disturbing security reviews of current e-voting systems and significant voter concern about the integrity of elections. Optically scanned paper ballots, which also use software to count votes but allow software-independent hand audits and recounts, are the most common voting system in the United States. A number of states that have purchased paperless electronic voting machines are moving to adopt optical scan systems, with accessible ballot-marking devices for voters with disabilities. Approximately 60% of America’s voters live in jurisdictions in which voter-marked paper ballots will be the primary voting system in the November elections.

But we live in a technological age, and to some it seems logical that in crafting laws governing voting systems we not “stifle innovation” by closing the door on paperless voting. The present generation of systems was a bust – but could a new generation of paperless voting systems contain enough redundancies that paper ballots or voter-verifiable paper records could become unnecessary?

…First, it is necessary to compare electronic voting to electronic commerce. There is a fundamental problem in comparing e-voting to e-commerce: the secret ballot. Secure electronic commerce depends in part on connecting the individual investor with the online stock trade, the taxpayer with the 1040 form, the traveler with the flight itinerary. The secret ballot, an essential element of our democratic tradition, requires that the voter not be connected with the votes she has cast. If taxpayers had no way of confirming to their satisfaction that their tax returns were received by the IRS as they submitted them, most would never consider filing their taxes electronically…

In Connecticut we are more than half way there. We have voter initiated verifiable paper ballots, yet lack sufficient post-election audits and lack a sufficient chain of custody.


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