Electronic voting

Electronic voting (also known as e-voting) is voting using electronic means to either aid or take care of the chores of casting and counting votes. Depending on the particular implementation, e-voting may encompass a range of Internet services, from basic data transmission to full-function online voting through common connectable household devices. Similarly, the degree of automation may vary from simple chores to a complete solution that includes voter registration & authentication, vote input, local or precinct tallying, vote data encryption and transmission to servers, vote consolidation and tabulation, and election administration. A worthy e-voting system must perform most of these tasks while complying with a set of standards established by regulatory bodies, and must also be capable to deal successfully with strong requirements associated with security, accuracy, integrity, swiftness, privacy, auditability, accessibility, cost-effectiveness, scalability and ecological sustainability.

Electronic voting technology can include punched cards, optical scan voting systems and specialized voting kiosks (including self-contained direct-recording electronic voting systems, or DRE). It can also involve transmission of ballots and votes via telephones, private computer networks, or the Internet.

In general, two main types of e-Voting can be identified:

Many insecurities have been found in commercial voting machines, such as using a default administration password.[6][7] Cases have also been reported of machines making unpredictable, inconsistent errors. Key issues with electronic voting are therefore the openness of a system to public examination from outside experts, the creation of an authenticatable paper record of votes cast and a chain of custody for records.[8][9]

Electronic voting technology can speed the counting of ballots, reduce the cost of paying staff to count votes manually and can provide improved accessibility for disabled voters. However, there has been contention, especially in the United States, that electronic voting, especially DRE voting, could facilitate electoral fraud and may not be fully auditable. In addition, electronic voting has been criticised as unnecessary and expensive to introduce. Several countries have cancelled e-voting systems or decided against a large-scale rollout, notably the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.[10][11]


Electronic voting systems for electorates have been in use since the 1960s[12] when punched card systems debuted. Their first widespread use was in the USA where 7 counties switched to this method for the 1964 presidential election.[13] The newer optical scan voting systems allow a computer to count a voter's mark on a ballot. DRE voting machines which collect and tabulate votes in a single machine, are used by all voters in all elections in Brazil and India, and also on a large scale in Venezuela and the United States. They have been used on a large scale in the Netherlands but have been decommissioned after public concerns.

Internet voting systems have gained popularity and have been used for government elections and referendums in Estonia and Switzerland[14] as well as municipal elections in Canada and party primary elections in the United States and France.[15]

There are also hybrid systems that include an electronic ballot marking device (usually a touch screen system similar to a DRE) or other assistive technology to print a voter verified paper audit trail, then use a separate machine for electronic tabulation.

Paper-based electronic voting system

A cart holding an ES&S M100 ballot scanner and an AutoMARK assistive device, as used in Johnson County, Iowa in 2010.

Sometimes called a "document ballot voting system", paper-based voting systems originated as a system where votes are cast and counted by hand, using paper ballots. With the advent of electronic tabulation came systems where paper cards or sheets could be marked by hand, but counted electronically. These systems included punched card voting, marksense and later digital pen voting systems.

These systems can include a ballot marking device or electronic ballot marker that allows voters to make their selections using an electronic input device, usually a touch screen system similar to a DRE. Systems including a ballot marking device can incorporate different forms of assistive technology. In 2004, Open Voting Consortium demonstrated the " Dechert Design " a General Public License open source paper ballot printing system with open source bar codes on each ballot.

Direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting system

Further information: DRE voting machine
Electronic voting machine by Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold Election Systems) used in all Brazilian elections and plebiscites. Photo by Agência Brasil

A direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine records votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be activated by the voter (typically buttons or a touchscreen); that processes data with computer software; and that records voting data and ballot images in memory components. After the election it produces a tabulation of the voting data stored in a removable memory component and as printed copy. The system may also provide a means for transmitting individual ballots or vote totals to a central location for consolidating and reporting results from precincts at the central location. These systems use a precinct count method that tabulates ballots at the polling place. They typically tabulate ballots as they are cast and print the results after the close of polling.[16]

Electronic voting machine by Smartmatic used in Belgian regional elections, 2014

In 1996, after tests conducted on more than 50 municipalities, the Brazilian Electoral Justice has launched their "voting machine". Since 2000, all Brazilian voters are able to use the electronic ballot boxes to choose their candidates. In 2010 presidential election, which had more than 135 million voters, the result was defined 75 minutes after the end of voting. The electronic ballot box is made up of two micro-terminals (one located in the voting cabin and the other with the voting board representative) which are connected by a 5-meter cable. Externally, the micro-terminals have only a numerical keyboard, which does not accept any command executed by the simultaneous pressure of more than one key. In case of power failure, the internal battery provides the energy or it can be connected to an automotive battery. The Brazilian electronic ballot box serves today as a model for other countries.[17]

In 2002, in the United States, the Help America Vote Act mandated that one handicapped accessible voting system be provided per polling place, which most jurisdictions have chosen to satisfy with the use of DRE voting machines, some switching entirely over to DRE. In 2004, 28.9% of the registered voters in the United States used some type of direct recording electronic voting system,[18] up from 7.7% in 1996.[19]

Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) used in India

In 2004, India had adopted Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for its elections to the Parliament with 380 million voters casting their ballots using more than one million voting machines.[20] The Indian EVMs are designed and developed by two Government Owned Defence Equipment Manufacturing Units, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL). Both systems are identical, and are developed to the specifications of Election Commission of India. The System is a set of two devices running on 7.5 V batteries. One device, the Voting Unit is used by the Voter, and another device called the Control Unit is operated by the Electoral Officer. Both units are connected by a 5-metre cable. The Voting unit has a Blue Button for every candidate, the unit can hold 16 candidates, but up to 4 units can be chained, to accommodate 64 candidates. The Control Units has three buttons on the surface, namely, one button to release a single vote, one button to see the total number of vote cast till now, and one button to close the election process. The result button is hidden and sealed, It cannot be pressed unless the Close button is already pressed.

Public network DRE voting system

A public network DRE voting system is an election system that uses electronic ballots and transmits vote data from the polling place to another location over a public network. Vote data may be transmitted as individual ballots as they are cast, periodically as batches of ballots throughout the election day, or as one batch at the close of voting. This includes Internet voting as well as telephone voting.

Public network DRE voting system can utilize either precinct count or central count method. The central count method tabulates ballots from multiple precincts at a central location.

Internet voting can use remote locations (voting from any Internet capable computer) or can use traditional polling locations with voting booths consisting of Internet connected voting systems.

Corporations and organizations routinely use Internet voting to elect officers and Board members and for other proxy elections. Internet voting systems have been used privately in many modern nations and publicly in the United States, the UK, Switzerland and Estonia. In Switzerland, where it is already an established part of local referendums, voters get their passwords to access the ballot through the postal service. Most voters in Estonia can cast their vote in local and parliamentary elections, if they want to, via the Internet, as most of those on the electoral roll have access to an e-voting system, the largest run by any European Union country. It has been made possible because most Estonians carry a national identity card equipped with a computer-readable microchip and it is these cards which they use to get access to the online ballot. All a voter needs is a computer, an electronic card reader, their ID card and its PIN, and they can vote from anywhere in the world. Estonian e-votes can only be cast during the days of advance voting. On election day itself people have to go to polling stations and fill in a paper ballot.

Timeline of development in the United States

Mar. 1975

The U.S. Government is given a report by Roy Saltman, a consultant in developing election technology and policies, in which the certification of voting machines is analyzed for the first time.

Aug 28, 1986

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA) requires that US states allow certain groups of citizens to register and vote absentee in elections for federal offices.[21]


The FEC (Federal Election Commission) released a universalized standard for computerized voting.


The Reform Party uses I-Voting (Internet Voting) to select their presidential candidate. This election is the first governmental election to use this method in the U.S. [22]

May 2002

The FEC revised the standards established for electronic voting from 1990.

Nov 2004

4,438 of votes in the general election is lost by North Carolina’s electronic voting machines. The machines continued to count electronic votes past the device's memory capacity and the votes were irretrievably lost.

Dec 2005

Black Box Voting showed how it easily it is to hack an electronic voting system. Computer experts in Leon County, Fl lead a simulation where they changed the outcome of a mock election by tampering with the tabulator without leaving evidence of their actions.

Sep 13, 2006

It was demonstrated that Diebold Electronic Voting Machine can be hacked in less than a minute. Princeton's Professor of Computer Science, Edward Felten who installed a malware which could steal votes and replace them with fraudulent numbers without physically coming in contact with the voting machine or its memory card. The malware can also program a virus that can spread from machine to machine.

Sep 21, 2006

The governor of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich (R), advised against casting electronic votes as an alternative method for casting paper absentee ballots. This was a complete turn around since Maryland became one of the first states to accept electronic voting systems statewide during his term.

Sep 3, 2009

Diebold, responsible for much of the technology in the election-systems business, sells their hold to Election Systems & Software, Inc for $5 Million, less than 1/5 of its price seven years earlier. [23]

Oct 28, 2009

The federal Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE) requires US states to provide ballots to UOCAVA voters in at least one electronic format (email, fax, or an online delivery system).[24]

Jan 3, 2013

Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 - This act requires each US state to make available public websites for online voter registration.[25]

Online voting

Arizona made transitional moves towards online voting. Each registered Democrat received a personal identification number in the mail. These citizens had the option to either cast ballots at a designated location or over the internet from the comfort of their own home. Voters voting over the internet were required to insert their PIN and answer two personal questions. Once all the information is verified, they have the voting options.[26]

Estonia has made notable advances in Internet Voting technology. In Estonia, each voter has a national ID card that they use to identify each citizen. The ID card is the security Estonia put in to ensure reliability in votes. Security officials said that they have not detected any unusual activity or tampering of the votes.[27]

It is difficult to say whether online voting successfully increases voter turnout due to the digital divide. A study conducted on “remote electronic voting and turnout in the Estonian 2007 parliamentary elections”[28] showed that rather than eliminating inequalities, e-voting might have enhanced the digital divide between higher and lower socioeconomic classes. People who lived greater distances from polling areas voted at higher levels with this service now available. The 2007 Estonian elections yielded a higher voter turnout from those who lived in higher income regions and who received formal education.[28]

Political parties that have more support from the less fortunate—who are unfamiliar with the Internet—may suffer in the elections due to e-voting, which tends to increase voting in the upper/middle class. It is unsure as to whether narrowing the digital divide would promote equal voting opportunities for people across various social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. In the long run, this is contingent not only on internet accessibility, which is already widely available in Estonia, but also depends on people’s level of familiarity with the Internet.[28]

Democracy Live operates its LiveBallot online voting on Microsoft Azure. The website allows U.S. citizens living abroad to access their ballots from a cloud computing environment, 45 days before an election.


ISG TopVoter, a machine designed specifically to be used by voters with disabilities.

Electronic voting systems may offer advantages compared to other voting techniques. An electronic voting system can be involved in any one of a number of steps in the setup, distributing, voting, collecting, and counting of ballots, and thus may or may not introduce advantages into any of these steps. Potential disadvantages exist as well including the potential for flaws or weakness in any electronic component.

Charles Stewart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that 1 million more ballots were counted in the 2004 USA presidential election than in 2000 because electronic voting machines detected votes that paper-based machines would have missed.[29]

In May 2004 the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report titled "Electronic Voting Offers Opportunities and Presents Challenges",[30] analyzing both the benefits and concerns created by electronic voting. A second report was released in September 2005 detailing some of the concerns with electronic voting, and ongoing improvements, titled "Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed".[31]

It has been demonstrated that as voting systems become more complex and include software, different methods of election fraud become possible. Others also challenge the use of electronic voting from a theoretical point of view, arguing that humans are not equipped for verifying operations occurring within an electronic machine and that because people cannot verify these operations, the operations cannot be trusted.[32] Furthermore, some computing experts have argued for the broader notion that people cannot trust any programming they did not author.[33]

Critics of electronic voting, including security analyst Bruce Schneier, note that "computer security experts are unanimous on what to do (some voting experts disagree, but it is the computer security experts who need to be listened to; the problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application)...DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails... Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny"[34] to ensure the accuracy of the voting system. Verifiable ballots are necessary because computers can and do malfunction, and because voting machines can be compromised.

Electronic ballots

Electronic voting systems may use electronic ballot to store votes in computer memory. Systems which use them exclusively are called DRE voting systems. When electronic ballots are used there is no risk of exhausting the supply of ballots. Additionally, these electronic ballots remove the need for printing of paper ballots, a significant cost.[35] When administering elections in which ballots are offered in multiple languages (in some areas of the United States, public elections are required by the National Voting Rights Act of 1965), electronic ballots can be programmed to provide ballots in multiple languages for a single machine. The advantage with respect to ballots in different languages appears to be unique to electronic voting. For example, King County, Washington's demographics require them under U.S. federal election law to provide ballot access in Chinese. With any type of paper ballot, the county has to decide how many Chinese-language ballots to print, how many to make available at each polling place, etc. Any strategy that can assure that Chinese-language ballots will be available at all polling places is certain, at the very least, to result in a significant number of wasted ballots. (The situation with lever machines would be even worse than with paper: the only apparent way to reliably meet the need would be to set up a Chinese-language lever machine at each polling place, few of which would be used at all.)

Critics argue the need for extra ballots in any language can be mitigated by providing a process to print ballots at voting locations. They argue further, the cost of software validation, compiler trust validation, installation validation, delivery validation and validation of other steps related to electronic voting is complex and expensive, thus electronic ballots are not guaranteed to be less costly than printed ballots.


A Hart eSlate DRE voting machine with jelly buttons for people with manual dexterity disabilities.

Electronic voting machines can be made fully accessible for persons with disabilities. Punched card and optical scan machines are not fully accessible for the blind or visually impaired, and lever machines can be difficult for voters with limited mobility and strength.[36] Electronic machines can use headphones, sip and puff, foot pedals, joy sticks and other adaptive technology to provide the necessary accessibility.

Organizations such as the Verified Voting Foundation have criticized the accessibility of electronic voting machines[37] and advocate alternatives. Some disabled voters (including the visually impaired) could use a tactile ballot, a ballot system using physical markers to indicate where a mark should be made, to vote a secret paper ballot. These ballots can be designed identically to those used by other voters.[38] However, other disabled voters (including voters with dexterity disabilities) could be unable to use these ballots.

Cryptographic verification

The concept of election verifiability through cryptographic solutions has emerged in the academic literature to introduce transparency and trust in electronic voting systems.[39][40] It allows voters and election observers to verify that votes have been recorded, tallied and declared correctly, in a manner independent from the hardware and software running the election. Three aspects of verifiability are considered:[41] individual, universal, and eligibility. Individual verifiability allows a voter to check that her own vote is included in the election outcome, universal verifiability allows voters or election observers to check that the election outcome corresponds to the votes cast, and eligibility verifiability allows voters and observers to check that each vote in the election outcome was cast by a uniquely registered voter.

Voter intent

Electronic voting machines are able to provide immediate feedback to the voter detecting such possible problems as undervoting and overvoting which may result in a spoiled ballot. This immediate feedback can be helpful in successfully determining voter intent.


It has been alleged by groups such as the UK-based Open Rights Group[42][43] that a lack of testing, inadequate audit procedures, and insufficient attention given to system or process design with electronic voting leaves "elections open to error and fraud".

In 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany found that when using voting machines the "verification of the result must be possible by the citizen reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject." The DRE Nedap-computers used till then did not fulfill that requirement. The decision did not ban electronic voting as such, but requires all essential steps in elections to be subject to public examinability.[44][45]

In 2013, The California Association of Voting Officials was formed to maintain efforts toward publicly owned General Public License open source voting systems

Coercion Evidence

In 2013, researchers from Europe proposed that the electronic voting systems should be coercion evident.[46] There should be a public evidence of the amount of coercion that took place in a particular elections. An internet voting system called "Caveat Coercitor"[47] shows how coercion evidence in voting systems can be achieved.[46]

Audit trails and auditing

A fundamental challenge with any voting machine is assuring the votes were recorded as cast and tabulated as recorded. Non-document ballot voting systems can have a greater burden of proof. This is often solved with an independently auditable system, sometimes called an Independent Verification, that can also be used in recounts or audits. These systems can include the ability for voters to verify how their votes were cast or further to verify how their votes were tabulated.

A discussion draft argued by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states, "Simply put, the DRE architecture’s inability to provide for independent audits of its electronic records makes it a poor choice for an environment in which detecting errors and fraud is important."[48] The report does not represent the official position of NIST, and misinterpretations of the report has led NIST to explain that "Some statements in the report have been misinterpreted. The draft report includes statements from election officials, voting system vendors, computer scientists and other experts in the field about what is potentially possible in terms of attacks on DREs. However, these statements are not report conclusions."[49]

A Diebold Election Systems, Inc. model AccuVote-TSx DRE voting machine with VVPAT attachment.

Various technologies can be used to assure voters that their vote was cast correctly, detect possible fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the original machine. Some systems include technologies such as cryptography (visual or mathematical), paper (kept by the voter or only verified), audio verification, and dual recording or witness systems (other than with paper).

A Smartmatic electronic voting machine with the VVPAT.

Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, the creator of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) concept (as described in her Ph.D. dissertation in October 2000 on the basic voter verifiable ballot system), proposes to answer the auditability question by having the voting machine print a paper ballot or other paper facsimile that can be visually verified by the voter before being entered into a secure location. Subsequently, this is sometimes referred to as the "Mercuri method." To be truly voter-verified, the record itself must be verified by the voter and able to be done without assistance, such as visually or audibly. If the voter must use a bar-code scanner or other electronic device to verify, then the record is not truly voter-verifiable, since it is actually the electronic device that is verifying the record for the voter. VVPAT is the form of Independent Verification most commonly found in elections in the United States.

End-to-end auditable voting systems can provide the voter with a receipt that can be taken home. This receipt does not allow voters to prove to others how they voted, but it does allow them to verify that their vote is included in the tally, all votes were cast by valid voters, and the results are tabulated correctly. End-to-end (E2E) systems include Punchscan, ThreeBallot and Prêt à Voter. Scantegrity is an add-on that extends current optical scan voting systems with an E2E layer. The city of Takoma Park, Maryland used Scantegrity II for its November, 2009 election.[50][51]

Systems that allow the voter to prove how they voted are never used in U.S. public elections, and are outlawed by most state constitutions. The primary concerns with this solution are voter intimidation and vote selling.

An audit system can be used in measured random recounts to detect possible malfunction or fraud. With the VVPAT method, the paper ballot is often treated as the official ballot of record. In this scenario, the ballot is primary and the electronic records are used only for an initial count. In any subsequent recounts or challenges, the paper, not the electronic ballot, would be used for tabulation. Whenever a paper record serves as the legal ballot, that system will be subject to the same benefits and concerns as any paper ballot system.

To successfully audit any voting machine, a strict chain of custody is required.

The solution was first demonstrated (New York City, March 2001) and used (Sacramento, California 2002) by AVANTE International Technology, Inc.. In 2004 Nevada was the first state to successfully implement a DRE voting system that printed an electronic record. The $9.3 million voting system provided by Sequoia Voting Systems included more than 2,600 AVC EDGE touchscreen DREs equipped with the VeriVote VVPAT component. [52] The new systems, implemented under the direction of then Secretary of State Dean Heller replaced largely punched card voting systems and were chosen after feedback was solicited from the community through town hall meetings and input solicited from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.[53]


Inadequately secured hardware can be subject to physical tampering. Some critics, such as the group "Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet" ("We do not trust voting machines"), charge that, for instance, foreign hardware could be inserted into the machine, or between the user and the central mechanism of the machine itself, using a man in the middle attack technique, and thus even sealing DRE machines may not be sufficient protection.[54] This claim is countered by the position that review and testing procedures can detect fraudulent code or hardware, if such things are present, and that a thorough, verifiable chain of custody would prevent the insertion of such hardware or software. Security seals are commonly employed in an attempt to detect tampering, but testing by Argonne National Laboratory and others demonstrates that existing seals can usually be quickly defeated by a trained person using low-tech methods.[55]


Security experts, such as Bruce Schneier, have demanded that voting machine source code should be publicly available for inspection.[56] Others have also suggested publishing voting machine software under a free software license as is done in Australia.[57] Software such as Sammaty come under GNU GPL, which means their source code is publicly available and hence transparent.[58]

Testing and certification

One method to any error with voting machines is parallel testing, which are conducted on the Election Day with randomly picked machines. The ACM published a study showing that, to change the outcome of the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, only 2 votes in each precinct would have needed to be changed.[59]


Criticisms can be mitigated by review and testing procedures to detect fraudulent code or hardware, if such things are present, and through a verifiable chain of custody to prevent the insertion of such hardware or software.

Critics also mention the increasing number of attack programs that online voting systems are greatly susceptible to. Malicious payloads- software data intended to do damage- have become so advanced that they can easily change a voter’s vote without any knowledge to other parties, regardless of voter identification or encryption software.[60]

Benefits can include reduced tabulation times and an increase of participation (voter turnout), particularly through the use of Internet voting.

Those in opposition suggest alternate vote counting systems, citing Switzerland (as well as many other countries), which uses paper ballots exclusively, suggesting that electronic voting is not the only means to get a rapid count of votes. A country of a little over 7 million people, Switzerland publishes a definitive ballot count in about six hours. In villages, the ballots are even counted manually.

Critics also note that it becomes difficult or impossible to verify the identity of a voter remotely, and that the introduction of public networks become more vulnerable and complex.

Whether the total cost of ownership with electronic voting is lower than other systems is not yet clear.

Astronauts in orbit

Texas law has allowed American astronauts who cannot vote in person and are unable to vote via absentee ballot, such as those aboard the International Space Station and Mir space station, to cast their ballots in federal elections electronically from orbit since 1997. Ballots are sent via secure email to the Johnson Spaceflight Center and then passed on to the astronauts' home counties in Texas.[61][62]

By country

Polling place electronic voting or Internet voting examples have taken place in Australia,[63] Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, India,[20] Italy, the Netherlands (Rijnland Internet Election System), Norway, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, Venezuela, and the Philippines.

Each Estonian citizen possesses an electronic chip-enabled ID card, which allows him/her to vote over the internet. The ID card is inserted into a card reader, which is connected to a computer. Once his/her identity is verified (using the electronic ID card as a sort of digital signature), he/she can then cast his/her vote via the internet. Votes are not considered final until the end of election day, so Estonian citizens can go back and re-cast their votes until election day is officially over. Popularity of online voting in Estonia has increased widely throughout the nation, as in the elections of 2014 and 2015, nearly one third of Estonian votes were cast online.[64]

Documented problems

California top to bottom review

In May 2007, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen commissioned a "top-to-bottom review" of all electronic voting systems in the state. She engaged computer security experts led by the University of California to perform security evaluations of voting system source code as well as "red teams" running "worst case" Election Day scenarios attempting to identify vulnerabilities to tampering or error. The Top to Bottom review also included a comprehensive review of manufacturer documentation as well as a review of accessibility features and alternative language requirements.

The end results of the tests were released in the four detailed Secretary of State August 3, 2007, resolutions (for Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems and Elections Systems and Software, Inc.) and updated October 25, 2007 revised resolutions for Diebold and Sequoia voting systems.[87] The security experts found significant security flaws in all of the manufacturers' voting systems, flaws that could allow a single non-expert to compromise an entire election.

On August 3, 2007, Bowen decertified machines that were tested in her top to bottom view including the ES&S InkaVote machine, which was not included in the review because the company submitted it past the deadline for testing. The report issued July 27, 2007, was conducted by the expert "red team" attempting to detect the levels of technological vulnerability. Another report on August 2, 2007 was conducted by a source code review team to detect flaws in voting system source code. Both reports found that three of the tested systems fell far short of the minimum requirements specified in the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). Some of the systems tested were conditionally recertified with new stringent security requirements imposed.[88] The companies in question have until the February 2008 California Presidential Primaries to fix their security issues and ensure that election results can be closely audited.

The Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold Election Systems) AccuVote-TSx voting system was studied by a group of Princeton University computer scientists in 2006. Their results showed that the AccuVote-TSx was insecure and could be "installed with vote-stealing software in under a minute." The scientists also said that machines can transmit computer viruses from one to another "during normal pre- and post-election activity."[89]

2000 presidential election in Florida

Punched cards received considerable notoriety in 2000 when their uneven use in Votomatic style systems in Florida was alleged to have affected the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Invented by Joseph P. Harris, Votomatic was manufactured for a time under license by IBM. William Rouverol, who built the prototype and wrote patents, stated that after the patents expired in 1982, lower quality machines had appeared on the market. The machines used in Florida had five times as many errors as a true Votomatic, he said.[90]

Punched-card-based voting systems, the Votomatic system in particular, use special cards where each possible hole is pre-scored, allowing perforations to be made by the voter pressing a stylus through a guide in the voting machine. A problem with this system is the incomplete punch; this can lead to a smaller hole than expected, or to a mere slit in the card, or to a mere dimple in the card, or to a hanging chad. This technical problem was claimed by the Democratic Party to have influenced the 2000 U.S. presidential election in the state of Florida; critics claimed that punched card voting machines were primarily used in Democratic areas and that hundreds of ballots were not read properly or were disqualified due to incomplete punches, which allegedly tipped the vote in favor of George W. Bush over Al Gore.

Other punched card voting systems use a metal hole-punch mechanism that does not suffer nearly as much from this fault, although most states have eliminated punched card voting systems of all types after the 2000 Florida experience. Canada still predominantly uses punched card ballots.

Recommendations for improvement

In December 2005 the US Election Assistance Commission unanimously adopted the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which significantly increase security requirements for voting systems and expand access, including opportunities to vote privately and independently, for individuals with disabilities. The guidelines took effect in December 2007 replacing the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS) developed by the Federal Election Commission.

Some groups such as the Open Voting Consortium believe that to restore voter confidence and to reduce the potential for fraud, all electronic voting systems must be completely available to public scrutiny.

Also proposed is the requirement for use of open public standards and specifications such as the Election Markup Language (EML) standard developed by OASIS and now under consideration by ISO (see documents and schemas).[91] These can provide consistent processes and mechanisms for managing and performing elections using computer systems.


In the summer of 2004, the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Association of Information Technology Professionals issued a nine-point proposal for national standards for electronic voting.[92] In an accompanying article, the committee's chair, Charles Oriez, described some of the problems that had arisen around the country.[93][94]

Legislation has been introduced in the United States Congress regarding electronic voting, including the Nelson-Whitehouse bill. This bill would appropriate as much as 1 billion dollars to fund states' replacement of touch screen systems with optical scan voting system. The legislation also addresses requiring audits of 3% of precincts in all federal elections. It also mandates some form of paper trail audits for all electronic voting machines by the year 2012 on any type of voting technology.[95]

Another bill, HR.811 (The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003), proposed by Representative Rush D. Holt, Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, would act as an amendment to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and require electronic voting machines to produce a paper audit trail for every vote.[96] The U.S. Senate companion bill version introduced by Senator Bill Nelson from Florida on November 1, 2007, necessitates the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to continue researching and to provide methods of paper ballot voting for those with disabilities, those who do not primarily speak English, and those who do not have a high literacy rating. Also, it requires states to provide the federal office with audit reports from the hand counting of the voter verified paper ballots. Currently, this bill has been turned over to the United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and a vote date has not been set.[97]

During 2008, Congressman Holt, because of an increasing concern regarding the insecurities surrounding the use of electronic voting technology, submitted additional bills to Congress regarding the future of electronic voting. One, called the "Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008" (HR5036), states that the General Services Administration will reimburse states for the extra costs of providing paper ballots to citizens, and the costs needed to hire people to count them.[98] This bill was introduced to the House on January 17, 2008.[99] This bill estimates that $500 million will be given to cover costs of the reconversion to paper ballots; $100 million given to pay the voting auditors; and $30 million given to pay the hand counters. This bill provides the public with the choice to vote manually if they do not trust the electronic voting machines.[98] A voting date has not yet been determined.

Popular culture

In the 2006 film Man of the Year starring Robin Williams, the character played by Williams—a comedic host of political talk show—wins the election for President of the United States when a software error in the electronic voting machines produced by the fictional manufacturer Delacroy causes votes to be tallied inaccurately.

In Runoff, a 2007 novel by Mark Coggins, a surprising showing by the Green Party candidate in a San Francisco Mayoral election forces a runoff between him and the highly favored establishment candidate—a plot line that closely parallels the actual results of the 2003 election. When the private-eye protagonist of the book investigates at the behest of a powerful Chinatown businesswoman, he determines that the outcome was rigged by someone who defeated the security on the city's newly installed e-voting system.[100]

"Hacking Democracy" is a 2006 documentary film shown on HBO. Filmed over three years, it documents American citizens investigating anomalies and irregularities with electronic voting systems that occurred during America's 2000 and 2004 elections, especially in Volusia County, Florida. The film investigates the flawed integrity of electronic voting machines, particularly those made by Diebold Election Systems and culminates in the hacking of a Diebold election system in Leon County, Florida.

The central conflict in the MMO video game Infantry resulted from the global institution of direct democracy through the use of personal voting devices sometime in the 22nd century AD. The practice gave rise to a 'voting class' of citizens composed mostly of homemakers and retirees who tended to be at home all day. Because they had the most free time to participate in voting, their opinions ultimately came to dominate politics.[101]

Electronic voting manufacturers

Academic efforts

See also


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