Paper Trails Not the Golden Ticket to Secure E-Voting

Illustration for article titled Paper Trails Not the Golden Ticket to Secure E-Voting

One of the most commonly cited ways to rectify, or at least mollify, the rampant security issues that have plagued e-voting is a solid paper trail to check the results against. Well, one think tank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, is coming out with study saying it just ain't so—in fact, they allege in the report that paper trails have "serious limitations that diminish their ability to effectively verify election results."

Rather than the clutching onto that analog artifact, paper, they propose to push forward with new voting tech that would offer "more security, transparency, and reliability." Sounds good to us: We like technology and we like voting security. This isn't the last we're going to hear about e-voting by any means with the election year fast approaching, so sit tight, it's something we're going to be watching pretty closely. [InfoWeek via Slashdot, Flickr]

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@ideaman2020, since paper trails do nothing to alleviate the inherent problems of DRE voting machines, and may even complicate things, I would argue that they make things worse. They can't be counted, and even if they could it would be like reading the fine print on a contract.. sure, there's the reasonable expectation that people pay attention to what they're doing, but reality is that many don't, unless they are required to. They just pull the lever or push the button and expect things to work. Otherwise they give a false sense of security that a vote is being recorded accurately, which makes people only ignore the problem and say things like 'hey, it's better than nothing,' but nothing is exactly what you get with these so-called paper audit trails. The shitty thing is that there IS a better system, and instead of more power to us the congress has bought the line that paper trails will make everything better.

@sumocat, I think you misunderstood what I meant when I said machine produced ballot - I didn't mean a machine printed ballot that a person fills out. The inherent problem is not the design of the ballots - you are correct that, with competent designers (although that is aiming a bit low, the real responsibility lies with the secretaries of state), confusing butterfly ballots that led elderly jewish floridians to vote for pat buchanan and poorly designed touchscreen interfaces that led to 17,000 undervotes in another florida congressional race would not be a problem. However the system of recording and counting the votes would remain flawed. So here's what I mean. DRE voting machines and hand marked/punched paper ballots each by themselves are hackable in their own way. Combine the two, and you have a fairly secure system of voting; a person marks their choices on a touchscreen or other type of e-voting machine, reviews them on-screen, and casts their ballot. The machine then prints out a paper ballot on nice thick card stock with the persons choices clearly marked for their verification. The paper ballot can also include barcode information, a hash code matching the record on the machines memory card, and any other information deemed important for security. The ballot is placed in a box to be counted later by tabulator or manually. That's what I mean when I say a machine-produced and human verified/machine readable ballot would surely fix that situation. Being machine-produced, each ballot would be indistinguishable from the next and there would be no overvoting, hanging chads, or questionable intent of the voter. Being voter-verified would instill REAL confidence that their vote is being recorded correctly, and being machine readable makes it that much easier to count the votes.