The 2004 presidential campaign may be over, but the rallying cry for electronic voting continues. Manufacturers of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines are working harder than ever to promote voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs), which they hope will boost audit reliability of the machines, adding an incentive for election officials and voters to adopt electronic voting.
According to the DC-based Election Data Services Inc. (http://rbi.ims.ca/3858-541), nearly one-third of voters used electronic voting on Nov. 2—triple the number of 2000. Critics concede that DRE voting machines offer faster tallying, but they also argue that recording and counting errors are hard to detect since data are saved digitally in closed-source, proprietary encryption on the hard drive, Flash memory, or a CD. In response, many DRE voting system makers—including key players that have snubbed paper-based records—are introducing VVPATs.
A VVPAT is a ballot summary printed immediately after a voter has cast the vote electronically, making it possible to catch a recording error on the spot. If the voter sees a mistake, the vote can be voided and recast. Then, the VVPAT is saved in a lockbox on the DRE voting machine, serving as a hard-copy backup should an audit or recount be required. For the visually impaired, some VVPATs come with a bar code to be scanned for audio verification.
Jonathan Katz, political science professor at the California Institute of Technology, says that VVPATs do not serve any real purpose since most election results are predictable by polls, and tallying mistakes—made by electronic voting systems or not—are easy to detect. But at the CalTech/MIT Voting Project Symposium held in October at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Katz added that the use of the paper trail is significant in winning the public trust that is essential for wider adoption of electronic voting. This is especially true after the 2000 U.S. presidential election recounts, in which many voters felt cheated, Katz commented.
With VVPATs, "you feel like [your vote is] being counted because of the visual check of the paper," said Harvey Bordett, an industrial engineer who attended the October event and cast several demo votes using the showcased DRE voting machines. "With lever [voting]," he added, "it's a matter of faith."
The CalTech/MIT Voting Project (http://rbi.ims.ca/3858-542) was established in December 2000. Its mission is to review voting systems in the U.S. and propose specific uniform guidelines for voting system design. The project has gained momentum since 2002 when the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) provided $3.9 billion federal funding to help states and local governments find alternatives to punch-card voting. At the October symposium, election officials, academics, and DRE voting machine maker representatives such as Kevin Chung addressed the issues facing DRE voting, including the impact of VVPATs.
In various elections, said Chung, President of Avante International Technology Inc. (http://rbi.ims.ca/3858-544), he had found that 80 percent of voters took notice of the paper records and spent at least a few seconds to review the VVPATs, which were introduced on Avante machines as early as in 2001. In front of the 100-strong attendees at the October symposium, he asserted that voters welcome the introduction of VVPATs.
Meanwhile, DRE voting machine makers are also promoting the following features as reasons to adopt their technology:
Ease of Use —Most DRE voting machines come with an ATM-like user interface for intuitive navigation. This also helps save costs and time of training poll workers to operate the machines.
Durability —Typical product life of a DRE voting machine spans from 10 to 20 years. Hart InterCivic Inc. has introduced button-based operation on its eSlate 3000 (http://rbi.ims.ca/3858-545 ) and calibration-free, polycarbonate screen to enhance ruggedness.
Handicap Access —Large-size text and buttons, and an adjustable color display are two of the common handicap-access features. To help visually impaired voters read and cast a ballot in private, many DRE voting machines also offer audio options and a keypad. Some VVPATs also have a bar code that can be scanned and audibly verified by voters with visual impairments. To learn about the design process of a DRE voting machine for the handicapped, see "A Vote for Software-Based Design" on page 46, or visit http://rbi.ims.ca/3858-552.
|//Check out the links below for more info//
|To see the voting equipment summary in the 2004 presidential election, go to:
|For an interactive demonstration of the AccuVote-TSX™ voting system from Diebold Election Systems, go to: