If democracy is to survive...

Op Ed: What's Wrong with Electronic Voting Machines:
DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails (sometimes called a voter-verified paper ballot). This is a paper ballot printed out by the voting machine, which the voter is allowed to look at and verify. He doesn't take it home with him. Either he looks at it on the machine behind a glass screen, or he takes the paper and puts it into a ballot box. The point of this is twofold: it allows the voter to confirm that his vote was recorded in the manner he intended, and it provides the mechanism for a recount if there are problems with the machine.

Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny. This also has two functions: it allows any interested party to examine the software and find bugs, which can then be corrected, a public analysis that improves security; and it increases public confidence in the voting process - if the software is public, no one can insinuate that the voting system has unfairness built into the code (companies that make these machines regularly argue that they need to keep their software secret for security reasons. Don't believe them. In this instance, secrecy has nothing to do with security).

Computerised systems with these characteristics won't be perfect -- no piece of software is -- but they'll be much better than what we have now. We need to treat voting software like we treat any other high-reliability system.

The auditing that is conducted on slot machine software in the US is significantly more meticulous than that applied to voting software. The development process for mission-critical airplane software makes voting software look like a slapdash affair. If we care about the integrity of our elections, this has to change.

I would add that an additional standard should be a minimum number of voting machines per thousand in each voting precinct. One of the big problems biasing votes is having plenty of machines in precincts that tend to vote for one party and fewer machines in precincts that vote for the other party. Long lines in the low-machine precincts discourage voting.

I would like to note that no state meets either of the standards EXCEPT Nevada which does have voter-verifiable paper audit trails.

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