Voting Machines
Pros and Cons
Video exploring critical thinking and how it leads to great citizen involvement
Last updated on: 2/8/2013 11:24:24 AM PST

Do Electronic Voting Machines Improve the Voting Process?


PRO (yes) CON (no)
Michelle M. Shafer, Director of Communications and Government Relations for Scytl, in the Dec. 6, 2012 edition of electionLine’s "electionlineWeekly," available at www.electionline.org, stated:
DREs are much faster and more accurate at recording the voter’s intent than having to mark a paper ballot with a pencil… Additionally, DREs provide less opportunity for error. A vote center would need to have every ballot available to every voter… Clinging to the past with the purported security of paper ballots and antiquated voting methods will continue to produce long lines.

Dec. 6, 2012 - Michelle M. Shafer 

ES&S, Elections Systems & Software, a voting machine manufacturer, on their "Products & Services" webpage (accessed Jan. 18, 2013), stated:
"Our secure, accurate and reliable voting equipment has greatly enhanced the voting experience for all. Our innovative software tools provide easy-to-use data management that is compatible with most existing systems. These tools support the election of today . . . and, anticipate the election of tomorrow."

Jan. 18, 2013 - Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S) 

Hart Intercivic, a voting machine manufacturer, in their Nov. 8, 2012 article "Hart Voting Systems Successfully Administer General Election Polling Places for Hundreds of County and State Customers," available at www.hartintercivic.com, stated:
"Hart delivers a deep-rooted, authentic level of credibility across the electoral process with field-proven products, services and support that successfully, dependably meet the rigorous demands of today's election procedures."

Nov. 8, 2012 - Hart InterCivic 

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), in its website section titled "AAPD Policy Statement on Voter Verified Paper Ballots" (accessed May 5, 2006), stated:
"AAPD and the disability community are in favor of a voter having the ability to verify the accuracy of their vote and to change any vote before their ballot is cast. In fact, it is one of the reasons the disability community has so strongly supported the implementation of DRE's..."

May 5, 2006 - American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) 

Paul DeGregorio, former Commissioner of the US Election Assistance Commission, in a Mar. 29, 2006 presentation at American University titled "Are U.S. Elections Getting Better or Worse,?" stated:
"One of the purposes of HAVA [2002 Help America Vote Act} was to enable states to modernize voting equipment... One positive result that no one can dispute - thanks to these new systems, many disabled Americans will be able to cast their votes independently and privately for the first time."

Mar. 29, 2006 - Paul DeGregorio 

Ted Selker, PhD, Director of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Voting Technology Project, in a June 24, 2005 Science article titled "Voting Technology: Election Auditing Is an End-to-End Procedure," wrote:
"Numerous pieces of evidence suggest that electronic voting machines outperformed all other methods used in November's [2004] election."

June 24, 2005 - Ted Selker, PhD 

John Ensign, DVM, US Senator (R-NV), in a Sep. 14, 2004 official website "Press Release," stated:
"Without a doubt, Nevada has become the national model for accurate and secure electronic voting. Americans must be guaranteed that their votes will count - it is fundamental to our democracy. We can rest assured that Nevada's election process is focused on ensuring that every vote counts."

Sep. 14, 2004 - John Ensign, DVM 

The Maryland State Board of Elections, in its July 22, 2004 online "Progress Report: Department of Legislative Services' Trusted Agent Report on Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting System," offered the following:
"In elections as in every other aspect of our lives, technology is an important tool to improve processes and increase efficiencies. The impact of technology in election administration has been revolutionary and Maryland continues to be at the forefront in election reform and the use of technology to accomplish that goal...The November Presidential Election will be conducted in Maryland using the most secure voting system in the country. Maryland has led the nation in assessing the security of the Diebold AccuVote-TS [electronic] voting voting system."

July 22, 2004 - Maryland State Board of Elections 

Michael I. Shamos, PhD, JD, Distinguished Career Professor at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, in an Apr. 9, 2004 testimony before the United States Commission on Civil Rights, stated:
"Electronic voting can be made reliable with a thorough combination of design, manufacture, certification, testing and rigorous administrative and security controls. The systems must be used properly according to stated protocols. If this is done, then electronic systems are far more secure than any systems that employ physical ballots."

Apr. 9, 2004 - Michael I. Shamos, PhD, JD 

Neil McClure, MS, Vice President and Strategic Technology Officer at Hart InterCivic, Inc., in a May 5, 2004 testimony before the US Election Assistance Commission, stated:
"DREs allow secure, reliable, and trustworthy elections to be conducted. We should move forward with electronic voting in a deliberate and reasonable manner, celebrate the efficiencies and enfranchisement of all voters and appropriately manage the risk."

May 5, 2004 - Neil McClure, MS 

Kathy Rogers, Director of Election Administration of the State of Georgia, in a May 5, 2004 testimony before the US Election Assistance Commission, said:
"Georgia counties have conducted hundreds of elections using electronic voting. Numerous success stories have emerged from nearly every corner of the state. Two themes quickly emerged: Georgia voters young and old embraced and expressed confidence in the new voting system, and our state's undervote rate was dramatically reduced following the deployment of the electronic voting platform. Georgia voters have overwhelmingly indicated their approval of electronic voting in not one but two independent public opinion studies."

May 5, 2004 - Kathy Rogers 

Harris Miller, President of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), in a Dec. 9, 2003 ITAA website section titled "ITAA Headline - Election Technology Council: Press Conference Statements," offered the following:
"I am not going to stand here this afternoon and say that this group of companies or any company has the perfect solution to voting system integrity. No one can claim that. But I can tell you that by forming this group and setting a worthy agenda, the ETC [Election Technology Council] is now a forum to which those in academia, government, interested groups and individuals can turn for constructive dialogue on issues like vote accuracy and security. And I can also tell you that the integrity of electronic voting systems, while not perfect, are dramatically better than punched paper ballots."

Dec. 9, 2003 - Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) 

Kevin Shelley, JD, Former California Secretary of State, in a Nov. 21, 2003 document titled "Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's Directive Regarding the Deployment of DRE Voting Systems in California," from the CA Secretary of State website section "California's Plan for Voting in the 21st Century," offered the following:
"I support a VVPAT [voter verified paper audit trail] not because DRE voting systems are inherently insecure, they are not, but rather because people understandably feel more confident when they can verify that their votes are being recorded as intended... I am a strong supporter of increasing voter access to all Californians, especially those who have disabilities, are illiterate, or who are benefited by having alternative language access. With the introduction of DRE systems, many of these voters can vote unassisted for the first time, and are finally able to cast a secret ballot that voters without disabilities take for granted."

Nov. 21, 2003 - Kevin Shelley, JD 

Richard H. McKay, inventor of the first direct recording electronic voting machine, in the Feb. 19, 1974 "US Patent 3,793,505 McKay et al.946KB", included the following:
"The electronic voting machine of this invention will simplify machine voting by the average voter and provides apparatus that will supply accurate election returns rapidly and while affording substantially trouble free operation with minimum maintenance and giving foolproof results."

Feb. 19, 1974 - Richard H. McKay 

Nathaniel Polish, PhD, President and Owner of Daedalus Technology Group, is quoted in the Nov. 6, 2012 Forbes article, "The Technological Foundations of Today’s Election Are Shaky, Especially in Ohio," available at www.forbes.com:
Computer based voting is a real problem. If it is not completely open source with code open for public inspection and comment, then is can not [sic] be a valid way to collect votes. Period. There is really no room for compromise on this. Elections done electronically with proprietary systems will always be suspect.

Nov. 6, 2012 - Nathaniel Polish, PhD 

Timothy B. Lee, MS, Contributor for Ars Technica and Wired.UK, in his Oct. 23, 2012 article "Why E-Voting Is on the Decline in the United States," available at www.wired.co.uk, wrote:
"It is now widely recognized that old-fashioned paper ballots are a more affordable, reliable, and secure way to conduct elections. Computerised votong is increasingly seen as a fad that has worn out its welcome. But it might take another election debacle to generate the political will to retire these flawed machines."

Oct. 23, 2012 - Timothy B. Lee, MS 

David Dill, PhD, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and founder of Verified Voting, in an abstract for a Dec. 10, 2012 lecture at Columbia University, "The E-Voting Battle," available at home.columbia.edu, stated:
[Changing the system entirely in 2002] to paperless electronic voting machines would have resulted in a system where we had no idea whether our leaders were selected by voters or by errors or malicious software in voting machines.

Dec. 10, 2012 - David L. Dill, PhD 

Anthony Wing Kosner, Forbes contributor, in the Nov. 6, 2012 Forbes article, “The Technological Foundations of Today’s Election Are Shaky, Especially in Ohio,” available at www.forbes.com, writes:
But why are we expending so much effort on the fine points of the new iPhone when our elections are being conducted on the equivalent of ancient feature phones? Shouldn’t it be in both parties’ interest to asure [sic] the trust of the electorate in this process—especially after what happened in 2004. The fact that we are going into this election with such archaic and vulnerable systems, the fact that if there are problems we will not have a reliable way to debug them, is deeply troubling.

Nov. 6, 2012 - Anthony Wing Kosner 

Michael D. Byrne, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at Rice University, in a presentation titled "Electronic Voting Machines versus Traditional Methods: Improved Preference, Similar Performance," at the CHI 2008 Proceedings - Measuring, Business, and Voting presented on Apr. 5-10, 2008, cowritten with Sarah P. Everett, Kristen K. Greene, Dan S. Wallach, Kyle Derr, Daniel Sandler, and Ted Torous, offered the following:
"It has clearly been assumed by policy makers and others that DREs would be better than the paper ballots, lever machines, and punch cards they have been replacing. Our results indicate that performance on DREs in terms of efficiency and effectiveness is not better than with more traditional methods, and due to the high rate of postcompletion errors it may actually be notably worse. This finding replicated across all experiments and strongly shows that DREs do not necessarily lead to better voting performance as had been assumed."

Apr. 5-10, 2008 - Michael D. Byrne, PhD 

Jerry Berkman, former Programmer/Analyst at UC Berkeley, in a July 19, 2007 email to ProCon.org, wrote:
"A lot of people used to think this [paper trail] would solve the integrity problems with electronic voting machines (DREs). However, they are really poorly made, costly, and don't work as expected. As an example, in one election in Cayahoga County (Cleveland), over 10% of the paper trails were either lost of jammed or otherwise could not be used. And research has showed that most voters don't look at them. Also, research shows DREs with many more undervotes than optical scan... DREs with paper trails work so badly that I don't know anyone who favors them anymore. Some people say they'd rather have a DRE with a paper trail than a paperless DRE, but they also say they'd rather have optical scan than DRE with paper trail... So my answer is that DREs with or without paper trails should be banned."

July 19, 2007 - Jerry Berkman 

Matthew Bishop, PhD, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California at Davis, in a Mar. 2007 Communications of the ACM article titled "Fixing Federal E-Voting Standards," wrote:
"Concerning design, researchers have shown, and experience has confirmed, that electronic voting machines do not meet reasonable expectations for correctness, availability, accessibility, and security. A large body of work proposes immediate, short-term fixes but, in every case, has found the only longterm remedy is complete system redesign... The standards on which vendors base their system designs and against which the testing authorities certify the systems are flawed... Without clear requirements, no design can be sound nor can any system be meaningfully certified."

Mar. 2007 - Matthew Bishop, PhD 

Stephen H. Unger, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University, in a Feb. 5, 2007 article titled "E-Voting: Big Risks for Small Gains," retrieved from his Ends and Means blog, wrote:
"E-voting is vulnerable to all the corruption techniques associated with traditional elections based on strictly manual operations. In addition, there is an open-ended collection of e-cheating methods that can be implemented on a large scale by relatively few people, despite well monitored election-day operations. Even under ideal conditions, it would be extremely difficult to detect many of the conceivable e-cheating methods... The ostensible motivation for using e-voting stems largely from the dramatic 2000-election problems that were associated with punched card voting systems. A better approach is to have teams of poll workers and poll watchers manually count ballots manually marked by voters. This simple, time-tested method, used in most industrialized countries outside the US, seems to work very well."

Feb. 5, 2007 - Stephen H. Unger, PhD 

The Florida Voters Coalition, in a May 5, 2007 presentation titled "2007 Position Paper on Voting Systems," available at goallthewayflorida.com, offered the following:
"Make voter verified paper ballots (VVPB)... the official record of every vote. Optical Scan VVPB systems with, accessible ballot marking devices and reasonable multi-lingual parity where required by federal, state, or county law, comply with this standard. Direct Recording Electronic devices (DREs), whether fitted with printers or not, do not comply because they have proven insecure, error-prone, and they disenfranchise voters."

May 5, 2007 - Florida Voters Coalition 

Debra Bowen, JD, California Secretary of State, in a June 5, 2006 interview with Brad Blog, stated:
"A lot of people don't have confidence that their votes will be counted as have been cast. We will be using some touch-screen voting machines in California in June, but fewer than we might have. The lawsuit that was filed persuaded some counties from purchasing more electronic voting machines. But really, we're going to have to go back and deal with all of the security risks and the problems that have occurred in other states before we before we get ready to deploy the equipment in November... It has just been astonishing how many problems there have been with the electronic voting equipment."

June 5, 2006 - Debra Bowen, JD 

Edward W. Felten, PhD, Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University, in an Aug. 2007 Proceedings of the USENIX Workshop on Accurate Electronic Voting Technology report titled "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine," wrote:
"From a computer security standpoint, DREs have much in common with desktop PCs. Both suffer from many of the same security and reliability problems, including bugs, crashes, malicious software, and data tampering. Despite years of research and enormous investment, PCs remain vulnerable to these problems, so it is doubtful, unfortunately, that DRE vendors will be able to overcome them... Experience with the [Diebold] AccuVote-TS and paperless DREs shows that they are prone to very serious vulnerabilities."

Aug. 2007 - Edward W. Felten, PhD 

Voters Unite, a voters' right advocacy group, in a website section titled "Facts About Electronic Voting," available at www.votersunite.org (accessed Jan. 23, 2013), offered the following:
"With electronic voting, the most important and vulnerable election processes - recording and tallying the votes - are performed in secret, without public oversight. These processes were not developed by government officials charged with ensuring election integrity, but by anonymous software engineers, hired by vendors and not accountable to the public for the quality of their work. One would expect overwhelming benefits to accompany this sacrifice of transparency and the resulting loss of public control over election processes. That's the myth. Ironically, overwhelming disadvantages accompany the sacrifice."

July 26, 2006 - VotersUnite! 

Verified Voting Foundation, a voters' rights advocacy group in its website section titled "Frequently Asked Questions" (accessed Mar. 23, 2006), offered the following:
"[Verified Voting Foundation] is upset by paperless DRE voting systems because we know that even a beginning programmer can write code that displays votes one way on a screen, records them another way, and tallies them yet another way. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including software and hardware errors, or 'hacks' installed into the voting machines. These problems can occur even when voting machines have been thoroughly inspected and tested. DRE systems experienced a number of problems already in the 2002 elections, and we see this only as the tip of the iceberg."

Mar. 23, 2006 - Verified Voting Foundation 

Dan S. Wallach, PhD, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, in a Mar. 18, 2004 testimony before the Ohio Joint Committee on Ballot Security, offered the following:
"I have come to the conclusion that paperless electronic voting systems, also called 'direct recording electronic' or 'DRE' systems, are fundamentally insecure and do not provide sufficient protections against the sorts of fraudulent behavior that have been historically used to manipulate the outcomes of elections in the U.S."

Mar. 18, 2004 - Dan S. Wallach, PhD 

Kim Alexander, President and Founder of California Voter Foundation, in a Dec. 9, 2004 presentation before the National Academy of Sciences titled "The Need for Transparent, Accountable and Verifiable U.S. Elections," said:
"The problem with electronic voting systems is that they produce results that cannot be publicly verified. After a voter casts an electronic ballot on a touchscreen, there is no paper record of that ballot that is produced which the voter can verify to ensure his ballot was accurately captured by the machine... With e-voting systems, it's as if we're trying to eliminate fraud and error by eliminating the ability to detect it. It's like trying to solve your accounting problems by eliminating your accounting department."

Dec. 9, 2004 - Kim Alexander 

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