Last updated on: 3/5/2009 | Author:


Audit Any activity that seeks to validate and verify as many aspects of the election cycle as possible without violating state privacy laws

Australian Secret Ballot A paper ballot voting system in which the ballots are printed with the candidates names and issues listed in a fixed order on all ballots, and those ballots are produced by the government instead of a particular party or individual. This type of voting system represents the first major advancement aimed at preventing voter fraud

Backdoor A software program that allows access to another software program. Meant as a method for programmers to go back and update programs, backdoors are a security vulnerability because malicious users can exploit them, possibly allowing confidential or personal information to be compromised

Ballot Definition File A file that tells the electronic voting machine software how to display ballot information on the screen, interpret a voter’s touches on a button or screen, and record and tally those selections as votes

Central Count System A system in which all ballots voted in each precinct are transmitted to a central location for counting

Change Control Process The management process for requesting, reviewing, approving, carrying out, and controlling changes to a software product

Checksum Computed value representing the sum of the contents of digital information; used to check whether errors have occurred in transmission or storage of information

Cryptography The art of protecting information by transforming it from plain text into an unreadable format. Only those who posses a secret “key” can decipher the message. Cryptographic methods are used to help protect information from unauthorized access, prevent undetected modification, to confirm identity, and to prevent a false denial of identity

Decryption The process of translating unreadable information into plain text

DRE Direct recording electronic voting machine; may be a push-button or touch-screen style all-electronic machine used to record votes and tabulate results

Encryption The process of transforming information from plain text to an unreadable format

Firmware The coded instructions that are stored permanently in the read-only memory inside a computer system’s hardware. Often it is responsible for the behavior of a computer system when it is first switched on, such as loading an operating system from a hard drive or network

Hacking Unauthorized outside access to a computer or its internal software

Lever Machine Machine that directly records a voter’s choices via mechanical level-actuated controls into a counting mechanism that tallies the votes without using a physical ballot

Logic and Accuracy Testing A process during which voting equipment is tested with a known number of votes and must produce exactly that result in order to be certified for use in an election

Malware Malicious computer software, including viruses, Trojan horses, worms, logic bombs, and any other computer code that has or is intended to have harmful effects

Optical Scan System Also known as Marksense, a system by which votes are recorded by means of marks made in voting response fields designated on one or both faces of a ballot card or series of cards. The systems use an optical scanner to read the ballots

Overvote A ballot on which more than one selection has been marked for a particular race which allows for only one choice to be selected

Paper Ballot Voting System Sometimes referred to as Australian Secret Ballot, a voting system that uses a paper ballot pre-printed with candidate names in a fixed order within each jurisdiction to record votes. Cast paper ballots are deposited into a secured ballot box and tabulated manually

Parallel Testing Taking a machine that otherwise would have been used for voting out of service to the public on Election Day for the purpose of testing the machine to see whether it performs correctly under real election conditions

Patch A small piece of software designed to update or fix problems with a computer program, including fixing bugs replacing graphics and improving the usability or performance

PCMCIA Card Personal Computer Memory Card International Association card; a removable form of flash memory used to store cast votes on an electronic voting machine and, therefore, a part of the official record of the election. This card can be removed from a machine at the end of the election and taken to a central authority for tabulation

Precinct Count System A system in which all votes cast in a particular precinct are counted at that precinct, and the precinct totals are then delivered from the precinct polling place to the central election offices

Provisional Vote A vote cast by someone whose credentials for voting in a particular district cannot be verified on Election Day. These votes are kept separate from the rest of the cast votes until it can be determined whether or not the voter actually has the right to vote in that district, at which point the vote is either counted or discarded

Punchcard System Voting system where votes are recorded by means of punches made in voting response fields designated on one or both faces of a physical ballot card or series of cards

Recount A process in which ballots are counted a second time to address concerns about the accuracy of the original count. Many jurisdictions have a mandatory recount when the margin of difference between candidates is less than 1%

Red Team A group of experts assembled to evaluate the equipment and procedures of an election by simulating the environment of the actual event in advance of the election. A Team is free to experiment with attack scenarios without penalty so vulnerabilities can be identified and remedied

Residual Vote Any vote that cannot be counted in a specific election, including overvotes, undervotes, and otherwise spoiled ballots

Residual Vote Rate The sum of all votes that cannot be counted in a specific election (overvotes, undervotes, and otherwise spoiled ballots) divided by the total number of votes registered

Smart Card A card with an embedded computer chip that can communicate with another electronic device that can read information from the card or write information to the card. These cards can be programmed to initiate the voting process on an electronic voting machine for an individual voter or as a supervisor card, which grants administrative access to an electronic voting machines

Source Code All the computer programs that tell electronic voting machines how to record and tally votes, rendered in a human-readable format

Spoiled Ballot A ballot that cannot be counted, for whatever reason

Trojan Horse A computer program that deceptively appears to be a useful computer application but is actually destructive. Trojans are known to create a backdoor on a computer that gives malicious users access to the system, possibly allowing confidential or personal information to be compromised

Undervote A ballot on which no selection was marked for a particular race. This may occur because a voter intentionally abstained from voting in a race or because the voting system did not register a mark

Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Also referred to as a Voter Verified Paper Ballot, it is a physical record of voter ballots as voters have cast them on an electronic voting system that the voter may verify corresponds to his or her intent in casting those votes