Last updated on: 4/23/2008 | Author: ProCon.org

Do Electronic Voting Machines Allow for Meaningful Audits?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

David Dill, PhD, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, stated in his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on June 21, 2005:

“One of the most important practices that could be adopted is the routine auditing of elections by choosing a small random sample of the ballots and manually counting them. This practice would make a valuable distinction between ‘audits,’ which are routine checks on the quality of elections, and ‘recounts,’ which have become increasingly politicized. Routine random audits would often catch procedural, equipment, and personnel problems in uncontroversial elections, so that those problems can be fixed before they potentially affect an election outcome.”

June 21, 2005

VoteHere, an election audit and verification technology manufacturer, included the following description on their website (accessed May 31, 2006):

“A recount looks only at the end of the voting process – the final result – not at the systems, procedures, and data that form a path to the final result. It is highly probable that the people conducing the recount will get a different total during each recount, but have no chance of determining if and where errors were made along the way to achieving the final result.

An audit, on the other hand, looks at each transaction that makes up an election result. During an audit process, problems are detected and remedied end-to-end, at every step of the voting process from pre-election setup and L&A [logic and accuracy] testing, through Election Day, and ending at canvass and the final result. Each transaction is tracked from initial entry to final result, so end totals are consistent and highly accurate, with the ability to track every vote choice on every ballot individually. This is similar to how banks and most companies are audited…

Audits monitor the following:

  • That all data in the voting machine is official, approved, and correct
  • The behavior of the voting machines on election day
  • That nothing is added, changed, removed or corrupted from the time of voting through to the final election results
  • That election procedures were properly followed where these procedures affect ballots, ballot-related data, and ballot-handling systems in any way

Electronic voting eliminates the need to recount paper ballots, though the need for a meaningful and transparent audit of election procedures, systems, and results still exists.”

May 31, 2006

PRO (yes)

Pro

Denise Lamb, former Director of Elections for the State of New Mexico, stated in her testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on May 5, 2004:

“Twenty-two of [New Mexico’s] thirty-three counties use DREs… New Mexico has used a triple audit of its elections for many years. The returns from each precinct, including audit tapes from every machine in the state, are examined at the state level with a comparison of machine tapes to rosters to the local jurisdiction’s canvass. This allows the state to examine the returns for residual voting patterns, programming errors and any other possible malfunctions or polling official errors. Then, after the state completes its review, independent certified public accountants review the materials to discover any exceptions or anomalies. This process takes time – nearly three weeks in our state, however, I believe the confidence it engenders is well worth the effort.”

May 5, 2004

Pro

Kathy Rogers, Director of Election Administration for the State of Georgia, stated in her May 5, 2004 testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission:

“Multiple, overlapping audit trails of the number of voters who have voted and the number of ballots cast as well as votes that were canceled are recorded in each precinct on Election Day, and compiled and retained after the election. After the polls close these numbers are reconciled with the numbers produced by the electronic voting system during the vote tally and any ‘extra’ votes or cancellations would be immediately identified. These numerous checks and balances that must all be strictly followed ensure that every voter is afforded the opportunity to cast a secret ballot that is the true and accurate intent of the voter.”

May 5, 2004

Pro

Diebold Election Systems website included a “Frequently Asked Questions” section (accessed June 2, 2006), which explained:

“Election results from all sources are audited and verified to ensure tabulation accuracy. All printed election results from each touch screen voting station are tabulated and compared to the electronic vote count to verify accuracy… Once voting concludes at a precinct, a printed election results report is printed as a permanent record of all activity at each voting station. This printed record is used to audit the electronic tabulation of votes conducted during the election canvass process, when final, official results are reported.”

June 2, 2006

Pro

The Election Technology Council’s “Statement of Principles,” available on their website (accessed July 2004), explained:

“DRE systems provide extensive backup capabilities for auditability. Most systems include multiple redundant storage of vote records as well as audit trails. DRE units generally do not produce paper receipts for voters but can generate tapes and other hard copy representations of votes cast.”

July 2004

Pro

Sequoia Voting Systems’ website (accessed June 2, 2006) included a description of their electronic voting machine AVC Edge, which stated:

“To support an audit trail, [AVC Edge] redundantly stores an unalterable and easily printed electronic record of all votes cast, both within the unit and on a removable cartridge for use in the tabulation of results.”

June 2, 2006

Pro

Matthew Damschroder, Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, Ohio, stated in his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on House Administration’s Elections Subcommittee on Mar. 20, 2007:

“Franklin County’s experience in 15th Ohio Congressional District recount, as well as the three other recounts conducted of the 2006 General Election and the three subsequent voluntary audits of the paper tapes to the electronic record conducted by the Board and the local newspaper, demonstrates the accuracy of electronic voting systems and the benefit of State and local control over election, audit, and recount definitions and procedures.”

Mar. 20, 2007

CON (no)

Con

U.S. Representative Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) website included a “Frequently Asked Questions” section (accessed June 5, 2006) about the issue of voter verified paper audit trails which stated:

“Ballot images, data stored on protective counters and other electronic records are all recorded inside the voting machine, beyond the voter’s view and through the use of the same software that received and processed the incoming information. Anything that is electronic and internal to the voting system is subject to the same software glitches, bugs, irregularities and other security risks as the voting system itself. If the computer’s software processed the incoming data (votes cast) incorrectly in the first instance, the fact that it then stores that incorrect data in more than on place or in more than one format provides no security benefit, and no auditability benefit.”

June 5, 2006

Con

Darryl R. Wold, JD, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, stated in his July 23, 2003 paper “The HAVA Requirement for a Voter Verified Paper Record”:

“The suggestion has been made, however, that the requirement of a paper record to be used for a manual audit can be satisfied by a paper record of votes that is produced for the time after the polls have closed – that is, a printout of what the computer has stored, and that has never been seen by the voter. This interpretation… would make the requirement for a ‘manual audit capacity’ virtually meaningless.

A paper record consisting solely of ballots printed by the computer after the closing of the polls – and therefore never seen by the voters – would mean that a manual audit or recount would simply amount to reviewing what was stored in the computer. The audit or recount could not manually verify that the computer had accurately recorded the voter’s intent, or had accurately stored that information, or had accurately printed out that information. Both an audit and a recount, therefore, would miss the key element of the system – whether the voter’s intention had been accurately recorded…

An audit using a record of votes printed post-closing, of course, could not be considered a manual audit of the complete voting system – it would be a partial audit, at best, limited to the math performed by the computer. It would not be an audit of whether the voters’ intent was accurately recorded by the computer – and that is the critical issue.”

July 23, 2003

Con

AVANTE International Technology, an electronic voting machine manufacturer, released the paper “Why, When and How Should the ‘Paper Record’ Mandated by the ‘Help America Vote Act of 2002’ Be Used?” available on their website (accessed Apr. 12, 2003), which stated:

“Every voting unit used for an election must now produce a permanent paper record for each vote cast as part of an audit trail… Without voter verification, a manual [audit] of ‘post-election’ printed paper records is meaningless and will not provide confidence to the electorate…

If there is anything that went wrong during the election, such as touch-screen calibration misalignment or ‘lost votes,’ as found in many of the systems used in the 2002 elections in Florida and Georgia, there is no way that it can be discovered or recovered.”

Apr. 21, 2003

Con

The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project report “Voting: What Is and What Could Be,” July 2001, stated:

“DREs do not provide a separate record of the voter’s intent apart from that captured by the machines. Election officials can only recount what the machines record, so it is impossible to conduct a thorough audit of the election.”

July 2001

Con

Candice Hoke, Director of the Center for Election Integrity at Cleveland State University, in her Mar. 20, 2007 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on House Administration’s Elections Subcommittee, stated:

“Well before Election Day, we identified in writing in clear generic terms exactly what electronic election results data were needed to complete the audit. The Ballot Department staff assured us that this would be provided to us immediately upon the close of the unofficial tabulation… Despite these efforts, however, the electronic files proved not to contain the data that we needed for the audit… Instead, they informed us that a variety of files would be required, and that we would have to engage in a series of mathematical steps in order to extract the data that would permit a comparison of the DRE units’ and optically scanned ballots as against the central tabulation data.”

Mar. 30, 2007