Last updated on: 1/27/2017 | Author:

Do Electronic Voting Machines Improve the Voting Process?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2005 report titled “Elections: Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to be Completed,” stated:

“Direct recording electronic (DRE) systems include the hardware, software, and firmware used to define ballots, cast and count votes, report or display election results, and maintain and produce audit trail information…

First introduced in the 1970s, DREs capture votes electronically, without the use of paper ballots… DREs come in two basic models: pushbutton and touchscreen…In general, the interface with the voter is very similar to that of an automated teller machine [ATM].”


The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) included the following entry on its website (accessed Feb. 22, 2006):

“The most recent configuration in the evolution of voting systems are known as direct recording electronic, or DRE’s. They are an electronic implementation of the old mechanical lever systems. As with the lever machines, there is no ballot; the possible choices are visible to the voter on the front of the machine. The voter directly enters choices into electronic storage with the use of a touch-screen, push-buttons, or similar device. An alphabetic keyboard is often provided with the entry device to allow for the possibility of write-in votes. The voter’s choices are stored in these machines via a memory cartridge, diskette or smart-card and added to the choices of all other voters.”

Feb. 22, 2006

The National Academy of Sciences 2005 report titled “Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting,” included the following description:

“The term ‘electronic voting system’ has been used to refer to a computer-based voting station located in the polling place with which citizens interact directly to cast their ballots – that is, in common parlance, an electronic voting system is an electronic ballot marking system…

A direct recording electronic (DRE) system allows the voter to make his or her choices and, when the voter is finished voting, provides the voter with the chance to verify all the votes cast and then records the votes when the voter takes some affirmative action to finalize the ballot…

DRE systems rely on a display screen to present the ballot to voters. For accepting input, some use touch screens, while other use mechanical selection devices… Because they are programmable devices, displays and other user interfaces can accommodate a variety of user needs.”


Stephen Ansolabehere, Associate Head of MIT’s Department of Political Science, wrote in The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (Version 2) Mar., 2001 article “Residual Votes Attributable to Technology: An Assessment of the Reliability of Existing Voting Equipment”:

“Direct recording electronic devices, DREs for short, are electronic versions of the lever machines…The distinguishing feature of a DRE is that an electronic machine records the voter’s intentions, rather than a piece of paper or mechanical device. To the extent that there is a paper trail it is generated by the machine, not the voter. Electronic machines vary along a couple of dimensions, having to do with the interface…[T]he interfaces are either push button or touch screen or key pads.”

Mar., 2001

PRO (yes)


Michael I. Shamos, PhD, Distinguished Career Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a Dec. 31, 2016 article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled “Why Our Voting Systems Are Safe,” wrote:

“It is always possible to modify a voting machine in a laboratory. That proves nothing. The question is whether any tampering is feasible involving a large number of machines under real election conditions. No one has even proposed, let alone demonstrated, a plausible scenario by which that might be done. Each machine is an island never connected to the internet. The software cannot be modified during an election — any tampering would have to be done in advance in a guarded warehouse that is under video surveillance. It can’t be done quickly, either. Machines must be forklifted off high shelves, seals must be broken, new stealth software installed and forged seals applied…

To this day, no evidence exists that any electronic voting machine used in an election in the United States has been tampered with, or even that any attempt has been made to perform such tampering.”

Dec. 31, 2016


Dominion Voting Systems, a voting machine manufacturer, in the “Products” section of its website (accessed Jan. 11, 2017), wrote:

“Dominion has invested in the development of proprietary technology that truly sets its products apart from the competition. Focusing on two key aspects of the electoral process – risk-limiting auditing and voter intent – Dominion’s technology improves the transparency and integrity of the election process.”

Jan. 11, 2017


Hart InterCivic, a voting machine manufacturer, in the “Electronic Voting Made Easy” section of its website (accessed Jan. 11, 2017), wrote:

“Hart’s eSlate DRE voting units are extremely practical, portable, reliable, secure, and field-hardened for effective deployment ‘on the front lines’ of the election process. eSlate voting units equipped with Disabled Access Units (DAUs) provide accessible voting by persons with disabilities. The eSlate voting unit has been uniquely engineered for maximum voter independence and accessibility. The eSlate allows all voters, including voters with physical disabilities, to vote using the same system.

Simply designed, the voter uses a wheel to highlight choices, and a button to mark those choices on the electronic ballot. The eSlate has helped hundreds of thousands of voters in thousands of jurisdictions across America vote accurately and efficiently.”

Jan. 11, 2017


Elections Systems & Software (ES&S), 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

CON (no)


Ronald L. Rivest, PhD, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in a Nov. 28, 2016 affidavit in support of Jill Stein’s Petition for a hand recount of all ballots in Wisconsin, available for download from the Jill 2016 website, stated:

“For our democracy to work well, election systems should produce the best and most convincing evidence that the announced election outcomes are correct… We have learned the hard way that almost any computer system can be broken into by a sufficiently determined, skillful, and persistent adversary. There is nothing special about voting systems that magically provides protection against attack…

Voting system software may be maliciously designed, may contain bugs, or may be changed or replaced at some point during the pre-election roll-out of equipment…

One is thus forced to the conclusion that one can not really trust voting system software very far.”

Nov. 28, 2016


Dan Goodin, Masters of Journalism (MJ), Security Editor at Ars Technica, in a Nov. 7, 2016 article for Ars Technica, titled “US E-Voting Machines Are (Still) Woefully Antiquated and Subject to Fraud,” wrote:

“With fewer than 24 hours before polls open for the 2016 US presidential election, consider this your periodic reminder that e-voting machines expected to tally millions of votes are woefully antiquated and subject to fraud should hackers get physical access to them.

A case in point is the Sequoia AVC Edge Mk1, a computerized voting machine that will be used in 13 states this year, including in swing states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The so-called direct-recording electronic vote-counting system has long been known to be susceptible to relatively simple hacks that manipulate tallies and ballots…

[T]he hacks might be used to alter a relatively small number of results in swing states, where outcomes have been known to be decided by fewer than a few hundred or a few thousand votes. The hacks could also be used to sow widespread distrust in the official returns and undermine confidence in the legitimacy of the election.”

Nov. 7, 2016


Verified Voting Foundation, a voters’ rights advocacy group, in the “Voting Equipment in the United States” section of its website, available at its website (accessed Jan. 6, 2017), stated:

“Far too many states use unreliable and insecure electronic voting machines, and many states have made their situation worse by adding some forms of Internet voting for some voters, which cannot be checked for accuracy at all. Even in states where verifiable systems are used, too often the check on the voting system’s function and accuracy is not done. The voting equipment now in use are aging; resources are severely impacted by the state of the economy over the past several years; shortages of both equipment and human resources are likely. After all the effort necessary to overcome the other hurdles to casting a ballot, it is patently unfair that once you get to the ballot box, that the ballot itself fails you. Taken together, these problems threaten to silently disenfranchise voters, potentially in sufficient numbers to alter outcomes.”

Jan. 6, 2017


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 the Forbes website:

“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


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 the Wired UK website, wrote:

“It is now widely recognized that old-fashioned paper ballots are a more affordable, reliable, and secure way to conduct elections. Computerised voting 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


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 the Columbia University website, 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


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 the Forbes website, 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


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


Jerry Berkman, former Programmer/Analyst at UC Berkeley, in a July 19, 2007 email to, 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


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


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


The Florida Voters Coalition, in a May 5, 2007 presentation titled “2007 Position Paper on Voting Systems,” available at the Go All The Way Florida website, 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


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


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


Voters Unite, a voters’ right advocacy group, in a website section titled “Facts About Electronic Voting,” available at its website (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


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


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