Last updated on: 4/23/2008 | Author:

Do Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails Disenfranchise Disabled Voters and Language Minorities?

PRO (yes)


Christopher Dodd, U.S. Senator (D-CT) testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration during their June 21, 2005 Hearing on Voter Verification in Federal Elections. In his testimony he stated:

“We say in HAVA (Help America Vote Act of 2002) that every voter must have the right to verify their ballot before the ballot is cast… But all the legislation or most of it that has been introduced excludes the ability of the disabled to have that same right. By insisting on paper, we are denying people who cannot read because they cannot see, or for reasons otherwise cannot manually operate the system a chance to verify what they have done…

The blind cannot verify their choices by means of a piece of paper alone in a manner that is either independent or private. Nor can an individual who has a mobility disability, such as hand limitations, verify a piece of paper alone, if that individual is required to pick up and handle the paper.”

June 21, 2005


Kay Maxwell, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States, stated in her testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on May 5, 2004:

“The VVPT [voter verified paper trail] system can reduce the access for persons with disabilities, limited English proficiency and low literacy. The VVPT system provides for the voter to verify the paper ballot, which historically disenfranchised voters will find difficult to do if they cannot see or if they have difficulty reading the paper verification. Private and independent voting is important, and, at this juncture, seems inconsistent with the VVPT system for significant numbers of voters.”

May 5, 2004


Michael Shamos, PhD, JD, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote in his paper “Paper v. Electronic Voting Records – An Assessment,” published in the 2004 Proceedings of the 14th ACM Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy:

“Paper trails cannot readily be viewed by disabled voters, requiring them yet again to reveal their votes to strangers in order to have them verified. It is no answer to say that there are other mechanisms to review their votes. If paper trail proponents truly believe the paper trail is necessary for fair elections, then elections will not be fair for the disabled.”



American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) released the “AAPD Policy Statement on Voter Verified Paper Ballots” on their website accessed May 5, 2006. The policy statement explained:

“Voter verifiable paper ballots (VVPB) will violate the letter and spirit of HAVA by once again denying people with disabilities their right to a secret and independent vote…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 that verify ballots and inform voters of a miss-vote. By requiring verification of a paper ballot before casting a ballot, blind voters are denied access to a secret and independent verification of their ballot. This action violates the letter and spirit of HAVA…

People with upper mobility disabilities or limitations are denied equal access to casting an independent vote if a paper ballot must be put into a ballot box. This also is a clear violation of HAVA’s intent.”

May 5, 2006

CON (no)


Dan S. Wallach, PhD, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, stated in his testimony before the Ohio Joint Committee on Ballot Security on Mar. 18, 2004:

“Voter-verifiable audit trail (VVAT) systems have the same accessibility properties as paperless DRE systems. They can support headphone jacks and large text for blind and low-vision voters. They can support multiple languages. They can present a ‘review’ screen with all of the voter’s selections displayed. They can eliminate overvoting, can warn voters if they undervote, and can support other desirable features such as straight-party voting, instant run-off voting, or other non-traditional election styles. While a blind voter may not be able to read the VVAT paper ballot, the voting machine cannot cannot distinguish a blind voter from a sighted voter. Just as blind people can use ATMs and can trust they will receive the correct amount of cash, they can similarly trust that VVAT systems will not be able to discriminate against them.”

Mar. 18, 2004


Rebecca Mercuri, PhD, President of Notable Software, Inc., wrote in her Feb. 23, 2004 pamphlet “Facts About Voter Verified Paper Ballots”:

“VVPBs do not at all discriminate against visually impaired, physically challenged, and foreign-language voters. DRE and touchscreen voting systems have mechanisms for reading the ballot to the voter via headphones to confirm the correct recording of their choices. The U.S. Department of Justice has deemed this acceptable for paper ballots as well.”

Feb. 23, 2004


David Dill, PhD, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration during their June 21, 2005 Hearing on Voter Verification in Federal Elections. In his testimony he stated:

“Objections have often been raised to paper ballots by advocates for voters with disabilities. On the one hand, these arguments ignore the fact that…touch-screen machines with voter-verified paper audit trails are every bit as accessible as the same machines without the audit trails.”

June 21, 2005


Ronald Crane, JD, Software Engineer, wrote in his 2005 paper “A Deeper Look: Rebutting Shamos on e-Voting,” available online at Verified Voting Foundation’s website:

“Ballot scanners, when equipped with headphones or other assistive technologies, can permit the disabled to verify printed ballots unassisted and confidentially.”



AVANTE International Technology, a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, CEO Kevin Chung, PhD, described his company’s electronic voting system which included an accessible voter verified paper audit trail in testimony before the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel Meeting of the California Secretary of State’s Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force on Apr. 21, 2004:

“I would like to assure the California voters that there are DRE voting systems with a proven ‘accessible voter verified paper audit trail’ that are available for this [upcoming] election… Contrary to the ‘belief’ of those that oppose the use of ‘voter verified paper audit trail,’ AVANTE Vote-Trakker is not only proven but also had been successfully used in five different elections…in accordance to what the Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and this panel will call ‘accessible voter verified paper audit trail.’ Blind voters like the sighted voters were able to verify their ballots by having the paper audit trail read back to them.”

Apr. 21, 2004