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

Do Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails Increase the Likelihood of an Electronic Voting Machine Malfunctioning?

PRO (yes)


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

“Adding a paper printing device to a DRE machine naturally adds another component that can fail, run out of ink, jam, or run out of paper. If DREs are alleged already to be prone to failure, adding a paper trail cannot improve that record. In Brazil in 2003, where a small number of precincts had installed paper trails, failures of the printers delayed voters by as much as 12 hours, a figure that would be catastrophic in the U.S…

The presence of the [paper trail] mechanism increases the load on the machine’s power supply and processor and itself increases the probability of failure.”



Conny B. McCormack, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, stated in her testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on June 21, 2005:

“Mechanical equipment is prone to failure/outage. Voting equipment is subject to 12-13 hours of continuous usage on election day – undoubtedly this will result in printer/paper jams. Even if such problems are minuscule, a small percentage of equipment failure will impact the ability to use the VVPAT for auditing or recount purposes and undermine confidence in the accuracy of election results.”

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:

“Printers are among the least reliable of computer system components. They jam, they need paper, they are slow, and they are an added cost… Voters’ privacy is also at risk each time a printer jams and a poll worker has to work to remove the jam.”

May 5, 2004

CON (no)


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:

“He [electronic voting machine proponent Michael Shamos] goes on to assert that paper trails increase the likelihood of DRE failure because ‘the presence of the mechanism increases the load on the machine’s power supply and processor.’ With respect to the power supply, he neglects to note that the vendor will simply use a larger power supply to handle the additional load. With respect to the processor load, the authors are unaware of any credible information indicating that the small additional processor load required to print a paper trail (or paper ballot) would in any way reduce the processor’s reliability.”



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

“It is unlikely delays at the polls will occur due to printers jamming and running out of paper or ink. Paper is used successfully in everyday point-of-sale transactions, and high-reliability printers (that can contain enough supplies for election day) are available for voting applications. Poll workers need no more skill than convenience store employees, to quickly add paper and ink from supply kits.”

Feb. 23, 2004


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:

“[Critics] claim VVAT [voter verified audit trail] printers will jam and require costly maintenance. Day in and day out, cash registers, ATMs, and numerous other machines print receipts without requiring any maintenance. If VVAT technology is adopted, industrial-grade printers can be specified that will be more than sufficient for election duties. Pre-election testing and maintenance can determine whether the printers are working properly. And, in the worst case, printers can be designed to be easily removed and replaced, in the field, during an election.”

Mar. 18, 2004