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

What Is Ballot Definition?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

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

“Ballot definition is the process through which the ballot presented to the voter is laid out. It involves aspects such as the font size, graphics, placement and formatting of items, translation into other languages and so on…

Each jurisdiction has different ballot requirements. Even within the same jurisdiction, a number of different ballots may be involved. Ballot design directly affects the ability of voters to understand the issues, recall their decisions, and actually carry out their intentions.”

2005 - National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

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:

“Ballot definition files tell the 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.

Local jurisdictions can program these files before each election or outsource their programming to a vendor. For touchscreens, ballot information can be displayed in color and can incorporate pictures of the candidates.”

2005 - US Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Aviel Rubin, PhD, Technical Director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute included the following description of ballot definition in his paper “Analysis on an Electronic Voting System” (Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute Technical Paper TR-2003-19, July 23, 2003):

“Before an election takes place…election officials must specify the political offices and issues to be decided by the voters along with the candidates and their party affiliations. Variations on the ballot can be presented to voters based on their party affiliations. We call this data a ‘ballot definition’…The ballot definitions may be distributed [to each electronic voting machine] using removable media, such as floppy disks or storage cards, or over a local network, the Internet, or a dial-up connection…

The ‘ballot definition’ for each election contains everything from background color of the screen and information about the candidates and issues on the ballot to the username and password to use when reporting the results.”

July 23, 2003 - Aviel D. Rubin, PhD

Ellen Theisen, CEO of the Vote-PAD Company, wrote a 2005 paper titled “Ballot Definitions Files: No Review Is Provided for a Key Component of Voting System Software,” which stated:

“Ballot definition data is constructed for each specific election and contains all the details about that election…

The ballot definition data is loaded onto all DREs, as well as the machine that performs the final tally…On a DRE, the content of the [ballot definition] file determines the ballot that is displayed on the screen for each voter; it also determines how the completed vote is recorded in the vote database…The tally software uses the ballot data as a ‘key’ when it interprets the content of the vote database and calculates the final tallies…

The ballot definition data is as critical to the operation of the system as the underlying software.”

2005 - Ellen Theisen, MA