Last updated on: 4/13/2009 | Author:

Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments

Do Electronic Voting Machines Improve the Voting Process?

1. Vulnerability To Hacking

“If there is no external communications pathway, then there is no risk of hacking, or gaining unauthorized entry into the tabulation system. Texas requires the use of closed systems. Most counties do not use modem transfer or only do so from substations, not directly from the polling place… It is possible to detect attempts to enter a modem line. Also, the Counting Station should still accept surrender and delivery of the physical medium and compare the tally and number of votes cast on the medium to the modemed results.”

Dana DeBeauvoir
Elections Administrator and County Clerk, Travis County, Texas
“Prevention of Attack, Not Detection After the Fact,”
submitted as an appendix to testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission
May 5, 2004

“Vendors and election jurisdictions generally state that they do not transmit election results from precincts via the Internet, but they may transmit them via a direct modem connection. However, even this approach may be subject to attack via the Internet, especially if encryption and verification are not sufficient. That is because telephone transmission systems are themselves increasingly connected to the Internet…and computers to which the receiving server may be connected, such as through a local area network (LAN), may have Internet connections. In fact, organizations may be unaware of the extent of such connections.”

Congressional Research Service
Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues


2. Disabled Voters and Electronic Voting Machines

“Touchscreens are the only system which allows a voter with a disability to cast a secret and independent vote…

The audio ballot and adaptive aids, such as sip and puff and jelly switches, make it possible for all of these citizens to cast a secret and independent ballot… Tens of millions of Americans can and will vote secretly and independently if, and only if, they use a touchscreen voting machine.”

Jim Dickson
Vice President, American Association of People with Disabilities
Testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission
May 5, 2004

“Very few of our members were able to vote privately, independently, despite Santa Clara County’s supposed accessible touch screens,’ Dawn Wilcox, president of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind [said]…

Among the criticisms provided by voters was poor sound quality, delayed response time and Braille that was positioned so awkwardly it could be read upside down.”

San Jose Mercury News
“Blind Voters Rip E-Machines,” by Elise Ackerman,
San Jose Mercury News
May 15, 2004


3. Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails

“Adding another federal requirement for Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems to be retrofitted with a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) component invites a number of problems that could, unintentionally, shatter the system and significantly erode public confidence in the process…The fact is that existing DRE systems without VVPAT have the proven track record of doing the best job of all available voting systems in achieving the goal of accurate casting, tabulation and reporting of all votes in accordance with the voters’ intentions…

This debate also needs to recognize practical considerations including significant costs, paper jams and malfunctioning printers, voter delays, difficulty for poll workers, and meaningless receipts. If DRE programming can be manipulated, that same logic dictates that the programming could be surreptitiously altered to change election results after the paper ballot is printed.”

Conny McCormack, PhD
Registrar of Voters – Recorder/County Clerk, Los Angeles County, California
Testimony before U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
June 21, 2005

“All fully-electronic (touchscreen, DRE, Internet) voting systems are subject to the limitations and risks of computer technology. This includes the inability of examination, no matter how thorough, to detect the presence of hardware and/or software that could be used, deliberately or inadvertently, to alter election outcomes…

Democratic elections require independent verification that a) all balloting choices have been recorded as intended and b) vote totals have been reliably and indisputably created from the same material examined by the voters. A Voter Verified Paper Ballot (VVPB) provides an auditable way to assure voters that their ballots will be available to be counted…

Without VVPB there is no way to independently audit the election results. Equipment failures, configurations and programming errors have resulted in costly election recalls and disputes that could have been prevented with VVPB.”

Rebecca Mercuri, PhD
President, Notable Sofware and Knowledge Concepts
“Facts About Voter Verified Paper Ballots,”
published on her website
Feb. 23, 2004


4. Accuracy in Capturing Voters’ Intent

“The advantages of DRE systems include: no ‘chad’; eliminating the possibility of an ‘overvote’ (or making more selections than permissible) and advising the voter of any ‘undervote’ (when a voter makes fewer than the maximum number of permissible selections in a contest);…eliminating marking devices which can result in questions of voter intent; and providing a review screen before a voter casts a ballot.”

Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force
Report to the Secretary of State
July 1, 2003

“The sensors in touch screen devices can be knocked out of alignment by shock and vibration that may occur during transport. Unless these sensors are realigned at the polling place prior to the start of voting, touch screen machines can misinterpret a voter’s intent. For example, a voter might touch the part of the screen identified with candidate Jones, but candidate Smith’s box would light up instead.”

Ellen Theisen
CEO of the Vote-PAD Company
Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections


5. Political Ties of Manufacturers

“Each of our members has policies governing political and partisan activity. The policies either prohibit, or set strict standards for, engagement in political activity. Furthermore, the commonly-held belief that voting systems manufacturers have been particularly active in partisan activity is simply not based in fact.”

Harris Miller
Former President, Information Technology Association of America
Letter to U.S. Representatives John Conyers, Jr.
Apr. 15, 2005

“The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is ‘committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year. ‘The Aug. 14 [2003] letter from Walden O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold, Inc… prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O’Dell’s company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Voting Machine Controversy,” by Julie Carr Smyth,
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Aug. 23, 2003


6. Secure Storage Of Cast Votes

“Concerns about security of the collection and counting process have always been important. Computers offer the first technology that can easily make copies of information in different forms for archival preservation. Electronic voting machines of today keep records of the votes on disk, removable physical media in memories and, as a final count, on a paper scroll. These multiple records can improve voting machines’ immunity to problems.”

Ted Selker, PhD
Director, Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project
“Security Vulnerabilities and Problems with VVPT,”
Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project Working Paper 13
Apr. 2004

“For over a decade, all direct recording electronic machines have been required to contain redundant storage, but this redundant storage is not an independent record of the votes, because it is created by the same software that created the original record. As a result, [the multiple files] are of limited use…to check the correctness of the software.”

Doug Jones, PhD
Professor of Computer Science, University of Iowa
“The Evaluation of Voting Technology,”
a chapter in the book Secure Electronic Voting


7. Malicious Software Programming

“Before the fact vote rigging [is] difficult if not impossible…The concern that unscrupulous programmers will try to rig elections through deceptive software has led to specific processes and policies to avoid such an event. For example, software code passes through numerous internal and external checks before use in an actual election, including rigorous certification testing by independent certification bodies. Voting system software is engineered months in advance of actual elections, making it very unlikely for programmers to know who candidates will be and impossible to know how their names will appear on ballots. The source code is held in escrow by various state and federal officials, and local officials do not have access to it, thus preventing code changes at the local level.”

Election Technology Council
“Frequently Asked Questions” section of website
Oct. 2005

“Testing [electronic voting systems] for security problems, especially if they were intentionally introduced and and concealed, is basically impossible. Consider the cute surprises inserted by programmers into commercial software that are triggered by obscure combinations of commands and keystrokes, called ‘Easter eggs.’ These routinely slip through vendor’s quality assurance testing, including the amazing flight simulator that is hidden in Microsoft Excel ’97. An Easter egg slipped into a voting program would never be detected. If the Easter egg allowed a voter to modify the votes inside the machine, it could change the whole election.”

Verified Voting Foundation
“Frequently Asked Questions” section of website
Mar. 22, 2006


8. Physical Security of Machines

“Attempts to tamper with terminals, via privacy security screen removal and unlocking of bay doors, would be quickly noticed by the diligent, trained Election Judge and others in the polling place.
SBE [State Board of Elections] has instructed the LBE [Local Board of Elections] to apply tamper tape over the locked bay doors of the Accu-Vote TS [electronic voting machine] terminals and record the serial numbers during the Logic and Accuracy tests…Election Judges verify the serial numbers and apply new tamper tape after the units are activated on Election Day. Protocols for monitoring the tamper tape and escalating the issue if evidence of tampering is identified have been established and incorporated into Election Judge training.”

Maryland State Board of Elections
Progress Report
July 22, 2004

“Regarding physical hardware controls…many of the DRE [direct recording electronic voting machine] models under examination contained weaknesses in controls designed to protect the system…

All the locks on a particular DRE model were easily picked, and were all controlled by the same keys…Another particular model of DRE was linked together with others to form a rudimentary network. If one of these machines were accidentally or intentionally unplugged from the others, voting functions on the other machines in the network would be disrupted. In addition, reviewers found that switches used to turn a DRE system on or off, as well as those used to close the polls on a particular DRE terminal, were not protected.”

Government Accountability Office (GAO)
“Elections: Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, But Key Activities Need To Be Completed,”


9. Susceptibility To Fraud

“The United States has been using direct-recording electronic voting equipment for well over 20 years without a single verified incident of successful tampering…

Every form of paper ballot that has ever been devised can and has been manipulated, in general with considerable ease. The reason is that humans are familiar with paper and its characteristics, how to mark it to look genuine and how to erase it. By contrast, altering redundant encrypted write-once computer records is impossible even for experts. So assuming that the electronic voting records are written correctly in the first place, the possibility of modifying them later is remote.”

Michael Shamos, PhD, JD
Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie-Mellon University
“Paper v. Electronic Voting Records – An Assessment,” Proceedings of the 14th ACM Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy

“Voting fraud is not…either present everywhere or absent everywhere; fraud comes in degrees and increments. A malicious DRE, created and distributed by one vendor to hundreds of thousands of polling places, systematically can falsify millions of votes. It is fraud on a wholesale level.

Stuffing a ballot box, in contrast, works at a retail level. A tamperer, however malicious and skilled, can stuff only as many ballots as might plausibly be cast at the polling place. While an organized group could stuff multiple ballot boxes, malicious DRE software could affect far more votes.”

Ronald Crane, JD
Software engineer
“A Deeper Look: Rebutting Shamos on e-Voting,”
available on the Verified Voting Foundation website 2005


10. Federal Legislation

“Advocates for the disabled stress the importance of voting systems which permit the handicapped to participate in the communal act of voting at the polls on Election Day. HAVA [Help America Vote Act] (as well as the ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act]) also requires that any new voting technology allow this… ATM type touch screen voting systems permit the visually impaired to vote without assistance at the polls on Election Day through an audio interface. Competing technologies (e.g., optical scan, punch card, mechanical lever) do not.”

Association of the Bar of New York City
Report of the Election Law Committee: Subcommittee on New Voting Technology
May, 2003

“HAVA [Help America Vote Act] does not require DREs. Optical-scan based systems are HAVA compliant…Typically, a voter using an optical scan system receives a paper ballot along with a marking pen or pencil…Voters who are visually impaired or require ballots in a foreign language can use tactile ballots or a computerized optical scan ballot-marking machine with attached headphones. Such a machine would allow all voters, including blind voters, to confirm or verify their ballot choices [HAVA also requires that voters be able to verify their selections and change them if necessary] by sliding the ballot into a computerized reader with attached headphones.”

National Committee for Voting Integrity
Testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
May 5, 2004