Think Tank Bashes Paper Trails For E-Voting

from the missing-the-point dept

A think tank has released a report bashing the idea of requiring paper trails for e-voting systems. The logic behind this uses some sleight of hand and some misdirection to make such a statement actually try to sound sensible. The key argument the group makes is that a paper trail would not increase security while increasing cost. That’s actually true — but that’s not the point. People aren’t asking for a paper trail to increase security. They’re asking for a paper trail to make the machines auditable so the machine’s ability to count accurately can be checked. In response to this, the think tank notes that the paper trail might not be perfect, so it’s a waste. They point out that printers jam and the hand counts of paper trails may not be accurate either. That’s nice, but again it’s missing the point. Without those things, there’s simply no way of knowing whether or not the computer count was accurate or whether the votes were tampered with. No one has suggested that a paper trail is the perfect solution to all of e-voting’s problems. No one denies that paper trails potentially add other problems to the process. But the concern here is not in making e-voting cheaper — but in making it better. Adding additional mechanisms to make the machines more reliable and more trustworthy seems like a reasonable step, though certainly not the only one that should be taken.

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Comments on “Think Tank Bashes Paper Trails For E-Voting”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I can just see this now.

Tuch screens use Vista as their operating system.

Cracker enters machine by back door Microsoft put in Vista so that Microsoft can update computer with out owner’s permission.

Cracker programs computer so that Daffie Duck wins election.

No paper trail.

A Walt Disney cartoon character wins election.

National headlines Daffie Duck Wins Election!

Who are these Bozos kidding.

Anonymous Coward says:

It would be nice to know who actually funds this “think tank”. In 5 minutes of searching, I found only links to their articles – nothing on who they are.

A tech group with objections to insuring accurate elections sounds very suspicious to me. Why would they care either way?

Any electronic system provides business for their industry. In fact, moving from paper ballots to electronic voting was an immense windfall. Any further changes just mean more sales.


JuarezTraveller says:

This Think Tank Is Nuts

“Think” tank? Either there were too many conditions in their tests or they didn’t consider enough configurations. Clearly, a paper receipt verified by the voter or poll worker (like maybe with the final display on the screen?) and left at the poll provides a much better recount capability than the present system with many machines which offer none at all. Voter verification is required if we want to have a more accurate auditing process. And I just can’t believe they actually said that the paper will prevent the use of innovative technologies. We don’t vote so that we can use innovative technologies. We use innovative technologies so that we can count our votes better. In addition, that stupid argument misses the whole point of employing good ergonomics in the human-machine interface. Finally, their argument that people won’t know if the machine or the paper is right is an argument to eliminate the machines and to use older methods of voting.

This “think” tank is nuts.

Dave Johnson (user link) says:

It isn't complicated

Use the touch-screen computer as an input device, and have it print a paper ballot that the voter looks at and then puts in a separate ballot box. Simple. This gets rid of all of the problems we have had in the past where people make mistakes – like Florida in 2000. Now we have lots of votes thrown out, but using the touch screen as an input device to print a paper ballot all those problems go away.

And if we have a paper trail security doesn’t even MATTER. Open source doesn’t matter. Hacking doesn’t matter. Because we can count the paper ballots that the computer prints and the voter checks.

You can use the computer for a fast preliminary count, but the paper is there for a physical count. Since it is printed from a computer it is standardized and can be passed through counting machines.

It’s really so simple — why do the voting machine companies resist this? They would make more money selling the printers. I have never before heard of companies resisting selling high-margin add-ons. Sheesh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It isn't complicated

It’s really so simple — why do the voting machine companies resist this? It’s really the elections officials who don’t want it. If there’s a paper trail then someone can challenge the results and then they might have to do a manual recount. The officials want to be able to say “Sorry, that’s impossible because there’s nothing that can be manually counted. However, I’d be glad to press the automatic count button again. Just a moment. Yep, there it is, same result. Count confirmed, I did a perfect job again.” A paper trail also makes it more difficult to rig elections which is something else some officials don’t like about it. The voting machine companies are just giving these corrupt officials what they want. That’s what it really boils down to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It isn't complicated

computer generated scantron type ballot cards that can be verified by the voter and then easily counted by another computer that can be tampered with to count incorrectly, still same problem. Let’s just have an IQ test b4 hand to make sure ppl know how to punch a ballot. that seems to be the main issue. obviously the ppl who had problems in florida in 2000 were just to stupid to look at their ballot to make sure it was ok before they turned it in. These must be the same ppl who move across 4 lanes on the highway while talking on the cell phone and changing the radio station. you can’t fix stupid people – Ron White.

Anonymous Coward says:

So just who is this think tank?

So just who is this think tank?

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) , was created by former Members of Congress Jennifer Dunn and Calvin Dooley in partnership with the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

ITI describes itself as “One of Washington’s most effective lobbying groups.” Members include Accenture, Agilent, Apple, AMD, Applied Materials, Canon, Cisco, CA, Corning, Dell, Ebay, EMC2, EPSON, Honeywell, HP, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Kodak, Lenovo, Lexmark, Micron, Microsoft, Monster, National, Semiconductor, NCR, NetApp, Oracle, Panasonic, Qualcomm, RIM, SAP, Sony, Sun Microsystems, Symbol, Tektronix, Texas Instruments, TimeWarner, Unisys, VeriSign, and Vonage. There may be more not publicly listed.

Honest voting is essential to democracy. To oppose it is to oppose democracy. Remember the names of the companies listed above.

voting machines? says:


Why on earth do we accept these devices?

This is simply a case of trying to “save” money where the cost savings are completely unjustified. It’s false savings 101. Why would we rely on an overly complicated machine that any security expert would agree, could potentially have a plethora of problems, and put it in charge of our voting process?

WHY? It’s an ridiculous concept. What’s so wrong with the old way?

AllAboutVoting (user link) says:

Shallow analysis

This review and many of the comments misses the core point of the report (This is the ITIF author’s fault really; he buried it in rhetoric promoting eVoting and disparaging voter-verified paper audit trails).

The core point of the report is that there are better techniques for giving a voter confidence that their vote was counted as cast then a voter-verified paper audit trail and that Congress ought to allow and encourage deployment of these. I agree with this core point and have often been frustrated that I have no way of telling if my vote counted in existing systems; including paper-based systems.

My review of the report:
* summary
* point-by-point

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