Should Electronic Voting Machines be Required to Produce a Printed Ballot Receipt?

Next week, Sen. Hillary Clinton will introduce legislation to require electronic voting machines to produce an auditable paper receipt for use in recounts. This legislation has been introduced before, and it was blocked by Republicans.

Why is this a partisan issue? Is it so hard to understand that guaranteeing free and honest elections is good for both parties? Can the Republicans not imagine a time in the future when they feel they are the victims of election fraud, and desire a meaningful recount? Why does this break down along party lines, unless one party enjoys a benefit by maintaining the status quo? Or is it just the ‘We Hate Hillary’ knee-jerk that causes conservatives to oppose anything she introduces?

Should Electronic Voting Machines be Required to Produce a Printed Ballot Receipt?

I would say yes only if they can solve the problem of counterfeiting. Just a few fake receipts scattered around the country would call into question the entire election results.

65% “It was proposed by one of Them and if it succeeds it becomes one of Their successes so we’re agin’ it”

35% “In the most recent election of any magnitude, concerns about the accuracy of electronic voting was affiliated with Their candidate which makes it a codeword for Their politics so we’re agin’ it.”

(Not that Democratic politicians tend towards a markedly deeper and more thoughtful analysis of actual issues, mind you)

I’m not talking about receipts given to the voter. These are official ballot records that would be under the control of election officials. Just like paper ballots used today.

I’d like to see each vote produce two documents. Both should have

non-ambiguous human readable listings of what vote was cast. They should both be visible to the voter after the vote for inspection, but the one copy never leaves the control of the voting machine. So the voter could glance at them see if they match and then take one with and the other gets fed to a locked box. All lock box reciepts should be gathered and kept until the election and all question of recounts have been settled.

Sounds good to me.
I’m pissed that not only can Iraquis have AK 47’s and I can’t, but they have a box of paper ballots to recount if need be. :slight_smile:

Perhaps we can use the same procedures and technologies that are currently in place for paper ballots.

I have no problem with this, except that in case of disputes, the official ballot would have to trump the voter’s copy, to avoid confusion by possible counterfeits.

I’m all for modernizing the voting hardware, but if the conception of “electronic voting” is merely an interface between the voter and a paper ballot… the question must be asked: Why bother?

I’d like to be able to vote online from any computer… securely and anonymously and only once per poll event. That would make it more convenient to participate. If I still have to put on clothes and go to a designated place to use dedicated hardware… I really couldn’t care less about the format of the ballot. Whether it’s a touch screen or a #2 pencil and little black ovals or putting an X next to a candidate’s name is a minor concern in the scheme of dragging my ass to a polling location.

“Electronic Voting Machine” needs to be able to refer to any arbitrary computer running Election Night Special v1.0 before it’s a significant advance in the way elections are conducted.

To prevent the problems we had in the 2000 election. Does “butterfly ballot” or “hanging chad” ring a bell?

Bad idea. It jeopardizes the secret ballot.

I listened to a lecture on how to devise an ideal secure and transparent voting system, and one of the points the lecturer pushed was that there not be a verifiable receipt given to the voter to take with him because it is likely to be abused by people who would like to illegally influence your vote (bribery, coercion, etc.), and now have a verifiable way of determining how you voted.

I think the machines definitely should print hard copies. The best way I’ve heard would be to have the machine bubble in a scan-tron style printout, which will then be deposited into a safe box. That way, we can count the votes in three ways: with the computer tally, by a second scanning machine, and by hand if necessary.

BTW, the technology for combining touchscreen voting with a verifiable paper trail already exists, and has for more than ten years. From “How They Could Steal the Election This Time,” by Ronnie Dugger, in The Nation, August 16, 2004 (

That extra $300-$600 per machine is the only reason I can think of for not doing this. Does anybody really think that’s more than we should pay for a guaranteed honest vote count?

I agree with you in theory. I think turnout would go way up. But I imagine that it’s extremely difficult to make it truly secure to vote through the internet. Not impossible, but very hard.

Back to dedicated machines at a specific polling place. The best argument I’ve heard for a “paper trail” is that you get a detailed receipt when you buy anything at a store, even if it’s just a stick of gum. Isn’t a presidential vote more important than some Bubblicious? As for fraudulent paper records, can the official papers be somehow marked with holograms or color-changing inks like credit cards and currency have? I don’t know how secure those systems are, but I’ve never heard of anyone falling for a fake credit card (though I have heard of counterfeit currency, of course, but even that can be checked by experts if there is a reason to believe it’s fake).

Yes. You can give the voter a coded receipt. You can “instruct” the software to record the vote, burn it on CD-ROM, and print to a paper audit trail, while “telling” it to not include the voter’s name. Since the act of voting does not include telling the machine your name there is no record of it anyway, when the machine adds it to the tally. The software will do whatever it is told to do. It will print out anything you want, IF you tell it to. It can send the results to multiple files and archives.

The secret ballot was instituted to eliminate both bribery and intimidation from the political process. It only works if the voter has no way to prove how he or she voted.

I think that it is absolutely necessary to have printouts. Otherwise, companies could program machines to automatically switch votes to the other candidate. Without a readout, there is no way to truly certify the election.

To reply to Brain…there is not amount of money that can be counted in order that we have completely fair and accurate elections. As the key to democracy, voting must be fair and available to all people. Take both the 2000 and 2004 elections for example as demonstrations of voter fraud.

Heh, is that some play on ‘Friends of Dorothy’?

Still, I don’t see any particular problem with the theory of producing paper backups of electronic votes, if the authenticity of the paper backups can somehow be verified. Granted, that is a big ‘if’, seeing as how even a major media outlet was conned by some simple forged documents.

Unfortunately, the measure doesn’t seem to address the problem of people voting twice, or voting when not technically eligible to do so, so I don’t see much to be gained from this measure. After all, reputable sources have yet to show that there is a significant problem with the existing electronic system.

You’re right - big oops on my part.