Computer Voting

The dispute over electronic voting is as heated as a debate between presidential candidates. The risks versus the benefits are discussed, investigated, and argued. But what are the facts that lie beneath the fuss?
The key function of an
electronic voting system
is to obtain voter preferences and report them—reliably and accurately.
Some assert that electronic systems are safer than other methods of voting because they implement security checks and audit trails, and are tougher to tamper with than paper ballots.
One of the most widely used electronic voting systems.
Diebold Election Systems
, boasts some 33,000 voting stations in locations across the United States.
Diebold's AccuVote-TS system
is a voter-activated interactive touchscreen system using an intelligent Voter Card as the voter interface. The interface allows voters to view and cast their votes by touching target areas on an electronically generated ballot pad.
Each unit provides a direct-entry computerized voting station that automatically records and stores ballot information and results. While classified as a direct record entry (DRE) device, the AccuVote-TS system has additional capabilities. The tabulator is a multifunctional interface that counts and tabulates the ballots at precincts on election day and communicates with the host computer at Election Central for accurate and timely jurisdiction wide results.
However, electronic voting systems have generated concern because their work is not readily accessible for inspection; what goes on behind the screen is a mystery to the general public and therefore causes uneasiness.
With computer voting, voter records are intangibly stored on a hard drive, with voting results recorded in electronic memory.
Indeed, a July 2003 analysis of the Diebold touch screen by computer researchers from Johns Hopkins and Rice universities (found at showed that the software was riddled with errors and open to fraud.
However, even with the possibility of fraud, electronic systems may still be safer than prior methods of voting because they implement redundant security checks and audits and may be more difficult to tamper with because of the size and nature of their tabulating components.
Another argument in favor of paper ballots, or at least paper receipts, is that in order to verify an election, all you need to do is gather up the ballots and tabulate them a second (or third, as the case may be) time. However, auditing paper ballot systems is not always as easy as it sounds. Ballots, particularly punch-cards, sometimes provide ambiguous results, as seen in a recent presidential election. They are easily forged and they must be physically handled and transported, which provides the opportunity for substitution or loss.
Whether computerized or traditional, no election system is infallible, and in truth, perhaps it doesn't need to be. As some have said, every safe has the capability to be cracked.
The same is true for voting systems. The issue is not whether they are 100 percent secure, but whether they present adequate safeguards to give us faith in the integrity of our elections.

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