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Electronic Voting Essay

1339 words - 6 pages

Electronic Voting, a balloting system that allows votes to be entered and recorded in an electronic form. These balloting systems are also referred to as e-voting or direct-recording electronic systems (DREs). The voter uses a direct entry device to register vote selections, and the entries are transferred (via circuitry) to electronic recording media, such as a computer hard drive or a memory card. The direct entry device may be electronic, as with a touch-screen, or electromechanical, such as a panel of pushbuttons.
The set of selections made by an individual voter comprises a ballot. Electronic voting systems typically record the entire ballot as an electronic “image” although there is ...view middle of the document...

The incentive for adopting electronic voting was to ease the vote-counting process and to make voting more accessible for disabled voters.
Adoption of e-voting systems in the United States was relatively slow, with only 7.7 percent of voters using DREs in the 1996 presidential election. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, however, provided more than $3 billion in federal funds for cities and towns to replace existing voting systems, especially punch-card systems like those that contributed to the disputed presidential election of 2000. Many of these systems were replaced with DRE systems. By 2004 slightly more than 30 percent of U.S. voters cast their ballots on DREs.
For the 2008 presidential election, this number is expected to decrease. Most states, including the highly populated states of California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Ohio, either abolished electronic voting or required a paper receipt for an electronic vote after numerous government-funded studies confirmed the existence of vulnerabilities with these systems. However, many states do not have laws requiring a so-called paper trail. Countries that have used e-voting systems nationwide for public democratic elections include Brazil, Venezuela, and India.

Scientific concerns about the reliability of electronic vote tallying were raised early on, in a 1975 report by voting technology consultant Roy Saltman at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These findings were expanded to include DREs in a 1988 report by Saltman. Among the problems that Saltman identified were a lack of audit trails; poor design of computer programs; vendor-supplied computer software programs that were unavailable for scrutiny; incomplete and poorly implemented administrative procedures; lack of knowledge on the part of election administrators; and the possibility of undiscoverable fraud.
Each of these items continues to be at issue in the controversies over electronic voting and tabulation. With regard to DREs, Saltman wrote, “The voter is given some reason to believe that the desired choices have been entered correctly into the temporary storage, but no independent proof can be provided to the voter that the choices have, in fact, been entered correctly for the purpose of summarizing those choices with all others to produce vote totals.”

This lack of an independent proof, or audit trail, for the vote data collected by DREs led numerous computer scientists to consider the requirement that all electronic election equipment should provide a printed version of the ballot that the voter could review for accuracy. During 1986 researchers discussed the mechanisms and process for producing, reviewing, securing, and auditing such printouts. Researcher Thomas W. Benson of Pennsylvania State University described what later was often referred to as the “paper ballot...

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