Modularity: Ensuring Voting Data Can Be Analyzed with Independent Software

Jurisdictions purchasing new voting equipment should be sure to improve election security and increase its flexibility for using different voting methods through a requirement for "modularity." This provision need not affect the costs of equipment, yet it would boost election integrity and opportunities for municipalities to explore innovative voting methods.

Here is the language that FairVote proposes being put into voting equipment contracts: 

"The equipment shall be capable without further modification of creating, storing and exporting an anonymous separate machine record of each choice made by every voter for each office. This record should allow analysis by independent software, including off-the-shelf products."

This provision would allow separation of the function of the hardware/firmware from the tallying software. With modularity you can have independent software applied to the same data to make sure you get the same result. Post-election audits of machines can focus on the accuracy of how ballots were exported into a format accessible to the public.

This provision also has particular significance for jurisdictions adopting alternative voting methods such as instant runoff voting. If state equipment comes with modular software, a jurisdiction could use the data generated from the system and tally the results using independent tallying software, such as the software already used in several cities to tally ranked choice voting systems. Furthermore, once tallying software for ranked choice voting systems receives federal certification, it would allow higher-level elections with instant runoff voting.

For another example, here is the language used by the District of Columbia in the “Omnibus Election Reform Amendment Act of 2009”:

“Each voting system used in an election in the District occurring after January 1,
2012, shall…
(C) Be capable without further modification of creating, storing, and exporting an anonymous separate machine record of each voter-verifiable record, showing each choice made by the voter.”

View the full act here, with the Modularity Language on page 8.