Public Interest Voting Equipment

We should use our nation’s great technical expertise and resources to create voting equipment that supports public interest needs with specific attention to the disabled community, open-source software and a voter-verifiable paper ballot that can be adapted for all localities’ election methods.

Voting equipment should be easy to use and ensure that every ballot cast is recorded correctly. In 2000, the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology project found that between 4-6 million votes were not counted due to poor ballot design and machine error. In 2004, the same group found that over 1.2 million votes were not counted due to similar problems. The study concluded that the reduction in error was the result of improvement in voting equipment, especially the reduction of punch card ballots and the increased use of equipment that limited the possibility of voter error. States that did not upgrade their equipment, such as California, Connecticut, Iowa, and Nebraska, experienced higher voter error in 2004.

At the same time that states are replacing punch cards and lever machines with optical scan machines or electronic voting equipment, it is imperative that the new equipment used is safe and secure. All Americans can agree that voting equipment should be designed to ensure that every vote cast is correctly counted. In light of recent elections, the need for secure and accurate voting equipment has

never been more critical.  In 2000, the presidential election was decided by a mere 537 votes; and in 2004, gubernatorial races in Washington and Montana were decided by less than 150 votes each.

While there is no clear evidence that voting machines have been tampered with to alter electoral results, many computer scientists agree that electronic voting machines can be programmed to produce certain results.  To avoid this possibility, the government should have full control of elections.  They should own the equipment and make the source code available to the public so that the machines can be independently tested.  Moreover, a voter verified paper ballot will provide a secondary check to confirm that the equipment is working correctly and provide the documentation necessary for a true audit.

Policy recommendations:

  • Government owned and managed voting equipment. This will give citizens ownership over equipment and limit the possibility of tampering.
  • A voter-verifiable ballot or other device to make sure that a recount is possible in case of a malfunction.
  • Create a system so the voter can review the ballot before it is cast.