Voting Equipment, Election Integrity & Auditability

Any voting technology used for government elections in  the U.S. should be secure, accurate, reliable and auditable. To ensure confidence in elections and to provide a paper record, voting machines should use a voter-verified paper ballot that is the basis for recounts and auditing the election. Direct recording equipment (DRE's) should be replaced with paper-based voting methods such as Optical Scan and AutoMark-type technology that utilizes a genuine paper ballot. The ideal method, to maximize security and integrity, is to have a redundant record of every vote. This means a system that has both a computerized record, or "ballot image" of each vote, as well as a paper ballot record of each individual vote (rather than merely running totals). This allows the comparison of the two records as an additional layer of security.

Optical scan machines are examples of acceptable technology. Paper ballot machines with a computerized interface may be acceptable if they generate paper ballots as the official ballots of record and print ballots that are easily readable and test well for usability.

These should be coupled with a manual audit and other protocols such as proper pre- and post-election testing, ballot accounting and secure chain of custody. All government elections should be subject to random, manual, statistical audits able to confirm election outcomes with a high level of confidence. Because Internet voting cannot achieve the standards above, it should not be used for government elections in the U.S. We recognize the right of private associations to run their election on-line if their members are willing to accept the inherent risk that comes with online voting.

Advanced voting methods, such as those using ranked-choice ballots, pose no more risk of fraud than more commonly used voting methods and do not depend on the use of electronic voting.  FairVote urges jurisdictions, whether adopting advanced voting methods or not, to also institute the above recommended procedures and voter-verifiable and auditable voting technologies. We urge jurisdictions to set a new and higher standard of transparency by following the precedent of cities such as Burlington, VT and San Francisco, CA, in running ranked-ballot elections, and implement "open source ballots" by also posting the computerized record of every ballot on the Internet.

Longer term, FairVote believes that voting equipment and election administration in the United States requires a national elections commission to create minimum national election standards, and explore purchase of "public interest voting equipment" whereby the software and voting equipment is open source and publicly owned.

Last updated: February 1, 2008