Malfunction and Malfeasance:

A Report on the Electronic Voting Machine Debacle


This report surveys four major studies that reviewed DRE voting machine security and reliability. Two of the reports involved extensive review of more than 80 academic, technical, and industry reports on DREs. Each report concluded DRE machines to be vulnerable to malfunction and also to tampering in which a computer-savvy hacker with minimal access to the machine could introduce malicious code to the DRE software and change the results of an election. Such manipulation could be undetectable. In machines equipped with a modem, it could even be done from a remote location. 


Furthermore, there have been at least seven reported occasions since 2002 in which electronic voting machines added or removed votes in real elections, calling into question the final results of a race. For example, this spring, as states across the country conducted primary elections, a programming error caused a DRE in Tarrant County, Texas, to record an additional 100,000 votes that were never actually cast. The election outcome is being challenged by a candidate who lost by 6,000 votes.


Despite the security problems and serious malfunctions, in November DRE machines will be used in 37 states, with 39 percent of voters expected to vote on them. In many of these states, there are no adequate safeguards in place. State law either does not require the voting system to produce a voter-verified paper ballot or does not require a statistically meaningful and transparent audit process. These states are at risk of compromised elections due to DRE malfunction or tampering.

This report includes a chart detailing the status of each state, along with a chart detailing the level of risk for voters in each state, and chart showing which medium and high risk states allow no-excuse absentee voting. 


To address these problems, Common Cause makes eight recommendations:


  • Congress should immediately pass HR 550, "The Voter Confidence
    and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005."
  • States should pass laws or adopt regulations requiring all voting
    systems to produce a voter verifiable paper ballot and mandate
    that at least a random two percent of voting jurisdictions conduct
    public audits of their voting systems.
  • Election officials should take necessary steps to safeguard machines
    prior to Election Day.
  • State election officials should, wherever possible, immediately retrofit
    DREs with printing systems to produce a voter verifiable paper
    ballot, and use those ballots in audits.
  • In the instance where DREs cannot be retrofitted, Common Cause
    recommends that state election officials decertify those DREs that
    cannot provide a paper record and turn to other voting systems
    such as optical scan machines for the November elections.
  • Congress and states should make emergency funds available for
    purchase or lease of more secure, auditable machines.
  • Voters should be encouraged to vote on paper whenever possible.
    If facing the prospect of voting on paperless DREs in November,
    they should advocate for change with local election officials
    well before the election. If that does not work, where possible,
    voters should vote by absentee ballot.
  • Regardless of the voting equipment in a jurisdiction, citizens
    should vote. While there is a chance that a vote won't be counted if
    cast on a paperless DRE, not voting at all will assure that it is not.


You can read the rest of this report, including details on specific at-risk states, by clicking here.