Electronic Voting Machines FAQs
VOTER VERIFIED PAPER BALLOTS
Does Common Cause support or recommend any particular voting system or machine?
We do not endorse any particular technology, manufacturer or vendor. Instead, we suggest that all voting machines meet a standard set of requirements (see next question).
What are the requirements that Common Cause sets for voting machines?
Common Cause believes that every voting machine should incorporate or produce a voter verified paper ballot, should be accessible to voters with disabilities, and should conform to or exceed standards set by the EAC and NIST.
Does Common Cause believe that machines are necessary?
We realize that there are some places in the U.S. where voters cast their votes on paper ballots with pens or pencils, and poll workers hand-count the ballots. However, this process is not inherently less subject to fraud or inaccuracy than any other, nor is it accessible to disabled voters. Since the Help America Vote Act mandates that every polling place must have at least one handicapped-accessible machine in place by January of 2006, we don't endorse doing away with machines altogether.
Are all currently used voting machines outdated? Do they all need to be replaced?
Not if they conform to the requirements listed above. Many manufacturers are at work on retrofitted alterations that bring older machines into compliance. On the other hand, some studies suggest that in certain circumstances, it may be cost-effective in the long run to replace old touch-screen machines with newer machines. This is an option that elections officials should explore.
What is your position on open source codes, that is, making the program that runs the electronic voting machine accessible to the public?
Common Cause believes that the manufacturer's source code should not be secret, for a number of reasons.
Is it acceptable for voting machines to be networked?
Although it would seem to make the tabulation and final tallying of vote counts easier, Common Cause believes that each voting machine should stand alone and should not be networked to the Internet or to any other voting machine, through wire or wireless connections. Tallies from individual machines should be recorded by hand and transmitted by secure means to a central tabulation center.
VOTER VERIFIED PAPER BALLOTS
What is Common Cause's position on the "paper trail" issue?
We believe that every voter should have the opportunity to physically verify that his or her vote will be cast as directed by the voter. In order to insure this, every machine must incorporate or produce a paper ballot that the voter can view before finally casting his or her vote. For sight-disabled voters, a voice audit that reads the paper ballot should be employed to allow the voter to verify his or her vote.
Why does Common Cause believe that a voter verified paper ballot is so important?
We feel that voter confidence is the cornerstone of free and fair elections. Too many questions surround the use of paperless voting machines. In addition, it is impossible to have a meaningful recount with a paperless machine. We believe that the ballot of record, used in all recounts and audits, should be the paper ballot that the voter verified.
The confidentiality of voters must be preserved. Ballots should not have any identifying numbers; there should be no way to connect a voter to his or her ballot.
Paper ballots must be able to be read easily by voters and by poll workers in the event of a recount or audit.
In recounts or audits, we believe that paper ballots can be counted by hand or by optical scanning machines, as long as the machinery counting the ballots is of a different type than the machine that produced the ballots, and is not linked in any way. These machines should also be audited to ensure that they are working properly.
We don't advocate getting rid of voting machines and going to all hand-marked paper ballots. Paper ballots can be subject to tampering and also can result in a ballot in which the voter's intent is ambiguous.
Does Common Cause call for audits?
Yes, we believe that random surprise audits are essential. These audits should be conducted immediately after voting closes on an election day. These audits will help pick up anomalies such as malfunctioning machines or instances of election-rigging.