E-voting security: looking good on paper?

    Date07 Jul 2004
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    The voter's paper receipt has become the security idée fixe of DRE skeptics, and a shibboleth identifying those who are on the 'right' side of the debate. This is because the paper trail is a concept easily understood and conveniently communicated. It also likely derives much appeal from the fact that it involves an object that one can hold in one's hand and examine, unlike the results of a strictly electronic process. But it's far more security blanket than security measure. At the moment, there is so much wrong with DRE security that the paper record has become a harmful distraction. . . . A couple of weeks ago, the US League of Women Voters incurred the wrath of touch-screen ballot skeptics by indicating its acceptance of DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) ballot machines with no voter-verifiable paper trail.

    On 14 June, following several days of bad press, the League revised its position and adopted a resolution saying that the machines should in fact be capable of printing out a summary of votes cast, as a protective measure against tampering and malfunctions. The decision was received with great praise from DRE skeptics.

    Judging by the warm response, one might be tempted to think that the paper receipt is a security measure that will make e-voting safer from manipulation and fraud. Unfortunately, this is not the case, though it is widely believed.

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