Rebecca Mercuri's Statement on Electronic Voting
Copyright © 2001 and 2007 by Rebecca Mercuri   All Rights Reserved.
mercuri AT acm DOT org

I am adamantly opposed to the use of any fully electronic or Internet-based systems for use in anonymous balloting and vote tabulation applications.  The reasons for my opposition are manyfold, and are expressed in my writings as well as those of other well-respected computer security experts.  To briefly summarize my opinion (based on nearly two decades of research) on this matter I state the following:

It is a known fact that the computer industry does not have the capability, at present, to assure a safe, reliable election using only electronic devices.  Thorough investigation of vendor claims, and failures of performance in actual elections, have demonstrated the existence of major flaws and serious vulnerabilities.  Communities that rely on promises of security and accuracy when purchasing electronic voting systems, run the severe risk that they will administer an election whose results may someday be contested -- but they will not be able to provide an independent audit which can ascertain the content of the true ballots cast.  In short, Florida all over again.  Even worse, system defects may be revealed years after an election, making all earlier results questionable.

Communities have discovered that manually prepared paper balloting systems, augmented with assistive paper ballot-marking devices for use by the disabled and those with literacy and language issues, can typically be procured and maintained for considerably less than half of the price for a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) with touch-screen or push-button input, or DRE/VVPAT (DRE with ballot-printer) system. Ballot-marking devices do not need to be electronic or computer-based. Opscan ballots can be entirely hand-counted. The opscan + ballot-marking configurations promise to increase voter confidence by offering the best in terms of reliability, usability and recountability, as well as being highly cost-effective.

It is therefore incumbent upon all concerned with elections to REFRAIN from procuring ANY system that does not provide an indisputable, anonymous paper ballot which can be independently verified by the voter prior to casting, used by the election board to demonstrate the veracity of any electronic vote totals, and also available for manual audit and recount.

Since 2003, because of unresolvable problems with the implementation and deployment of the DRE/VVPAT systems, and the difficulties experienced in using the VVPATs in recounts, I have recommended (and continue to recommend) that municipalities ONLY purchase the opscan + ballot-marking systems.