Making Electronic Voting Transparent


Voting by electronic methods does not have to lead to the abuses that are going on right now.  I have a relatively simple idea for making electronic voting verifiable and more transparent than the traditional paper ballot or any other voting machine method.

In my proposal, every electronic voting machine will print a receipt for the voter to take home. The receipt will have a ballot number and the vote for that ballot. In the voting booth the voter can verify that the receipt matches how the voter intended to vote.

The results of all ballots will be put online in a way that matches the receipts. What is online is what will be counted. Each person with a receipt will be able to go online to verify that his or her ballot was recorded correctly.  There should be no way for anybody other than the receipt holder to know which ballot number corresponds to which voter.

That will prevent the machines from incorrectly recording what the voter intended.  It will also prevent the machine from dropping votes. It will also maintain the secrecy of the ballot.

We still need a mechanism for preventing the machines from inventing votes that were not there. The number of votes cast can be compared to the records of voter sign-in and sign-out counts.

What’s left are issues of challenged voters and mail-in votes.

However, at this point the electronic vote is already better than the pure paper ballot vote.

With the principles of quality control applied to the checking of votes, it is not necessary for all voters to check that their vote is properly recorded. If enough voters do check, and the failures are below the AQL (acceptable quality limits), then the vote can be considered “correct”. If the errors are above AQL, steps can be taken to remedy the “few” precincts where the error rate is above acceptable limits.

If making electronic voting this verifiable is not so difficult, then why are there voting machine companies out there making electronic voting machines that use secret software and that can be easily hacked?  Why are there election commissioners buying such machines? Instead election boards and commissioners should be specifying what kind of machine they want to buy in requests for proposals (RFP).  The usual way government purchasing is done is with an RFP with all the specifications of the product to be purchased and an open bidding process among suppliers to provide the requested product or service.

Certainly a retired software engineer such as me cannot be the only person who has figured this out.


June 8, 2016

See subsequent post Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections (Full Length). In the video, there is a demonstration of some electronic voting hardware that is exactly what is needed for my idea to be implemented.

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