CVD's Position on
Proprietary Software and Paper Trails
The Center for Voting and Democracy works to
ensure that every vote counts and all voters are represented.
Toward these ends, we advocate instant runoff voting, proportional
representation and public-interest redistricting. These
reforms encourage a greater variety of candidates to run for office,
allow voters to vote for their preferred candidate without fear of
assisting their least favorite candidate, minimize wasted votes, and
boost competition. The Center therefore encourages all
jurisdiction to ensure that new voting equipment be able to
accommodate instant runoff voting and proportional
representation. This can easily be accomplished by requiring
that voting equipment be able to handle ranked ballots and
cumulative voting as referred to in the FEC's new voting system standards.
It would be unfortunate if new equipment ended up preventing the
adoption of fairer voting systems.
At the same time, it is essential to minimize:
- Fraud and the perception of fraud,
- Errors in counting ballots, and
- Errors in casting ballots.
The chief means for avoiding fraud is transparency; it is
essential to make all aspects of the election process as public as
possible, from the certification of voting equipment to pre- and
post-election logic and accuracy testing to the counting and
canvassing of ballots.
Modern voting equipment tends to meet very high standards for
vote counting errors, with error rates typically less than 1 in
10,000 or 1 in 100,000 under test conditions. The key then becomes
the detection and correction of errors after Election Night.
The Center believes that the following steps would help
alleviate the concerns some have expressed that electronic voting
equipment is more susceptible to fraud and errors than
- The use of open-source software.
- The availability of non-open-source software to public
inspection and testing.
- The storage of both an electronic record and a
voter-verifiable paper record of each ballot cast.
The preservation of both electronic and paper
records permits the detection and correction of ballot tampering after
voters cast their ballots. The paper records ensure voters that
their ballots were cast as intended and permits an independent audit of
any software and computerized equipment used in the election.
Finally, all voting equipment should give voters warnings about
undervotes and overvotes and allow voters to review and
correct their ballots before casting them.
If voting equipment and software meet the standards described
above, the U.S. will have fairer elections that people