Congress will soon consider H.R. 811 (Rep. Holt, D-NJ) “The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007” which would mandate that all direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines have “voter-verified” paper audit trails. Many states will also vote on similar legislation this year. While the purpose of such legislation is to improve the security of our elections, the focus on paper trails is unjustified. In many instances paper audit trails not only increase costs but may actually provide less assurance that a voter’s ballot is accurately counted.
In a report released on September 18, 2007, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) analyzes the arguments made by proponents of paper audit trails and debunks the myth that paper audit trails will secure our elections. ITIF argues that paper audit trails have serious limitations which diminish their ability to effectively verify election results. Furthermore, a federal mandate to require paper audit trails would prevent the use of alternative voting technology that offers more security, transparency, and reliability than paper-based audit trails alone.
In the report, ITIF advocates that the debate over voting technology should move beyond paper audit trails to a discussion of how new technology can dramatically improve the ease and accuracy of voting. The report discusses new innovations in voting machines that offer “end-to-end verifiability” and explains the cryptography behind these systems. ITIF concludes that Congress should adopt language similar to S. 730 (Sen. Dodd, D-CT) and H.R. 2360 (Rep. Ehlers, R-MI) which does not mandate paper audit trails, but still requires a verifiable audit trail.