10 Reasons Why Voting Systems Are Not Created Equal


Voting With Direct Recording Electronics

Electronic voting machines like this one are more common than ever.
Electronic voting machines like this one are more common than ever.
© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Electronic voting systems, such touch screen voting devices, don't actually produce physical ballots like punch cards. Votes are stored digitally on a memory cartridge, which is why they're called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems. Advantages: There's no wasteful ballot printing, and language isn't an issue, since different languages can be programmed into software. DRE systems include non-touch inputs, like button-based voting devices, but aside from the input method, they all operate the same way.

DRE machines store votes in memory, which is physically taken to a central location to be tabulated for election results. The controversy around DRE machines comes into play with their modem connections, which can also be used to transfer votes via a larger network setup. While a point-to-point modem connection is much safer than transmitting data over the public Internet, security analysts have pointed out that phone lines are becoming more and more connected to the Internet [source: ProCon]. Hacking is still potentially an issue, but existing hacking techniques, like one performed by the University of Princeton on a Diebold machine, require physical access to the machine [source: Feldman et al].

It's hard to say if the machines are really any more susceptible to tampering than paper-based voting systems. Some organizations advocate paper trails for DRE voting systems to provide an audit trail. How do audit trails work? Let's tackle that next.