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Definition

e-voting (electronic voting)

E-voting is an election system that allows voters to record a secret ballot and have it tabulated electronically. Votes are stored so they can be re-counted should the need arise.

E-voting systems can speed up election results and lower the cost of conducting an election by significantly reducing the number of people required to operate a polling place and tabulate results. A primary concern with e-voting, however, is how to store votes so they can be recounted if required.

Electronic voting was first introduced in the United States during the 1960s when mechanical voting machines were first used and punch cards were the storage medium for votes. Since the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, however, lever voting machines have largely been replaced by optical scan systems and all voting systems must produce a permanent paper record.

Types of e-voting machines

Here is how three of the most popular types of e-voting systems work:

Optical scan system - the voter records their vote on a paper ballot, and the paper ballot is digitally scanned. Votes are either tabulated by the scan system locally, or they are collected in a ballot lockbox and sent to a central location for tabulation.

Ballot marking device (BMD) -- BMDs allow the voter to record their votes on a digital device’s touchscreen, but the device does not store the ballot. Instead the voter prints out their completed ballot and submits it for tabulation by an optical scan system.

Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) -- the voter casts thier vote directly into the voting system's computer memory by touching a screen. Some DREs will provide the voter with a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to provide the voter with assurance that the the correct vote was recorded.

In the United States, several states have implemented pilot programs to test online voting through smartphone applications. This type of e-voting does not include a paper trail - instead, it uses blockchain’s distributed ledger to protect the integrity of recorded votes and ensure election results have not been skewed by human mistakes, malfunctioning hardware, software bugs or malicious threat actors.

Take the Quiz!

1. One of the earliest DREs, the Shouptronic 1242, recorded votes internally to three banks of battery-powered __________ and a removable storage cartridge.
a. ROM
b. RAM
Answer

2. Blockchain is being touted as a secure election technology because it's a _________________ that maintains a tamper-proof, permanent record.

a. distributed ledger

b. block cipher

Answer

 

3. After the contentious U.S. 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, what type of storage technology was often in the news?
a. punch cards
b. tape robots

Answer

4. In the past, mail-in ballots have worked effectively in the United States because the country's election infrastructure is ___________ across 50 states.
a. distributed
b. paginated
Answer

5. The Better Business Bureau is seeing a dramatic increase in this use of automated technology during election season. What is it?
Answer

This was last updated in March 2011
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