For years, many in the election technology ecosystem have been promoting the implementation of e-voting systems that produce voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT).
Election management bodies (EMBs), independent auditors, election watchdog groups, voters, journalists and other stakeholders advocate for the use of electronic voting systems with paper trails to improve the auditability and transparency of elections.
What exactly is a paper audit trail? The VVPAT or “paper trail,” covers both the notion of the printed vote by an electronic voting machine as well as the broader compilation of all the physical records originated during an election (e.g. tallying, transmission, consolidation or canvassing reports).
Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, expert critic in computer security and electronic voting, as well as creator of the concept of Voter Verified Paper Ballot (VVPB), argues the VVPAT is the broadest and most auditable proposal in electronic voting as it includes printed records of all election processes for future lawful audits.
So, what are the main benefits of a VVPAT?
- VVPATs make the electronic voting easier to audit. They allow authorities and voters to independently verify that all the voting choices have been registered according to the intention and that election results are legitimate. Greater auditability enhances transparency, and in turn, generates trust.
- The redundancy offered by the paper trail is vital to guarantee the legitimacy of the information in the system. When results are disputed, VVPATs allow authorities and political parties to have material and public evidence. They can also help detect malfunctions or malicious attempts to manipulate the vote.
- Familiarity. Adopting new technology always requires a leap of faith. Having a physical paper trail that the voter can touch, brings the voting experience closer to traditional voting. Familiarity generates trust.
The use of VVPAT in electronic voting systems offers greater guarantees than paperless machines. Giving to each voter the possiblity to validate his or her own vote strengthens not only the electronic voting systems, but also the complete democratic process.
Election basics series
Information overload is here to stay. It can cause analysis paralysis, lack of focus or poverty of attention, and productivity issues. We have all been there.
If you are in the election technology industry, you probably are part of those digging deeper into a confusing information hole instead of finding clarity when researching. But, rest calm. We have just decided to get back to basics and bring you a series of election key concepts nuggets.
Hope you find them useful.