DRE voting machine
A direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine records votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be activated by the voter (typically buttons or a touchscreen); that processes data by means of a computer program; and that records voting data and ballot images in memory components. After the election it produces a tabulation of the voting data stored in a removable memory component and as printed copy. The system may also provide a means for transmitting individual ballots or vote totals to a central location for consolidating and reporting results from precincts at the central location. The device started to be massively used in 1996, in Brazil, where 100% of the elections voting system is carried out using machines.
In 2004, 28.9% of the registered voters in the United States used some type of direct recording electronic voting system, up from 7.7% in 1996.
Benefits of DRE voting machines
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Like all voting machines, DRE systems increase the speed of vote counting. They can also incorporate the most broad assistive technologies for the largest classes of handicapped people, allowing them to vote without forfeiting the anonymity of their vote. These machines can use headphones and other adaptive technology to provide the necessary accessibility. DRE's can also provide the most robust form of immediate feedback to the voter detecting such possible problems as undervoting and overvoting which may result in a spoiled ballot. This immediate feedback can be helpful in successfully determining voter intent.
Additionally, with DRE voting systems there is no risk of exhausting the supply of paper ballots, and they remove the need for printing of paper ballots, a significant cost. When administering elections in which ballots are offered in multiple languages (in some areas of the United States, public elections are required to by the National Voting Rights Act of 1965), DRE voting systems can be programmed to provide ballots in multiple languages on a single machine. For example, King County, Washington's demographics require them under U.S. federal election law to provide ballot access in Chinese. With any type of paper ballot, the county has to decide how many Chinese-language ballots to print, how many to make available at each polling place, etc. Any strategy that can assure that Chinese-language ballots will be available at all polling places is certain, at the very least, to result in a lot of wasted ballots.
2009 German court ruling
In 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany found that when using voting machines the "determination of the result must be able to be examined by the citizen reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject." They further found the DRE-type voting machines used in parliamentary elections current German law permitted voting machines but was unconstitutional without further qualification. The decision does not ban electronic voting, but does implement a higher standard.
Demonstrated Laboratory Attacks
- Diebold Election Systems AccuVote-TS (Manipulation of the votes by the Princeton University.)
- Nedap ES3B (Manipulation of the votes by a citizen group)
- SDU voting computers (Violating the secrecy of the ballot using Van Eck phreaking, tested by the Dutch secret service AIVD)
Attacks have also been performed on both DRE machines and optical scan voting machines, which count paper ballots. (See California study, "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuBasic Interpreter" ).
Whether it is a DRE or an optical scan machine, the opportunity for tampering applies to persons with inside access (including government workers) and to a lesser extent, outside hackers. Therefore framing election tampering issues as "hacking" may not be an accurate framework for public concerns. Within the context of protecting voting rights, it would not matter whether vote alteration was done by an outsider or an insider.
- The Post-Journal[dead link]
- §35 of the Federal Electoral Act (Bundeswahlgesetz – BWG)
- German Federal Constitutional Court, Press release no. 19/2009 of 3 March 2009
- Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine
- Nedap/Groenendaal ES3B voting computer, a security analysis
- Dutch citizens group cracks Nedap's voting computer
- Use of SDU voting computers banned during Dutch general elections (Heise.de, 31. October 2006)[dead link]
- "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuBasic Interpreter"