A device that records the choices of voter
s in an election
. It can take several forms:
1. (Becoming less and less common in the U.S.)
A mechanical device, where the voter flips small levers next to the candidates' names to indicate their choices, then pulls a big lever to record the votes. Very difficult to tamper with.
2. (Very common in the U.S.)
A direct-recording electronic (DRE) machine. May print vote totals on paper, but there is no way for a voter to verify that his/her votes were accurately recorded.
Unlike mechanical voting machines, DRE machines are EXTREMELY VULNERABLE TO FRAUD. In addition to outright tampering with the records, malware can be used to steal a percentage of votes, reassigning them to the rigged candidate. The purported verification mechanisms -- logs, audit trails, "snapshots" of individual voters' choices -- can be manipulated to leave no evidence, corresponding perfectly to the rigged results.
3. (The way to use technology for elections we can have confidence in)
An electronic machine that lets the voter make choices (preventing overvote
s and highlighting undervote
s), then PRINTS AN ACTUAL FILLED-OUT PAPER BALLOT, which the voter can review and either discard (and start over) or cast.
THE PAPER BALLOT IS THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE VOTE. (Voters could also choose to fill in a blank ballot by hand.)
Ballots can be quickly counted by optical scanning technology. Importantly, ballots can be RECOUNTED, by hand if necessary.
Counts from the voting machines need not be trusted as anything more than quick estimates or "exit polls". This system makes it difficult to commit the large-scale fraud so easy to do invisibly with paperless DRE machines.
A number of Diebold
electronic voting machines have been in the news, first for criminally incompetent software and database design, leaving vote records wide open to undetectable tampering, more recently for vulnerability to "computer virus" style malware
that can spread from machine to machine through the data cards used to collect voting data.
Making such electronic voting machines widespread is the perfect way to lay the groundwork for large-scale, invisible voter fraud
There's plenty of information on this on the Web. A good place to start: the Coalition for Voting Integrity, www.coalitionforvotingintegrity.org .