Paper vote receipts: Making the vote verifiable


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Some DRE machine models have the capacity to print a vote receipt on paper automatically.

In their search for an e-voting model that guarantees accuracy, ease in ballot casting, and verifiability, countries are increasingly opting for e-voting solutions that include printing a vote receipt. This type of receipt is called a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

The main attraction of VVPAT systems is the fact that they enable voters to check in real time that the vote registered, which is the one printed by the machine, matches the choices they just inputted. In addition to enabling this verification, physically printing each vote generates a paper trail that opens the possibility to manually count and compare paper votes totals with the automated counts reflected on the minutes.

Due to the electoral guarantee involving the use of VVPAT, some countries now demand it with e-voting solutions, such as Brazil and India. Although the first of the two is an automation pioneer, its machines do not have printers that replicate digital votes on paper. For this reason, several initiatives have arisen to renew the country’s equipment so as to give way to paper trails for votes.

On the other hand, although India has become a benchmark in the successful implementation of voting machines, it has not yet fulfilled its promise to modernize its system by implementing paper trail printing in order to shield the people’s intent. However, the Supreme Court has already issued a ruling demanding its use.

Venezuela is a pioneer in the use of VVPAT in the region. The mark this practice leaves was reflected on a study conducted by Peru’s National Office for Electoral Processes (Onpe), which shows how the DRE model is progressing firmly compared to other e-voting models. It also shows how paper trails are gaining ground both in countries where electoral automation is used and countries where its implementation is still under study, such as Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

The way e-voting has found a way to defeat suspicion and fear has been shielding all the phases of the process. VVPAT is a guarantee for expansion.

Latin America inclined in favor of an e-voting model


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Direct Recording Electronic is a technology that enables voters to mark their votes on a touchscreen or keyboard equipment.

A study conducted in Peru by the National Office for Electoral Processes (Onpe) shows how electoral technology advances firmly in improving electoral practices, and also in strengthening the guarantees that countries and their citizens require to go to the polls.

This document highlights that there is “an international consensus over the need to gradually and carefully implement certain technologic solutions geared toward the automation of electoral processes,” and it also underscores the penetration rate of e-voting in Latin America. It points out how an automated model, Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) is the most implemented in the region.

According to Onpe’s research, countries like Brazil and Venezuela —which have a long history of e-voting implementation— as well as Mexico (Jalisco state) and Peru —with automated suffrage prototypes— have chosen DRE instead of other e-voting modes due to its many benefits, which range from ease of use and adjustability to the possibility of shielding each stage of the process (audits). The system also brings the possibility to automate elections in their entirety (voter identification, vote collection, tallying, aggregation, and transmission of results).

This system consists in “casting ballots directly on an electronic device through a touchscreen, buttons, or similar instruments. Information about each vote is stored in the computer’s hard disk, on a diskette, a compact disk, or a smart card.” It is different from other models in that it transmits all the votes at once at the end of the electoral event. Thus, it does not require network connectivity during the elections, and enables a fast and safe tallying at the end of the day.

One advantage offered by some DRE systems is the emission of a paper receipt after each vote, known as a Voter Verified Paper Trail (VVPT). This represents a valuable mechanism that enables voters to verify in real time that the vote recorded by the device is the same as the one printed by the machine. This option opens the possibility to compare printed votes with the automated tally reflected on the minutes at the end of the electoral process or even at a later date.

Onpe also mentions other nations, like Colombia and Ecuador, which are currently considering the implementation of an e-voting model based on DRE technology. However, they are also studying PCOS (Precinct-Count Optical Scan), which is based on the use of a ballot box with an optical scanner that identifies ballots and processes votes in order to count them automatically. This makes it an automated tallying technology, rather than an automated voting one. The only country in the region that has partially implemented this other voting technology is Argentina.

The study mentions that electoral technology is available, and that there are several successful implementation experiences. However, it also draws attention on the need for nations willing to modernize their suffrage to follow protocols in order to guarantee a safe and transparent implementation, and not to join the list of countries whose authorities put voting at risk by succumbing to the interests of just a few.

Latin America took decisive steps toward e-voting on 2014


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2014 elections as reviewed on this infographic by The Economist

2014 could be considered “an electoral feast” as 42% of the world’s population was called to vote. Such staggering number was set due to the fact that 42 countries carried out elections, and among them, 10 from Latin America.

The balance of the year for Latin America shows Brazil further strengthening its supremacy in electoral automation, while Panama, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador taking firm steps to modernizing their voting systems.

Ecuador carried out the most complex test, as it experimented with two different technologies during the February elections. The province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas used Smartmatic’s touchscreen voting machines that print a vote receipt on paper. Meanwhile, in Azuay, the electoral body deployed an electronic tallying system designed by Argentina’s MSA.

Paraguay, which joined the elite of countries with electoral regulations for the implementation of e-voting in 2013, announced that it is currently evaluating whether it will repeat last year’s experience, in which 17,000 Brazilian voting machines were used.

Costa Rica showed its people the technology it hopes to adopt for the upcoming 2016 elections, by letting voters interact with the voting machines designed by the High Electoral Court (TSE).

Meanwhile, during its general elections in May, Panama tested out technology developed by the Electoral Court (TE), which reproduces features from systems already tested in other countries, such as a card-activated touchscreen machine displaying candidates to press on in order to vote.

Peru became the only “black spot” in a year of electoral successes. Instead of building on the system designed designed by the National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE), the nation opted to approve a not very transparent tender bid for the development of the automated system’s software. This has sparked a lot of problems, and will force the country to revise its application in future elections.

Finally, Brazil once again showed the world why it is considered one of the world leaders in vote automation. Its large, election-tested platform was deployed twice in October.