Paper vote receipts: Making the vote verifiable


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.

Automation progresses at a strong pace in 2014

Six out of the nine Latin American nations that will carry out elections this year will undertake the task of partially automating their elections or will initiate the implementation of some form of electoral technology. Here is a review on their efforts in strengthening their democracies.

2013, a year for the strengthening of e-voting

votoElectoral technology keeps strengthening its presence, and 2013 is proof of how civil and political commitment has allowed different nations to preserve their right to suffrage, not only with the execution of elections, but also by agreeing to modernize their systems or delivering clean processes that guarantee real, timely results.

This year, nations such as Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama decided to advance and approve the execution of pilot tests or partial elections to show the effectiveness of electoral automation, while Venezuela and the Philippines confirmed their superiority in the use of electoral technology.


Peru is one of the most committed Latin American nations in providing its voters with an electoral model capable of legitimately reflecting the people’s intent. To that end, it conducted the fourth implementation of an e-voting designed by the National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE). The Santa María del Mar district elected its 22 provincial aldermen with a system based on the use of a ballot that activates the options (candidates) to be selected through a touchscreen. Voters press their preferred option, the system processes it and stores each vote, and the process ends with the emission of a printed vote receipt showing the selection. The experience will be reprised in Lima in 2014.


Venezuelans held two national elections during 2013. Both the April presidential elections and the December municipals had technology provided by Smartmatic. The presidential elections were organized in only 34 days—due to the early demise of President Hugo Chávez—. The municipal elections, held in December, entailed organizing an election to renew 2,792 posts, with over 16 thousand candidates. From voter authentication through fingerprint scan, to the voting and results publication, every step was automated.

Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia

In 2013, these three nations decided to conduct e-voting pilot test in 2014 so that they can open up the path to automate their elections in the near future. Both Colombia (in January) and Ecuador (in February) opted to test out various diverse technologies simultaneously in order to study the performance of the systems available in the market. Two of them are the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) system, which enables scanning paper ballots for an automated scrutiny, and the DRE (direct recording electronic) system, which comprises touchscreen devices that enable voting, storing votes, aggregating them, and transmitting them to a data center. Panama decided to conduct a small demonstration in one constituency to show the effectiveness of this technology.


Last May, the Philippine archipelago used e-voting again to great success. The robust voting technology used, which was acquired from the multinational Smartmatic, allowed Filipinos to cast 766 million votes in then hours. This election represented the second national election in which automation allowed for fast and transparent results.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that Honduras, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Paraguay are working hard to modify their electoral laws in order to overcome manual voting and to automate their elections. The road is long, but at least they have already started the journey.