Monday, June 22, 2009

The debate about electronic voting

The Madras High Court is hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a ban on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in bye-elections and to direct that elections be conducted using ballot papers. This comes in the wake of doubts raised by some parties about the reliability of these machines.

And now in the US House of Representatives, a bill has been introduced by Rush Holt that would ban paperless electronic voting in all federal elections from November 2010. Mr. Holt’s bill would help prod election officials toward the best of the currently available technologies - optical-scan voting. With optical scans, voters fill out a paper ballot that is then read by computer — much like a standardized tests the votes are counted quickly and efficiently by computer, but the paper ballot remains the official vote, which can then be recounted by hand. The bill would also require the states to conduct random hand recounts of paper ballots in 3 percent of the precincts in federal elections, and more in very close races.

An NYT op-ed has argued that "electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper record of every vote cast cannot be trusted... there is no way to be sure that a glitch or intentional vote theft — by malicious software or computer hacking — did not change the outcome. If there is a close election, there is also no way of conducting a meaningful recount."


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