With the shift from punch cards and lever machines to optical scan devices or direct recording-electronic voting machines, there is a need to ensure accuracy through auditing. The most commonly used auditing system is the voter-verifiable paper record (“VPR”) which is designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, to create a paper record in the event of a recount and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
According to a recent study conducted by the Brennan Center, thirty states require VPR.1 Another eight states use VPR in every county without requiring them, and of the remaining twelve states that do not use VPR statewide, several are currently considering legislation that would mandate such records in the future.2
Of the thirty-eight states that require or use VPR throughout the state, twenty-three do not require post-election audits.3Without performing some degree of post-election verification, it is impossible to know whether the electronic voting machines accurately recorded votes. Depending on individual voters to verify accuracy is unrealistic. Video of voter behavior during an actual election revealed that most voters do not verify their choices by reading the VPR.
Additionally, the use of VPR has raised a host of concerns. One concern is the added expense of implementing the technology. Many boards of election are already strapped for resources and would need significant state funding to purchase and install the VPRs. Another concern is that while VPR is designed to serve as a check on electronic voting machines, it relies on the same proprietary programming and electronics to produce the audit trail. This would leave VPR susceptible to the same malicious bugs and viruses as the electronic voting machine. Moreover, someone needs to train poll workers to use and maintain VPR. Poll workers, who average 72 years in age, already have difficultly using and maintaining the electronic voting machines. In the 2006 primary election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, a study found that 9.6 percent of the VPR tapes were either destroyed, blank, illegible, missing, taped together or otherwise compromised.4 In one case the thermal paper was loaded into the printer backwards leaving a blank tape which was not realized by voters who couldn't verify the paper trail.5