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USENIX 2005 Annual Technical Conference, FREENIX Track — Abstract

Pp. 163–174 of the Proceedings

A PC-Based Open-Source Voting Machine with an Accessible Voter-Verified Paper Ballot

Arthur M. Keller, UC Santa Cruz and Open Voting Consortium; Alan Dechert, Open Voting Consortium; Karl Auerbach, InterWorking Labs; David Mertz, Gnosis Software, Inc.; Amy Pearl, Software Innovations; Joseph Lorenzo Hall, UC Berkeley


Voting is the foundation of a democratic system of government, whether the system uses direct or representative governance. The heart of voting is trust that each vote is recorded and tallied with accuracy and impartiality. There is no shortage of historical examples of attempts to undermine the integrity of electoral systems. The paper and mechanical systems we use today, although far from perfect, are built upon literally hundreds of years of actual experience.

There is immense pressure to replace our "dated" paper and mechanical systems with computerized systems. There are many reasons why such systems are attractive. These reasons include, cost, speed of voting and tabulation, elimination of ambiguity from things like "hanging chads," and a belated recognition that many of our traditional systems are not well suited for use by citizens with physical impairments.

However, electronic voting brings a new set of risks and drawbacks as well as advantages.  In response to the problems and opportunities of electronic voting, the Open Voting Consortium was established.

The Open Voting Consortium (OVC) is creating an open source, trustworthy, cost effective, voter verifiable voting system using open source software components on industry standard computers. A primary element of this Open Voting system is the use of software through which the voter creates a printed paper ballot containing his or her choices. Before casting his or her ballot the voter may use other, independently programmed, computers to verify that the ballot properly reflects the voter's choices. The voter may also visually inspect the text printed on the paper ballot. The paper ballot is cast by placing it into a ballot box. Once cast, that paper ballot is the authoritative record of the voter's choices for the election and for any recount of that election. Open Voting ballots are machine-readable and may be tabulated (and re-tabulated in the case of a recount) either by computer or by hand.

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