Well, either my timing was pretty good, or someone was reading my blog pretty closely and cared about what I had to say. (Ok, it's the former.) Nevada announced a few days ago that they would require that a paper receipt be printed for each vote, and that the receipt could be verified by the voter before the vote was cast.
Nevada has used electronic voting machines made by Sequoia for years in some counties, and they will attach a printer to their units before the 2004 election. This is two years earlier than mandated by the Help Americans Vote Act of 2002, and makes Nevada the first state to require paper receives that voters can directly verify.
The most unusual part of this decision is how the Nevada Gaming Control Board was asked to evaluate the security of Diebold and Sequoia machines. The announcement quotes from the full report by the Electronic Services Division of the Gaming Control Board:
I believe the Diebold electronic voting machine, operating on the software analyzed in a John Hopkins report and the SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) Risk Assessment Report, represents a legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process.
I'm pretty sure the Gaming Control Board has a unique perspective and competency to assure the integrity of electronic systems. Among other things, these are the people who make sure casinos aren't cheating gamblers who use slot machines -- and that cheaters can't take advantage of the machines, either. Maybe Nevada should extend the GCB's jurisdiction to the assurance of electronic voting machines. Kind of an out-of-the-box idea, I'd say. Elections are kind of a crap-shoot, after all.
Nevertheless, as a resident of Nevada, I'm happy to see our state administration doing the right thing, and setting the example for the rest of the country.
Read on for a brief description of how the receipt printer works...
The implementation of the voter-verified receipt is interesting, and I wonder what people think about it. Once the voter indicates their choices on a touch screen, the machine prints a copy of those choices on a paper spool. The voter's choices are visible on the paper through glass. The voter can't touch the paper. If the voter agrees with the choices, he casts his vote and the paper is advanced on the spool, so that it isn't visible to the next voter. If the voter doesn't agree, he can restart the voting process. Presumably a "cancel" message is printed on the spool and the paper advanced.
I've used the Sequoia touch-screen machines in past elections, without printers, and I think they work well. They are large-format light boxes, and the ballot is clearly printed in large type across the roughly 46 inch by 40 inch surface. You just hit the part of the ballot that indicates your choice, and when you're done voting, you push a big red button to record your vote. There is a small LED text display that gives you short instructions and confirms each touch on the screen.
I'm not sure how the two-step voting process will work, but precinct workers are trained to verify that your vote was actually cast before you leave. It's pretty obvious, because the big red button sort of flashes until you press it to record your vote.
What do people think of the behind-the-glass paper verification system? Seems pretty sensible to me.