Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org
A new study supports the contentions of Election Integrity advocates who oppose Rush Holt's election reform bill on the basis that it allows for the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting systems. Supporters of the bill claim that the bills mandate to require so-called "Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT) printers on such DRE systems mitigate the concerns about the machines notorious inaccuracy and proven tamperability. The new study strongly indicates otherwise.
In her recently released doctoral thesis, “The Usability of Electronic Voting Machines and How Votes Can Be Changed Without Detection” [PDF], Rice University researcher and Doctoral candidate Sarah P. Everett reveals that review screens, presented to voters at the end of the voting process on DRE voting machines, fail to be effective.
Of 66 participants from the general Houston population, with a median age of 45 and an even distribution of educational levels only 32% of the voters noticed that malicious changes had been made to their review screens during mock election testing.
A further test was accomplished with 101 participants, with an even gender split (51 males, 50 females), a median age of 40, with most having either some college education or holding a degree. Of those, only 37% of the participants noticed that vote flipping had occurred on their review screens during mock election testing.
Also shocking is that of those 101 participants 6% walked away from the voting machine without pushing the button to cast their ballot. Instead, they just left the voting process at the final review screen. Thus, had this been a real election, a full 6% of the voters would not have had their ballots counted at all.
So when only about one-third of the voters actually review their ballot on the ballot review screen and notice problems why would anyone think that adding a "Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail" printer to a DRE will solve any problem? Rather than adding useless and expensive printers; why not just get rid of these machines all together?
In fact, Ms. Everett states, when it comes the use of DRE voting systems [emphasis added]...
The findings here suggest that it is highly unlikely that voters will detect changes to their ballots on the VVPAT that prints out on a roll of paper next to the machine if they are not even noticing them on a screen presented directly in front of them.