Marjorie Gersten


Statement to the Voter Assistance Commission

June 28, 2007



Voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT) are essential when electronic voting machines are used, but they are not enough to make electronic voting machines OK.



Like many activists for election integrity, I started out advocating voter-verified paper audit trails. As time has passed, and I have learned more about electronic voting, I have come to understand that paper trails are not enough. We need real voter-marked paper ballots, and I am here today to urge you, Commissioners of the Voter Assistance Commission, to pass my information on to Mayor Bloomberg, and to all other people in positions of authority and influence.


I wish to make four points[1].


1. The new Sarah Everett studies from Rice University confirm previous studies that show that voters are unable to accurately verify electronic voting machinesí summary screens or paper trails. ,


2. Even if accurate verification was assured, electronic voting machines, with or without paper trails, prevent appropriate citizen observation and understanding how votes are recorded, cast, stored, handled, and counted. Voters canít observe the recording and casting of their own votes and ballot. Election observers canít observe the storage, handling, and counting of the votes and ballots.


Meaningful observation is the basis of all election legitimacy. Historically, the only reason that elections have been conducted in a non-understandable or non-observable way has been to enable those who are running the election to commit fraud.


3. Verification of information on a touchscreen or on a paper trail are both placebo exercises, because neither is counted for initial tallies nor the vast majority of final tallies. Instead, invisible electronic votes inside the electronic voting machine, which voters cannot verify and observers cannot safeguard, determine election outcomes.


4. Electronic voting machines that are currently in use probably do not work because they have never gone through the lengthy, expensive software testing and correction process that other software-related products go through.[2] Ellen Stone, a software expert, explained the process in her testimony of November 21, 2006, to the New York City Board of Elections.


There have been thousands of documented failures of certified electronic voting systems, but citizens have been prevented by vendors, election administrators, and courts from examining the systems to discover the specific reasons. However the "DRE Analysis for May 2006 Primary, Cuyahoga County, Ohio", published in August, 2006, compared a hand count of VVPAT to printed tally reports, electronic totals, and a manual inspection of memory, and found:


16% of DRE tally reports did not match the hand count of votes on VVPAT

72% of DRE tally reports did not match the electronic totals

26% of DRE electronic tallies did not match the memory

76% of DRE's votes recorded in memory differed from the DRE's VVPAT.


These are not problems that can be fixed with a software patch. The major computer scientists in our country have repeatedly said that you would have to start over from scratch.


And I am asking, why start from scratch to build voting equipment that most people donít understand, and that conceals what needs to be observed, and that cannot ever be secure? America has gone off in the wrong direction with computerized voting machines.


I urge you to let the Mayor have this information, and pass on to him the concerns of people who are deeply involved with this issue, such as myself. If we are to rely on technology, letís buy surveillance cameras to watch ballot boxes, and let voters use real, voter-marked paper ballots.


Thank you.



1.††† This material was composed together with Teresa Hommel and is used in


2.††† There are two reasons why electronic voting machines have not gone through the process. First, they were originally designed without VVPAT or any other mechanism for independent verification of accurate function. When there is no way for anyone to find out whether a product works accurately or not, there is no market pressure on manufacturers to ensure that the product works accurately as long as it looks like it does.

††††††† Second, certification testing has been a secret and probably a sham process. Again, there has been no market pressure for certification testing to ensure that electronic voting machines work as long as they appear to.

††††††† In a January, 2004, interview with a small voting machine vendor, one executive says ďThe ITA (independent testing authority) has a limited scope in what they can test and check on the system. It is based on time and economics. For an independent test authority to absolutely, thoroughly test under all possible conditions that the device will operate properly they would have to spend, in my estimation, 10 times the amount of time and money as it took to develop it in the first place. And the technology changes so rapidly, by the time they get done testing it, itís obsolete. ... Absolutely nothing will you see in the [federal] requirements that this (puts his hand on his own electronic voting machine) has to work. It has to have these functions. But it doesnít have to work. ... The states basically look at the federal qualification testing as being kind of the ultimate testing ground.

††††††† Since the Ciber testing laboratory scandal in January, 2007, we know that the certification testing process for nearly 70% of electronic voting equipment in America involved minimal if any testing and was meaningless. also testimony at the May 7, 2007, Field Hearing on "Certification and Testing of Electronic Voting Systems" held by the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives of the Committee on House Administration, U. S. House of Representatives,