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glossary

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VVPAT


The concept of Voter Verified Balloting was created by Rebecca Mercuri.
VVPAT is the acronym of "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail" and VVBP is the acronym of "voter verified paper ballot". The terms are equivalent and refer to a kind of "vote receipt" printed by an electronic voting machine that shows the elector his/her vote as it is being entered into the electoral system. The voter must be required to perform an action that confirms that their choices have been recorded correctly on the paper, hence making it a verified (rather than just "verifiable") ballot in a legal sense. The VVPAT/VVBP is kept by the election official, as the record of votes cast, for audit and recount purposes. Verification of a small percentage of VVPAT should to be activated when elections are close.

I see the following points about VVPAT:

  • the winner of the election is decided in the first count (probably the only count) which is based on electronic votes. Infact VVPATs are counted in the second count (recount or audit), but this rarely happens thus VVPATs will most likely not be used or counted. You are able to view the Paper Audit Trail, and make sure it is correct. You have no way of knowing what your electronic ballot says. You can feel relatively certain that if there is a hand recount, your vote will be counted properly. But since hand recounts are very rare, when you look at that piece of paper, you are not actually verifying your vote. There is still nothing to verify that your actual vote was correct.
  • VVPAT recounts shouldn't occur only when elections are very close.
    Infact where deliberate fraud does take place, the magnitude of the fraud may not be small. And also the magnitude of accidental errors may not necessarily be small. Thus fraud and errors can produce very different results. Unfortunately many people, and state laws, only want recounts to be conducted when elections are very close. It seems that people are willing to do recounts in the case of small accidental errors but not to detect fraud or large errors!
  • it is not possible to make a statistical "recount" of VVPATs by manually counting a small percentage of them and seeing if the result is more or less the same as the electronic one. Infact, as candidates of USA-2000 election well remember, elections can be very close and so a precise count of all the VVPATs could be necessary. Some legislations require a little 1% recount to validate electronic results!

Thus VVPAT can't be used to verify electronic electoral results unless they are all counted. But if we really print and count VVPAT for each casted vote then we simply run a paper election which ballots are printed by machines instead of being hand written by electors!

  • we double the efforts of each election, which is now made of an electronic one and a paper one
  • we greately increase the election cost (try to imagine how it costs to buy and maintain a PC in each voting boot, plus the software, plus the network apparatus and lines, plus the high-tech skill involved, ... and compare it with the cost of ballot papers and pencils!)
  • we know from the beginning that the official result will always be the one coming from the counting of VVPATs. Infact we use them to confirm electronic results, thus in case of discepancies they surely win. Thus, what for do we also run an electronic election?

Thus we started looking for a way to verify electronic result and we ended up in the need of a paper election to confirm results of the electronic one! It's great, isn't it?

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VVPAT