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Frequently Asked Questions - Alternative Systems

21. Wouldn’t good old-fashioned paper ballots counted by hand in each polling place provide a higher level of integrity for election outcomes?
The reasons for automating in the US actually included improving integrity as well as the difficulty of counting the many contests. It might be possible to get enough people to observe and count in the US today in order to achieve a high-level of integrity for basic voting. But such an approach cannot secure absentee ballots traveling through the mails, a significant and growing fraction of voting, that has different demographics/statistics and thus cannot be ignored as far as integrity. Also, polling-place counting cannot provide privacy to provisional voters, which would significantly diminish this important voter protection now required under US law. (Punchscan should be able to accommodate both absentee and provisional voting with full integrity and privacy as mentioned in question q9.) Also, vote buying and coercion are facilitated, because whole ballots are shown (see q15), bearing vote patterns, potentially deliberately identifying marks and write-ins, thereby allowing checking by vote buyers and coercers. Not to mention all the time-tested tricks for clandestinely altering, substituting, and invalidating traditional paper ballots.
22. Aren’t systems that keep an electronic record as well as a voter-viewed paper record, and that include mandatory hand recount of a sampling of the paper, more practical and just as capable of engendering as much voter confidence?
No. Combining an electronic and a paper system in this way means being stuck with various shortcomings of each, bearing the cost of both, and gaining at best a doubling of the effort required by an attacker. For instance, vote buying and coercion resistance suffer at least from ballot images (see questions q15) and even whole ballots in some systems(see q21), discrepancies between dual records make elections easy to get thrown out (see q18), and no solution to absentee voting is provided (see q21). Such systems require printers and machines that protect privacy-sensitive data per booth (see q13), compared to Punchscan’s one machine per polling place without secrets. Punchscan does require reliable document distribution, but this is more efficient than secure document collection, audit, and storage. Integrity of polling place outcome, even setting aside verification of software and what version in fact was run, requires for each of the dual records and systems a continuous chain of custody by multiple observers through all transport, operational, storage, and audit steps. Moreover, such security is very costly to achieve at any convincing level, and certainly unaffordable at a level that compares to Punchscan. Thus, to the extent punchscan becomes a viable offerings (see q9), it would not only cost much less, but should achieve far higher voter confidence.

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