Letter to the editor

Paper isn't proof

The recent discussion about electronic voting ["Undecided on E-Voting," Oct. 11] focused mostly on voter-verified paper audit trails. But these audit trails don't prove that a vote was counted properly, and in the end, isn't that all that matters?

History tells us that recording, transporting and counting votes on paper is fraught with potential fraud and error. A search of The New York Times archive reveals more than 4,700 articles in the past 150 years about paper ballot fraud in the United States, about one incident every 12 days.

Most recently, voters in the Venezuelan presidential recall election this summer used electronic voting machines that produced a paper ballot audit trail. But because the incumbent regime's military had possession of the paper ballots three days before the audit, the opposition rejected the results of both the election and the audit. The paper ballots failed to achieve indisputable proof of election accuracy, and instead resulted in more uncertainty.

The call for voter-verified paper audit trails is like the call to move from cars back to horses in the early 1900s. Cars were considered dangerous new technology because they lacked critical safety equipment, such as safety glass. Instead of moving backward in elections, we need to look forward and, in effect, add "safety glass" to our electronic voting machines.

There are new technologies on the market based on cryptography that can ensure election integrity better than voter-verified paper audit trails -- and that can prove to every voter that their vote was counted properly.

For example, VoteHere has a solution called VHTi, a voter-verified election audit technology that can be added to any electronic voting machine. VHTi goes beyond voter-verified paper audit trails because it proves election results are valid end to end, not just at the polling booth.

VHTi does two things. First, it gives the voter a private receipt to verify that his or her vote was properly recorded and counted in the final results while maintaining ballot secrecy. Voter-verified paper audit trails can't do this.

Second, VHTi creates a meaningful and transparent audit trail that lets anyone independently verify election results with accuracy, down to a single vote. Voter-verified paper audit trails can't do this either.

To be clear, technology such as VHTi does not protect machines from compromise, but instead detects when elections are compromised. Think of it as an alarm system for elections.

Let's not be distracted by the call for paper ballots and be tempted to bring back the horse and buggy. Instead of banning technology in elections, we should let innovation work and add safety equipment to our electronic voting machines. Only then will we have truly safe elections.

? Tom Mereckis, Director of marketing

VoteHere Inc., Bellevue, Wash.

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