March 20, 2018

California to Require E-Voting Paper Trail

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will announce today that as of 2006, all e-voting machines in the state must provide a voter-verifiable paper trail, according to an L.A. Times story by Allison Hoffman and Tim Reiterman.

This is yet another sign that the push for sensible e-voting safeguards is gaining momentum.

[Link credit: Siva Vaidhyanathan at]


  1. This really does mean a lot to those of us that have been fighting in the trenches…

  2. Bored Huge Krill says:

    Excellent news. Let’s hope this takes hold elsewhere.
    What’s going to be really interesting, though, is once there is a paper trail which permits a paper-based recount, what will happen the first time there is a recount? Will there be a significant discrepancy? And if there is, will it be explained as an error in the paper recount?
    I can easily forsee the situation in which a paper recount is held, which disagrees with the electronic tally, and then repeated just to make sure that it’s the electronic tally that’s wrong and not the paper count. Just once. At one single election. Not every time; I’m fairly confident that the electronic machines will produce sensible results most of the time. But sooner or later there will be a glaring discrepancy which will become apparent after multiple paper recounts, and which it will not be possible to explain away.
    Maybe this is why the voting machine manufacturers are resisting paper trails? This only has to happen once, after which a paper-based recount is going to be demanded every time. At that point, what’s the value of the voting machines?

  3. Chris Tunnell says:

    “what’s the value of the voting machines?”

    Estimation as long there are no major errors in the system. I hope to see a system where both the electornic count and paper count are checked for a few years to gain confidence, and then paper trails are just used like recounts now adays. You would also have to determine which count is official, which would most likely be the paper count.

  4. Bored Huge Krill says:

    yes, I understand that you could use the electronic result as an instant exit poll – but if there is ever any discrepancy uncovered, the trust will be very hard to regain, and I would expect a paper count to be demanded every time.

    Whilst I agree that the electronic instant estimate would have value to us, my point here is that I very much doubt that the likes of Diebold will be happy with that. It removes much of the impetus driving the move to electronic balloting


  5. I suppose it’ll depend on the size of the discrepancies.

    0.5% diffrence is one thing, 5% difference quite another.

    One thing Florida has taught us: Election counts aren’t really as exact as we think they are. They’re actually measurably probablistic.

  6. Ah, yes, a nice compromise. We do it the Diebold way for the presidential election, and then revert back to permitting voters to exercise their right to vote in 2006, or maybe 2007, or maybe . . . .

    Folks, we are now facing elimination of our right to vote, and the 2004 election is coming. Why not preserve our right to vote, today?

  7. Ned Ulbricht says:

    Ignoring issues of cost…

    I would tend to design a system so that the primary persistent auditable record (the paper ballot) is *always* the official count.

    This would tend to imply that the persistent record should be machine countable.

    The electronic tally generated at “print” time would be used:
    1) To generate preliminary counts.
    2) As a fail-safe to guard against failures in physical security w.r.t. the persistent record.

    As an aside, the failure model for elections that I started outlining in comments to “Flaky Voting Technology”
    has two problems. First, assurance failures should be considered as applying to all other classes of failure, not just integrity failures. Assurance is sorta a “meta-” goal for other security properties. That’s a minor nit.

    Second, at the intersection of technology and law, there’s a whole ‘nother class which must be considered:
    Procedural failures: Legally, an election may be required to follow a specific procedure: e.g. the voting machine software must be certified before votes are cast. Re-ordering the procedures may or may not have an impact on the count integrity of the election, while having a measurable impact on the legal integrity of the election.

  8. Will they require not just that voters can verify that their votes were counted correctly, but also that voters cannot prove to others how they voted? With only the former requirement, vote-buying would be possible in a way unprecedented by physical voting booths.

  9. Bored Huge Krill says:

    Chung-Chieh Shan,
    yes, the voter-verifiable reciept is retained by the system, presumably to eliminate the vote buying possibility, and also to permit a paper recount.
    Good deal. Let’s hope it catches on