Ohio Law Requires Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail for Electronic Ballots

Ohio ORC 3506.1 requires all electronic voting to be rendered to a physical printed copy in addition to any electronic means used to record and transmit the ballot count. The Ohio code defines a voting machine as follows:

(F) “Direct recording electronic voting machine” means a voting machine that records votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be actuated by the voter, that processes the data by means of a computer program, and that records voting data and ballot images in internal or external memory components.”….

Such voting machines as defined still pose a real risk of alteration of Electronically Stored Information (ESI), more specifically, the vote count data, unless a printed copy of the selections is generated in a reliable form that is tamper evident.

ORC 3506.1 Section F further specifies, ‘A “direct recording electronic voting machine” produces a tabulation of the voting data stored in a removable memory component and in printed copy.’

More importantly, the Ohio law adds additional requirements and specifies that electronic voting equipment must provide the voter a chance to review their selections in printed form prior to finalizing their ballot selections for submission. This is specified in that act as a “Voter verified paper audit trail”.

Ohio ORC 3506.1 Section (H) Reads as follows:

‘“Voter verified paper audit trail” means a physical paper printout on which the voter’s ballot choices, as registered by a direct recording electronic voting machine, are recorded. The voter shall be permitted to visually or audibly inspect the contents of the physical paper printout. The physical paper printout shall be securely retained at the polling place until the close of the polls on the day of the election; the secretary of state shall adopt rules under Chapter 119 of the Revised Code specifying the manner of storing the physical paper printout at the polling place. After the physical paper printout is produced, but before the voter’s ballot is recorded, the voter shall have an opportunity to accept or reject the contents of the printout as matching the voter’s ballot choices. If a voter rejects the contents of the physical paper printout, the system that produces the voter verified paper audit trail shall invalidate the printout and permit the voter to recast the voter’s ballot. On and after the first federal election that occurs after January 1, 2006, unless required sooner by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, any system that produces a voter verified paper audit trail shall be accessible to disabled voters, including visually impaired voters, in the same manner as the direct recording electronic voting machine that produces it.”’

The act falls short on specifying the manner in which the paper audit trail should be secured. A more specific requirement might include having the voter seal a copy of their paper vote counts into a ballot envelope supplied to them at voter check-in. This envelope sealed with an inked thumb print from the voter before being placed into the secured locked ballot box by the voter would provide superior control over the paper trail. Another reliable option would be to require tamper evident serialized labels tracked and issued by an audit firm prior to and following the election. The lawmakers probably wanted to avoid being overly specific in a way that would hamper technological innovation by too many specifics.

Rendering the vote counts to printed paper form is important because the voter is afforded an opportunity to review their votes before finalizing their ballot. Additionally any concerns, such as the recent lawsuit filed in Ohio, that alleges tampering or the potential to tamper with the election outcome can be remedied by auditing the printed paper trail that is generated simultaneous when the voter is casting their ballot.

This law, while not perfect in clearly specifying how printed audit paper trails should be managed, does provide a clear check and balance system that would protect against a digital cyber-attack against the ESI vote counts anytime following the voter casting their ballot. Any precincts where voting irregularities are suspected, a manual paper audit of the suspect precincts could be requested to remedy the situation.

Concerned voters should voice their concerns to legislatures and ask their elected officials to work to pass similar legislation as that defined in Ohio ORC 3506.1 Section H. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3506

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  1. Shawn Woolard December 11th, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    I like this! I think every state should do this! Thanks for sharing!

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