The committee found that electronic voting systems offer potential for voting and election management that is an improvement over what has thus far been available. However, the realization of this potential requires a commitment to this path by the nation, the states, and local jurisdictions that is not yet evident. Taking this path will require, among other things, research, funding, educational efforts, and new standards and testing processes.

A second important point, obvious yet often overlooked in the public debate, is that the introduction of electronic voting systems is intended to make elections better. That is, the desirability of electronic voting systems should be judged on the basis of whether their use will significantly improve the process of election administration. When new voting systems offer an opportunity to significantly improve at reasonable cost the process of election administration in multiple dimensions over what it is today—for example, to make election administration more efficient, less costly, more trustworthy and secure, and so on—it makes sense to consider their deployment. But merely marginal improvements are rarely if ever worth the cost of the disruption associated with introducing new systems.

Third, judgments about the ultimate desirability and feasibility of electronic voting systems should not be limited to the features and flaws of the systems demonstrated to date. Today’s debate over electronic voting systems has been framed largely by examination of the electronic voting products of today. But technologies improve over time, and it is thus inappropriate to make strong generalizations about the systems of tomorrow based on inspection of the systems of today. At the same time, there are some technical realities that are exceedingly likely to persist over the long run. Conclusions based on such realities do have a staying power that conclusions based on today’s state of technology do not.

Fourth, trusted election processes should be regarded as the gold standard of election administration, where a trusted election process is one that works, can be shown to have worked after the election has been held, can be shown to have not been manipulated and to have not led to a large number of mistaken or lost votes, and can be shown to reflect the intent of the voters. Trusted election processes increase the likelihood that elections will be regarded as fair, even by the losing side and even in a partisan political environment.

Fifth, the committee believes that many parties have made important contributions to the public debate over electronic voting:

  • Electronic voting skeptics have raised important questions about the security of electronic voting systems that should not be discouraged

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement