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Over the past two centuries we have slowly and painfully expanded our notions of democracy to include ever broader segments of our people. The franchise has been extended until, today, virtually all citizens 18 years of age and older are entitled to vote. (The major exceptions are people convicted of felonies and voters in the District of Columbia who can vote but are not represented in the Congress.) This principle is enshrined in the guideline, "one person, one vote." The most urgent demands have increasingly shifted to guaranteeing that every vote cast is properly recorded and counted.

Our national inability to satisfactorily resolve questions surrounding several recent closely contested elections have focused attention on some profound and persistent flaws in the mechanism of our elections. The prime requirement of an electoral system in a democracy is to accurately and convincingly report the outcome of any question put before the voters. Because some will inevitably be dissatisfied with the election results, it is imperative that everyone has confidence in the method of arriving at the results. The repetition of disputed results and methods in successive elections is a signal that the machinery of voting does not meet the standards of the day and requires an overhaul to comply with contemporary requirements. It is a reminder that election principles, practices and technologies, like other political questions, are not settled once and for all, but must be periodically revisited in light of changing circumstances.

Today the public has become accustomed to transactions of all sorts being conducted with the aid of computer technology -- quickly, accurately, reliably and transparently. Yet both traditional "paper" voting systems and the electronic systems that have recently been deployed fail to utilize the best available methods and do not meet the required standards of security, accuracy, reliability and transparency. Outdated conceptions of the principles of voting, which real life has left behind and which no longer reflect the reality of the electoral system, have blocked the modernization of guarantees of electoral integrity. It is unconscionable that voting, democracy's most fundamental act, be conducted with lower standards of security and transparency than the most ordinary commercial transactions.

Aviel D. Rubin writes:

The facilitation and securing of the voting process cannot be left to the private sector, where legitimate concerns about profitability inevitably lead to conflicting priorities. Governments, presumably interested in staying in power, cannot be allowed to act on voting technology without proper public oversight and total transparency. Questions cannot be adjudicated by our legal system, which pits the interest of one side against another in adversarial trials that do not seek to find objective truths. We will find the answers only through a commitment to a publicly funded, nonpartisan, multidisciplinary research initiative in which no individuals stand to gain and yet the entire nation stands to benefit.

America deserves a foolproof voting system. It must be dependable and easy to use. If the machines cannot be guaranteed to be secure, then they must allow for meaningful audits and recounts through a voter-verified record. Whoever designs that system must be able to prove that the system cannot be cheated and be able to explain why to the average eighth-grader. No American should have to trust someone else, someone with obscure expertise regarding the integrity of the system; it must be simple enough that every citizen can evaluate it for himself or herself. The system must be accessible to all Americans, regardless of disability, and every aspect or component of its workings must be available for public scrutiny.

VoiceVote is a system for recording and reporting votes that addresses the need for higher standards of electoral accuracy by incorporating the following principles:

i) the voter's own knowledge and action is fundamental and irreplaceable in securing elections and in achieving public confidence in the correctness of election results

ii) every aspect of the conduct of elections -- from the computer programs and ballot formats that are employed to the reporting of the ballots that are cast -- should be subject to complete transparency

iii) a secret, coercion free ballot is essential in the democratic process. That ballot should ensure that the voter's choices are never disclosed except by action of the voter, and that the voter has complete discretion whether and what to disclose about his or her own vote

iv) the electoral process should employ the best proven technologies, including cryptographic signatures and Internet communications. It should use only technologies that are already widely deployed and accepted.

Through the implementation of these principles, VoiceVote makes the knowledge and action of the voters themselves central to the solution of the problem of guaranteeing the integrity of election processes and restoring public confidence in our electoral system.
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