Electronic Vote Tabulation Checks and Balances

Rebecca T Mercuri, University of Pennsylvania


The subject of electronic vote tabulation involves a unique combination of technological, computational, and sociological problems that produce a set of constraints upon the systems used for ballot entry and vote counting. This document identifies the various types of voting systems; the hierarchy of constraints under which they are required to operate; and the numerous checks and balances that need to be provided in order to ensure accuracy and integrity. The thesis work involved a detailed assessment of the limitations of electronic vote tabulation systems using the framework of the ISO's Common Criteria. A minimal voting system was described, along with a procedure by which existing and proposed voting systems may be evaluated for potential flaws. The result demonstrated the existence of a category of systems for which the Common Criteria can be deemed inadequate. The Criteria provides for assessment of system dependencies, but does not account for counterindications. Specifically, the requirement for ballot privacy creates an unresolvable conflict with the use of audit trails in providing security assurance. This has broad implications within other commercial arenas, particularly those involving anonymous data delivery. Other results involved an appraisal of possible election risks (such as global denial of service and Trojan horse attacks) that are enhanced by the deployment of electronic balloting systems, along with recommendations of considerations that can assist in reducing these vulnerabilities. A discussion of some issues related to the 2000 Florida Presidential election, recount, and litigation is included.

Subject Area

Computer science|Political science

Recommended Citation

Mercuri, Rebecca T, "Electronic Vote Tabulation Checks and Balances" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3003665.