Voting machine security

Paul Hoffman paul.hoffman at
Mon Aug 18 13:16:02 EDT 2008

At 9:24 AM -0700 8/18/08, Eric Rescorla wrote:
>(and because of the complexity of US elections,
>hand counting is quite expensive)

This is quite disputable. Further, hand vs. machine counting is core 
to the way we think about the security of the voting system.

On a "complex" ballot, there are maybe 20 races or propositions, some 
of which may allow multiple votes per race. The pre-electronic method 
for hand-counting these was to start with race #1, have one person 
reading each vote out load from a large stack of ballots, and another 
person tabulating. In most districts, this is done twice with 
different people doing the counting and, often, those people coming 
from the "opposite party" in our wonderful two-party system.

The numbers I saw in the late 1970's said that each vote took 2.5 
seconds per ballot per race when done slowly; so that's 5 seconds 
when run twice. Per "complex" ballot, that's about 100 seconds, or 
roughly 2 minutes, or roughly 1/30 of an hour. At current labor rates 
of $12/hour for this type of work (that's high, but we want qualified 
people to count), that means it costs about US$0.40 per ballot for a 
complex ballot.

Essentially no one would argue that is is "quite expensive". I 
suspect that nearly everyone in the country would be happy to pay an 
additional $1/election for more reliable results.

--Paul Hoffman, Director
--VPN Consortium

The Cryptography Mailing List
Unsubscribe by sending "unsubscribe cryptography" to majordomo at

More information about the cryptography mailing list