Venezuela's voter verified paper trail machines

From: Charlie Strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Thu Jun 17 2004 - 21:19:12 CDT

Venezuela is going to use paper trail voting machines. Below is a
description of the system manufactured by Olivetti in italy. The
first part of the article is about the histroy of the machine,
followed by a more detailed break down of the voting process and
components. In a nutshell the machine itself sounds similar to the
indian one, using a purpose-built , simple button interface and a
remote operator to activate it for each vote. However it has a screen
so presumably can create much more complicated ballots

  The bigger difference is that the machine prints a voter verified
ballot that the voter deposits in a ballot box. For privacy the voter
folds the paper in two--to me this sounds like it is a full sized
cut-sheet printer and not a tape printer. The primary electronic votes
are stored on internal memory cards and counted both locally by the
machine itself and at central station where they are transmitted by
encrypted phone connection. They have not yet decided how or when the
paper will be counted but that is under discussion.

  Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit Venezuela

  Questions laid to rest about reliability of SmartMatic voting machines
  in upcoming presidential recall referendum

  Referendum: Voting Machines Leave Paper Trail

  by Radio Nacional de Venezuela
  translated by Philip Stinard

  SmartMatic president Antonio Mujica laid to rest all questions about
  reliability of the SmartMatic touch screen voting machines to be used
in the
  August 15 presidential recall referendum. Mujica fielded questions in a
  Sunday night interview conducted by Ernesto Villegas on Venezolana de
  Television (VTV).

  The machine is very portable, which facilitates their logistics
  (movement and setup) during electoral processes, indicated Mujica. The
  fourth generation machines weigh about six kilograms, and have a touch
  screen to register the vote electronically. The machine also prints a
  paper record that allows the process to be audited. The machines
  internal electronics were designed from the beginning specifically for
  electoral events, with security features dedicated to electoral

  Mujica refuted rumors appearing in the private media that these
  machines have been used only for lotteries. This machine was made by
  Olivetti. We subcontract to that company, which uses its factories in
  Rome to manufacture these machines. Among many other things, Olivetti
  makes machines used for lotteries. This seems to be the source of that

  Mujica explained that demonstration machines will be set up throughout
  the country at commercial centers and plazas, and the National
  Council (CNE) will conduct an educational campaign.

  20,000 machines will be set up the day of the recall referendum, and
  1,000 replacement machines will be on stand-by should they be
  All machines will be guarded by Plan Republica. Each machine is
  registered with the National Totalization Center, so that if an
  unregistered machine tries to connect to the system to add votes, it
  will be detected and rejected.

  Differences between these and past voting machines

  Mujica indicated that these machines are completely different from the
  third generation machines used by the CNE in past elections. Third
  generation machines use hand ballots, and afterward, the machine reads
  the ballot with an optical scanner. That technology has a very
  intrinsic problem, and that is, when one introduces the ballot, the
  machine makes many errors. He confirmed that the old machines failed to
  read between 5 and 15 percent of the ballots, which created dangers in
  counting the votes. The new machines avoid that by permitting a direct
  vote from the screen.

  The voting process

  As is the tradition in Venezuela, the voting table president will sit
  the table with the rest of the electoral officials, with the electoral
  notebook (registry) and the ballot box. The officials will be kept
  separate from the actual voting machines to keep the voting secret.

  Step 1: The voter arrives at the table and presents his ID card to the
  president of the table.

  Step 2: The president searches the notebook for the voter, and if he is
  in the registry, the voter is permitted to sign and stamp his
  fingerprint in the notebook, indicating that he exercised his right to
  vote. The president holds the card while the person votes. Up to this
  point, the procedure is the same as for traditional voting.

  Step 3: At this point, the president pushes a button connected to the
  voting machine, which unlocks it, and authorizes the voter to cast his
  ballot. When the button is pushed, the machine emits an audible tone
  that allows everyone, members of the voting table and witnesses, to
  that the machine has been activated for a person to vote.

  Step 4: The voter proceeds to the machine to register his vote. The
  machine must be located in an area that allows the vote to be cast
  secretly, as the Constitution ordains. The machine can be on the other
  side of a partition, or in a security booth.

  Step 5: The voter presses the part of the screen that corresponds to
  the option that he supports in the referendum. The screen will have the
  referendum question, two squares with the options Yes and No (if
  thats how the referendum question is set up), and a square at the
  bottom of the screen labeled Vote to register the vote. The voter must
  press one of the two voting options, and the square selected will be
  highlighted. At this moment, the voter could still change his vote by
  pressing the other option, and can change as many times as he likes.

  Step 6: Once the voter has settled on an option, he must push the
  labeled Vote to register his decision. Upon pressing Vote, a sound
  will be emitted, telling the people at the voting table that the voter
  has finished the process. At this point, a physical record of the vote
  is printed out.

  Mujica explains, The physical vote is a paper that records all of the
  data of the event: CNE, 2004 Referendum. It also has a code for the
  voting center location, the table, and the volume (electoral notebook).
  It has a security code, which is very important to avoid falsification.
  This is all printed on security paper along with the question, and the
  voters response.

  Step 7: The voter takes the paper and- confirms that the question and
  the vote registered are correct. He folds the paper in half to
  privacy, returns to the voting table, and puts the paper ballot in the
  ballot box in front of the table members and witnesses.

  Step 8: The table president returns the voters ID card. The card is
  marked with indelible ink, and the voter is allowed to leave.

  Problems and contingencies

  Mujica explained that 40 engineers have been working for more than two
  years to solve problems and contingencies (what would happen if?),
  coming up with a troubleshooting guide. 2,500 possible contingencies
  have been identified, and for each one there is a response so that the
  voting process is not altered.

  The voting center will have one or more operators who receive the
  machine in the morning and set it up, and disconnect it at the end of
  the day. Furthermore, they will provide services should something go
  wrong with the machine. These are SmartMatic officials, and not CNE
  officials. Their bosses will be the election table members, and the
  operators cant do anything without asking and receiving permission.

  Should a machine be damaged after registering votes, the machine
  operator will call the SmartMatic main office and ask for an immediate
  replacement. There will be 1,000 CANTV trucks throughout Venezuela with
  1,000 replacement machines. The trucks carrying replacement machines
  will be escorted by Plan Republica. There is a security procedure to
  exchange the machines, and a removable memory so that the votes from
  damaged machine can be transferred to the new machine.

  The new system of removable memory is different from the previous
  of flash cards that created much controversy. The new memory system is
  inside the machine, and cannot be manipulated without opening the
  machine. The machines can only be unlocked and opened using a key, and
  only the operator holds the key for that particular machine. The
  memories are removed only if the machines are damaged (and must be
  placed in the replacement machine).


  Villegas: What would happen if someone pushed the button to activate
  voting machine, and there wasnt a voter yet?

  Mujica: The machine would wait for a specified length of time (a minute
  in the case of the test machines), and if someone didnt arrive, the
  machine would automatically deactivate. Upon deactivation, the machine
  would print a paper indicating The time limit for voting has expired.
  Ask for help from a table member. In those cases, the voter would carry
  the paper to a table member, who would have to press the button again
  activate the machine and give the voter another opportunity to vote.

  Villegas: And if they push the button and someone comes up to the
  machine without permission? Or, if the table president pushes the

  Mujica: In the first case, that would be bad. A vote would be recorded.
  This machine makes it difficult, compared to previously used systems,
  cast votes fraudulently or with bad intentions. But, it doesnt prevent
  everything. Someone could press the button twice (allowing a person to
  vote twice), for example. For that reason, table members and witnesses
  must be alert. In this case, the voter would have two papers, or would
  appear in the electoral notebook as if he had already voted, which
  permit the detection of fraud.

  In a manual system, its very easy to falsify votes, whether it be
  through the results lists (acta mata voto), or card stuffing. In the
  machines used previously by the CNE, it was more difficult to use
  but one of the means (that could be used) was to fill out a series of
  voting cards at home, carry them to the voting centers, and create a
  diversion so the witnesses left. Then the person could put the card
  the machine to register a fraudulent vote. The old machines were always
  open to receive votes. This machine, on the other hand, is always
  to receive votes, and one can only vote when the table president, in
  presence of table members and witnesses, activates it.

  Villegas: And if the electricity goes out?

  Mujica: The machines are connected to a power source that permits them
  to operate for up to 16 hours. The elections process wont last that

  Villegas: Could the paper run out?

  Mujica: The machine can print up to 2,000 paper receipts, but that many
  people will never vote on one machine. We estimate that there is one
  machine for each 600 voters. At each voting center, there will be
  several machines operating, because one machine is assigned for each
  table and volume. Each machine has a specified number of voters
  to it, so after this number is reached, the machine will not permit
  votes to be cast.

  Manual counting

  The machine has two systems of counting: the electronic count that the
  machine does automatically, and the physical count of the receipts that
  the machine prints and are kept in ballot boxes.

  Mujica explained that the CNEs Totalization Center receives the
  electronic count. At the end of the voting process, the machine counts
  all of the votes and prints a count of the votes, from which we can say
  how many Yess and how many Nos, and how many total votes were cast. A
  count is printed out, with space for all of the table members and
  witnesses to sign. Seven copies of the count are printed out so that
  of the political parties can have a copy, as well as CUFAN (Unified
  Command of the Armed Forces).

  The machine is connected to the CNE and will send the machines total
  count in electronic format, as well as each and every one of the votes
  with their value, to the CNE Totalization Center, where all of the
  (from all machines) will be added up to give the results for those
  famous partial bulletins until the final result is arrived at.

  There will not be regional totals. Since the presidential referendum is
  an event of national character, the totalization will be completed by
  the National Elections Board (JNE) at the National Totalization Center
  in Caracas. The recall referenda for National Assemblymen will have
  regional totals, Mujica added.

  Immediate audit

  The receipts deposited in the ballot box are another copy of the vote
  that can be used to audit the process. When asked if the papers will be
  counted the same night as an audit, Mujica replied that the one who
  decides that is the CNE, not us. That is one of the strong discussions
  taking place at this moment, the so-called auditoria en caliente
  (immediate audit), and I wouldnt like to go into details now,
  especially because different people have different ideas of what that
  means. Whats certain is that physical votes will be there, and they can
  be audited against the electronic results.

  If there are any contradictions, undoubtedly these (paper) votes could
  be used for a recount and to compare the results with the electronic
  ones. Mujica indicated that the technology is the most transparent in
  the world, and expressed hope that other companies would take advantage
  of this technology.

  The software

  Mujica indicated that the machines software is certified by three
  distinct and independent groups at the company: the development group,
  the data group, and quality assurance. Then, the software is presented
  to the CNE for certification and to verify that no votes are already
  registered in the machines.

  An image of the software is created to be loaded into each one of the
  20,000 machines. For each machine, one CNE member certifies that the
  software in the machine is correct, and that no votes have been
  registered. A count, called the zero count, is printed out and the
  machine is placed in a sealed box. Then, the machines are taken to the
  voting centers.

  At the voting centers, table members and witnesses assure that the
  machines arrive without any broken seals. If seals are broken, a
  replacement machine must be requested.

  If the seals are good, the operator opens the box, removes the machine,
  installs it, and prints another zero count to certify that there are
  no votes stored in the machine. Then, the actual voting can take place.

  Transferring the information

  Mujica indicated that the information will be transmitted to the CNE
  telephone lines, or in some cases, by satellite, always in encrypted
  form. The encrypting is extremely rigorous, with a public/private key
  of 128 bits, the strongest that exists. To break this code to change
  data for just one machine would take a gigantic computation center more
  than 24 hours, using all of its computational power.

  No one, not even CANTV, will have access to see or modify the data.
  This is the same encryption used by New York banks to transfer million
  dollar amounts to banks in Hong Kong through public telecommunications
  networks, and thats something that happens every day in the world, and
  there have been only a couple of cases in the past 40 years of data
  being intercepted.

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Received on Wed Jun 30 23:17:17 2004

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