How do Scantron machines work

How do voting machines work?

This is a very broad question, so all the answers will be either very tall or very long. I'll go for the former, but I recommend that you read the links I included and then ask additional questions for specifics, either here or on information security.


First, there are many voting machines in use across the country. Each state sets its own rules, buys its own machines, and conducts its own elections (even if the Day of Federal government). This page contains a lot of general information about the various voting machines. You can drill down on the website to learn more about each species. One thing to note is that all over the country, purely mechanical voting machines are retired (and I miss them!) - every machine is now at least partially digital.

Basically, however, a voting machine consists of two parts: voter entry and counting. Voter input can be any way of entering data into a computer (keyboard, touchscreen, buttons, scantron, etc.). Counting just means the computer is recording all the voices it sees. Depending on the state's laws and machine, this could be the official record or simply a preliminary count used for quick election night coverage.

Given the simplicity of the basic functionality, anyone with relevant knowledge can theoretically build a voting machine. The difficult thing, however, is getting a state to use it, which usually means getting certified in the manner the state requires. This page describes many of the desired functions of a voting machine, the groups that set the (voluntary!) Standards that machines should meet, and which states require which test levels.

person

Would a state use software for a computer? Or would they throw it away completely? If you were to break the computer down into barebones and let the program run, take that and encrypt it in some way, store it so that the user couldn't access it, would the state at least consider the program?

Bobson

@Person - Read the link in the last paragraph, especially the "Testing and Certifying Voting Systems" section. If you can get the current standards passed or convince the government of a state that they should abandon their current standards then this might be considered. But it's just as difficult to pass state law.

user4012

@Person-friendly advice: The field when information security and cryptography are littered with failed efforts by beginners who believe they know how to do things. Ideas are easy. Implementations are what is difficult. When a simple program running on a standard PC is enough to solve this problem; Chances are, one of the established players would have already done just that and cornered the market.

agc

@ user4012, Re "Chances are ..." : This assumes that your customers actually want an inexpensive, verifiable machine. A corrupt buyer (let's assume there are few dystopians ...) would not prefer these traits - rather, they might want something dark, expensive, impossible, or difficult that, if necessary, could secure the victory of an inferior party.