E-voting Audits in Venezuela

Electronic voting is a heavily audited process in Venezuela. Upon casting a vote electronically, a voter can verify that his or her vote was cast as intended through a paper receipt, which the voter then places into the ballot box. After the close of polling in randomly selected polling stations, officials conduct an audit to ensure that the count from the paper ballots matches the electronic records.

Venezuela is one of only four countries that uses electronic voting machines for its entire electorate (India, Brazil and Bhutan are the others). The voting machines used in Venezuela are touch-screen direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs) that produce a paper receipt for the ballot once the ballot choices have been made. In the 2012 presidential election, voters were also authenticated using a biometric authentication device. After casting their ballots, voters are able to check that the paper receipt matched the selections they had made on the electronic voting machine. The voter then placed this paper receipt into a ballot box in the polling station.

While the voting machine itself tallies the votes and produces the results for the polling station, the paper record in the ballot box enables verification that this electronic record is accurate. This verification method is used extensively in Venezuela, with over 50 percent of randomly selected polling stations counting the paper records to ensure that they match the electronic results. This “hot audit” is conducted immediately after the close of polling and in the presence of observers and party representatives. No significant anomalies between the paper and electronic records have ever been found.

Prior to this, a number of other audits and oversight mechanisms are implemented. The source code for the electronic voting machines is audited before each election. Technical teams assembled by government institutions, independent institutions and political parties review the source code line by line in a “clean room,” where code can be viewed in its entirety but not modified or taken away. As part of this audit process, the source code is compiled and hash functions of the final versions are registered. These hash functions can then be used to verify that the audited version of the software is being used on Election Day.

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