Electronic voting machine glossary

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This glossary covers common computer-related terms used in association with electronic voting machines. It is taken from the series of “Electronic Voting Machine Information Sheets” (Version 0.4, August 17, 2004) released by America's Families United, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Verified Voting Foundation

  • Federally-Qualified Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail Capability – This refers to a voting system's ability to provide a voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT). The voter's choices are displayed under glass or plastic (out of reach of the voter to avoid manipulation) and the voter confirms or denies that they are the choices they intended to vote. If this capability exists but the machine has not yet been federally approved, it is noted in the Electronic Voting Machine Information Sheet.
  • Firmware – software loaded into a sort of computer memory that cannot be easily changed, called “read only” memory, as opposed to “read/write” memory, which is more easily changed. Computers use firmware to execute basic functionality like starting up.
  • Flash memory – a type of computer memory that is both readable and writable by the computer and its users. This sort of memory retains its contents when power is removed. Flash memory cards are used in most digital cameras, for example.
  • Infrared signals – Signals sent by infrared light from one device to another device. This is how most television remote controls function; the remote sends infrared (a/k/a IR) signals to the television which then does something based on the signals received.
  • Independent Testing Authority (ITA) – An Independent Testing Authority (ITA) is a laboratory that tests a vendor's voting system to make sure it follows either the Federal Election Commission's 1990 or 2002 standards. Current ITA's include Wyle Laboratories (hardware only), SysTest Labs, LLC (hardware and software) and CIBER, Inc. (software only). ITA testing is paid for by the vendors and access to the results of ITA testing is often limited to the vendor whose product is being tested.
  • NASED qualification status – NASED (the National Association of State Election Directors) “qualifies” a vendor's voting system once it has passed testing through an Independent Testing Authority (ITA).
  • PCMCIA card – A PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) card is a removable computer cartridge about the size of a credit card, but considerably thicker. PCMCIA cards are used to add features to a computer like memory or networking.
  • Raw vote data – (also referred to as “ballot images” or “vote vectors”) Raw vote data is data that is stored per cast ballot. This kind of data shows how each voter voted for each race in an election. Raw vote data can be turned into summary data by aggregating or summing up the number of votes for each candidate or ballot item (race, proposition, etc.)
  • Serial cable – A serial cable is a cable used to connect two serial ports between a computer and another device, such as a printer or another computer. A serial port connection has nine (9) pins (or nine (9) holes) with five (5) on top and four (4) on bottom.
  • Smart card – A smart card is a removable computer card that looks almost exactly like a credit card in size and thickness. The main difference is that a smart card has a computer chip (usually visible) embedded in the plastic. Smart cards have limited memory and are called “smart” because they can even perform limited calculations (such as with encryption).
  • Summary data (as opposed to raw vote data) – Summary data is data that is aggregated or summed up. For example, data that shows how many votes each candidate received in a certain precinct is summary data. Contrast with “raw vote data” above.

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