Most traditional election systems are far from ideal. They tend to rely on a number of trusted parties who have the ability to conspire to change the outcome of the election or reveal the way particular voters voted. These systems generally work because most of the trusted parties are either trustworthy or have little trust in each other, and thus no conspiracy takes place.
The voting systems used for national elections in the United States are generally designed to satisfy all of the core properties to some degree. However, there is no official set of criteria which voting systems throughout the U.S. are required to satisfy . In most systems there are opportunities for votes to be changed, lost, or incorrectly recorded during the counting process. Although inaccurate tallies may be the result of fraud, all documented inaccuracies in computerized vote tallying have been the result of problems with or misuse of the voting equipment or software. For example, a 1984 Carroll County, Maryland school board election was incorrectly tallied by a computerized tallying system after an election administrator accidently installed the wrong utility program for reading ballot cards . The use of absentee ballots gives national elections the mobility property, allowing voters to cast their votes from almost anywhere they want. However, absentee ballot systems tend to reduce privacy further and increase the opportunity for ballots to be changed or lost. Despite these procedural shortcomings, it would be difficult for a national election to be thrown because of the large number of precincts and the diversity of voting systems used. In addition, vote buying is probably rare because it is nearly impossible for a voter to prove how he or she voted after leaving the polling booth. (However, vote buying can occur easily when absentee ballots are used.)
The systems used for national elections are usually also used for local elections in the United States. However, when used for local elections these systems are more likely to be abused because a relatively small number of precincts contribute to the final vote tally. With over 10,000 election officials participating in U.S. national elections, widespread fraud or negligence is not likely to go undetected .
Large professional, social, and special interest organizations tend to hold their elections through mail-in balloting. These systems allow voters to cast their votes from virtually any location, however, they often sacrifice accuracy and privacy. This method usually works because organizations that use this system tend not to hold highly controversial elections. In addition, they often hire a disinterested party to run their elections.
Many states also use mail-in balloting for some elections, especially in small precincts. Generally voters are asked to submit their ballots in double envelopes to protect their privacy. Probably the largest organization to use mail-in balloting to date is the Teamsters. In 1988 the Teamsters sent mail ballots to 1.5 million members. According to Teamsters election officers, the only problems encountered were a few attempts to vote multiple times or intimidate voters. Nonetheless, many people are still skeptical about the security of mail-in balloting. The California and Kansas Supreme Courts have both ruled on cases involving mail-in balloting. In both cases the courts refused to strike down laws allowing mail-in balloting, despite the Kansas court acknowledging that ``vote by mail increases the potential for compromise of secrecy and opportunity for fraud'' .
Most traditional election systems can be verified only by party representatives or trusted third parties. It is generally not possible for voters to verify that individual votes were counted correctly. In addition, while the verification process can often detect procedural problems and large discrepancies between the final tally and the number of voters who visited the polls, it usually cannot correct inaccuracies.