Direct recording electronic (DRE) is a voting method that captures votes electronically, without the use of paper ballots. Systems that employ this voting method use electronic components for ballot presentation, vote capture, vote recording, and tabulation.
DREs come in two basic models: pushbutton or touchscreen. DRE ballots are marked by a voter pressing a button or touching a screen that highlights the selected candidate's name or an issue. Voters can change their selections until they hit the final "vote" button or screen, which casts their vote. Although these systems do not use paper ballots, they can retain permanent electronic images of all the ballots, which can be stored on various media, including internal hard disk drives, flash cards, or memory cartridges.
DREs require the use of software to program the various ballot styles and tabulate the votes, which is generally done through the use of memory cartridges or other media. For pushbutton models, the software assigns the buttons to particular candidates; while for touchscreen models the software defines the size and location on the screen where the voter makes the selection.
DREs offer various configurations for tabulating the votes. Some contain removable storage media that can be taken from the voting device and transported to a central location to be tallied. Others can be configured to electronically transmit the vote totals from the polling place to a central tally location. Vote tally software often is used to tabulate the vote totals from one or more units. These systems also are designed not to allow overvotes (i.e., where the voter votes for two candidates for one office, invalidating the vote).