Demonstrations of voting machines tend to be
dominated by the vendors of the equipment, who are interested in selling their direct recording
electronic voting machines (DREs) in which their companies have invested
deeply. This is especially true in New York, where the state requires
large, expensive full-face ballot machines. Vendors have done a poor
job of adequately demonstrating optical scanners and cannot be counted
on to give a fair showing of this reliable technology. It is up to
citizens to insist that demonstrations of all systems be even-handed,
and not biased towards DREs.
Be aware that DREs are much more profitable to
vendors than the alternative,
paper ballots and optical scan ballot counters. Vendors
sometimes claim that scanners cannot be made compatible with the full-face
ballot, but this is not true. Optical scanners require a minor firmware modification
to enable them to recognize the larger grid required by a full face
ballot. This is not a difficult change and could be quickly and easily
implemented by vendors. In order to sell their Direct Recording Electronic
voting machines (DREs), vendors have promised to install a voter verified
paper ballot (VVPB). They should apply this same willingness to meet
New York State requirements with their optical scan equipment, which
they have exhibited around the state. It is not difficult to make a
scanner recognize a full face ballot.
Before the demonstration:
- Try to find out how many models representing the two systems
will be exhibited. Protest if the paper ballot/optical scan system
(PBOS) is not to be demonstrated. Try to get at least two different
scanners at the demonstration.
Explanation: Several different vendors
have invested heavily in new full-face DREs for NY, which they would
prefer to sell our state because of the higher acquisition and maintenance
costs. By contrast, the optical scanners are a mature technology
that is less profitable to the vendors. Citizens can be unfairly
influenced by the number and variety of the electronic voting machines,
spending so much time trying the various DREs that the simple, more
reliable PB-OS system is eclipsed.
- Insist to your election commissioners in advance that vendors
give a complete demonstration of the PBOS system.
rarely if ever properly demonstrate paper ballots and scanners: i.e.,
with the right ballots for NY, with privacy screens, privacy sleeves,
with the ballot marking device for the disabled, with the scanner
properly programmed for an election.
- Insist that all equipment demonstrated have the accessibility
and verification devices required by NY legislation.
Explanation: Vendors have yet to demonstrate DREs with the required
voter verified paper ballots and full accessibility features. But
these features are required by NYS law. Challenge the vendors if
they are not demonstrating a machine which meets NYS requirements.
1. Look closely at the way the Paper Ballot plus Optical Scan system
is demonstrated. Challenge any failures to meet the required arrangements!
- Has a ballot been provided that meets NY requirements?
- Has a privacy
booth been provided? Have other arrangements to protect privacy been
made? (e.g., privacy sleeves to carry the ballot, screening of the
scanner, etc.) NY state legislation requires any necessary arrangements
- Is the ballot-marking device for the disabled conveniently
located in proximity to the scanner?
- Is the scanner properly programmed
to give the required feedback about overvotes or undervotes? (If
it is not, it may be one that was used previously to count absentee
ballots. Without this capability it is not compliant with HAVA.)
to see the ballot box. Is it attached to the scanner? Where do
the write-in ballots go?
2. Look closely at the DREs
- Ask yourself whether you really can know how your vote is
recorded electronically inside the machine.
- Has a voter verified paper
ballot (VVPB) been installed? Is it easy to read? Is it easy to compare
with what you chose on the large screen?
- Does the voter verification
produce a roll of paper? Or slips of paper? How are these kept after
- Ask whether there is any proof that the verification print-out
corresponds with the electronic record of the vote.
- Ask for a demonstration
of the programming of the machine; that is, how is it set up for
- Notice how much storage space will be required by this
machine. Some machines are extremely large and heavy and will be
expensive to store and transport.
- Consider how it will be moved from
the storage space to the polling place. Will volunteer election workers
be able to move it?
3. Look closely at both DREs and PBOS systems for these matters:
- Accessibility to the disabled.
- Can this machine provide accessibility
to those with limited vision? (e.g., capacity to enlarge fonts?)
- Is it accessible to the blind and visually impaired?
- What are
the arrangements for those with mobility impairments?
- What is
required to make the system accessible to those in wheel chairs?
Does this allow independent voting?
- Ask whether this machine
has been submitted for certification in New York. If not, ask why not?
This document in PDF format
Paper Ballots for New