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County commissioners should have cost comparisons of the two types of systems David Dill recommends

Available alternatives to DRE machines
When a reasonably reliable, accurate, and secure voting technology is already in use, such as optical scan ballots, acquisition of DRE machines would be a major step backwards. However, many areas urgently need to upgrade their equipment before the 2004 elections. In these cases there are several acceptable options available now.

At this time, the only tried-and-true technology for providing a voter-verified audit trail is a paper ballot, where the votes recorded can be easily read and checked by the voter. With appropriate election administration policies (for example, ensuring the physical security of ballots), voters can be reasonably confident of the integrity of election results. Two specific alternatives that are available now are:

  • Precinct-based optical scan ballots. The CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project found them to be the most accurate at recording the voter's intent and not significantly more expensive per vote than touch-screen machines.
  • Touch screen machines that print paper ballots. Such systems would have many of the advantages of DRE machines, including potentially improved accessibility for voters with disabilities. There is at least one such machine that is certified in several states, and we hope that all vendors of existing DRE machines could provide an option to add ballot printers (DRE voting machines in Brazil have been retrofitted with ballot printers, for example). The paper ballots must be submitted by the voters, to be available for counting or recounting and to avoid vote-selling. The votes on the paper ballots must be regarded as the definitive legal votes, taking precedence over electronic records or counts.


Voting Technology

Committee on House Administration Expo

On May 15 and 16, 2001 the Committee on House Administration held a voting technology expo in 1310 Longworth, its hearing room. 

Among the thirteen companies presenting voting systems were some of the biggest names in the field, firms with decades of elections experience.  Also represented were several companies prompted  to have a shot at building a better voting machine by the historic November 2000 election.  

More with links to companies...

...summary of voting machine types, and a discussion of some of the problems that can occur with each of them.


Transcript : March 26, 2001
Federal election commission hearing

Hearing 1 - PANEL 1: Perspectives of Elected Officials


It is uncertain as of June 2003 whether the full cost of replacing each machine the county currently has with some other type of voting system will be covered by either the federal or state government, or a combination of both.
Here is a Background report from American Council of the Blind on Implementing the Help America Vote Act
On October 29, 2002, the president signed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) into law. This act contains several important provisions that are aimed at improving voting access for people with disabilities.
Election Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Provisions in the Help America Vote Act, PL 107-252
  • The Help America Vote Act establishes federal election standards. The voting system for federal elections, among other things, shall (A) be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters; (B) satisfy the requirement of subparagraph (A) through the use of at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities at each polling place; and(C) if purchased with funds made available under title II on or after January 1, 2007, meet the voting system standards for disability access (as outlined in this paragraph).


    Sacramento County likely to put off touchscreen purchase
    But Sacramento, like many communities throughout California, is experiencing a severe budget shortfall this year and next week will consider cancelling its request for a new voting system and instead converting its punch card system to an optical scan system until a new voting system is selected, a move that is expected to cost only $85,000.
    Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation
    Caleb Kleppner, Center for Voting and Democracy
    Of interest

    Sequoia Pacific

    Sequoia markets equipment for precinct scanning -- the Optech Eagle -- and for central scanning -- the Optech IV-C. The Eagle is manually fed, processes approximately 1,500 ballots per hour, and costs around $5,000 apiece. According to John Homewood, managing engineer at Sequoia, the company is not supporting the use of ranked ballots with the Eagle. The Eagle can only scan 4 columns of voting marks spaced evenly across the ballot. This leaves only 3 columns to the right of a list of candidate names, which imposes restrictions on ballot design and the allowable number of rankings.

    The Optech IV-C is a central scanning unit with an automatic feeder that scans 20,000 ballots per hour and costs approximately $50,000. The machine, which includes a personal computer and a modem, is fully compatible with ranked ballots, although like the Eagle, it only reads 4 columns of voting marks. Sequoia bid to supply IV-Cs for London. Making Optech IV-Cs currently in use compatible with IRV would presumably only require loading the new software developed for use in London. For jurisdictions counting more than 50,000 ballots on Election Day, the central-scanning system is probably the option with the lowest capital and operating costs compared to precinct-scanning or touch screen equipment.

    The state of Pennsylvania has this model of machine among those on its list of certifications. 

    Please be aware the federal Help America Vote Act contains provisions for people  with disabilities. That may weigh more in favor of the touch-screen machines which are able to provide innovative features.
    See menu "Solutions Here" which references an article on variety of touch-screen machines with the voter-verified paper trail, and outlines a few websites promoting those machines.
    However, keep in mind, these provisions are to-date voluntary requirements upon the states, unless the state chooses to receive federal monies.
    In addition, the lever style machines could be adequate, with an alteration to make them compliant with disability access.
    So, it appears our county lever machines could remain adequate until a new system is adequately studied.  There is no rush.

    January 30, 2003


    By: Mary M. Janicki, Assistant Director


    The act does not outlaw or require replacement of mechanical lever machines. Instead, it specifies:

    Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a State or jurisdiction which used a particular type of voting system in the elections for Federal office held in November 2000 from using the same type of system after the effective date of this section, so long as the system meets or is modified to meet the requirements of this section ( 301, P. L. 107-252).

    But the law does establish a deadline and impose certain standards that every state's voting machines must meet for elections for federal offices. Beginning January 1, 2006, HAVA requires all voting systems used in federal elections to:

    1. permit the voter to verify his selections on the ballot, notify him of overvotes, and permit the voter to change his vote or correct an error before casting his ballot;

    2. produce a permanent paper record for the voting system that can be manually audited and is available as an official record for recounts;

    3. provide individuals with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired, the same accessibility to voting while maintaining voter privacy and ballot confidentiality;

    4. provide alternative language accessibility, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and

    5. comply with the error rate standards in the federal voting system standards in effect on October 29, 2002.

    In addition every state must adopt uniform standards defining what constitutes a vote and what will be counted as a vote for each certified voting system.

    A spokesperson for the Voting Machine Service Center, Inc. , the company that refurbishes and sells the mechanical lever machines, addressed the new voting systems standards. She says that the machines have fold-down panels that allow them to be lowered to accommodate people in wheelchairs. There is no accommodation for people in wheelchairs who cannot use their arms. They would require assistance. To allow the blind or visually impaired to vote, officials can insert over the ballot label a clear plastic strip that has candidate and office names imprinted in Braille. The plain plastic strips are part of the ballot label now. The lever machines have no capacity for an audio feature at this time for use by blind voters who do not read Braille.

    The mechanical lever machines can accommodate a ballot label written in up to three languages.

    The mechanical lever machines include a feature that can provide a paper audit. Using noncarbon (NCR) paper at the back of the AVM printomatic machine, officials make an impression with the machine set at zero before the election. After the election, they make another impression that shows the vote totals for that machine. The printomatic accessory can be installed on machines manufactured after 1962.

    Kennie Gill, the staff director and chief counsel of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, who worked on the development of the federal legislation, makes the point that the disabled accessibility requirements apply to voting by the blind or visually impaired (Braille is not an alternative solution since not all blind people can read Braille) and to voting by people who do not have the use of their arms or legs. Currently, such people can vote with assistance on the mechanical lever machines, but are not able to do so in private or independently. Having at least one DRE or properly equipped voting machine at each polling place meets the act's disabled accessibility requirement; however, every machine the state or a municipality purchases with federal funds after January 1, 2007, must provide the kind of accessibility required by the new law. Any voter who comes to the polling place must be allowed to use the DRE machine; it cannot be segregated for use by only the disabled.