breathed a long sigh of relief when Fayette Commissioners unanimously chose a non-touch screen Direct
Recording Electronic (DRE) voting
system, Hart InterCivic’s eSlate.
remember the Hart InterCivic representative’s refrain from the meetings held at the Election Bureau in January for poll
workers, judges of election, commissioners, and the public - Tough Screen versus Touch Screen.
a difference one letter makes.
vendors responded to a series of questions about security, battery backup, hard-drives, and the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit
Trail. Lifetime of the units, memory storage, handicapped accessibility, data
flow, and transmission of results were discussed. Vendors supplied informational brochures.
InterCivic’s White Paper Securing the eSlate Electronic Voting System Application Security Information is also online
as well as demonstration of the eSlate as linked from the Fayette County website.
My sigh of relief
continued after locating (Internet) supportive material. An Austin Chronicle
piece, “How Safe Is Your E-Vote?” touted Hart InterCivic’s eSlate as “an apparently more reliable product,” as distinguished from systems known as “touch-screen”
which have suffered “reports of malfunctions, computer or human in origin, that have caused problems in actual elections.
Among other things, there have been instances of more votes being registered than were actually cast, voters pressing on one
candidate but the machine registering the vote for another, or votes simply vanishing.”
The article covers technical and security-related concerns which have been the focus of computer
scientists around the country. ”Perhaps most important, the eSlate system
has no external connections – no hookups to phone lines, the Internet, or an intranet. While some systems allow results
to be sent by modem to a central vote-counting facility, the eSlate is comparatively old-fashioned – much like an old-style
ballot box, the devices ("mediums") into which votes are recorded are removed by the election judges after the polls close
and physically transported to the central counting station.“
My sigh of relief
was intact. No modems, no touch screen, no phone lines.
Then, citizen activists pointed me to an October 2005 Government Accountability Office report entitled: “Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities
Need to Be Completed.”
I found Lawrence Norden’s November 28, 2005 piece “Following up on an important GAO report
on electronic voting” which posed “Questions for your state and local election officials raised by the Government Accountability Office Report.”
Doubt about all electronic voting systems surfaced, not just “touch screens.”
Remember the Voter Verified (Verifiable) Paper Audit Trail?
According to the
GAO report, there are concerns with defining and agreeing on it. Experts have
Vivion Vinson interviewed
Dr. Ted Selker who developed “his own method for paperless, secure electronic voting” and Dr. Rebecca Mercuri
who developed “a model for secure electronic voting with a paper ballot.” http://www.afsc.org/pwork/0312/031214.htm
Faced with the
commissioners about to enter a contract with Hart InterCivic, and all of this information, I recalled how I felt after personally
using the electronic DREs at Election Bureau meetings.
I had no visible
paper record of the ballot about to be finally cast. I could see my selections on the eSlate screen, but couldn’t review
and verify my selections according to Rebecca Mercuri’s method.
solution? Should Fayette wait until computer experts all agree, or for Harrisburg
and the Federal Government to iron out differences of opinion on audit trails and other technical issues?
revert to an all paper-ballot system with hand counts?
Of course not,
the whole point of technology is to cut down on problems inherent in paper-ballot voting, namely over-votes which result in
spoiled discarded and uncounted ballots and under-votes or a blank ballot which may be re-interpreted incorrectly when hand-counted.
But like Lancaster County, which adopted both Hart InterCivic’s eSlate and eScan, Fayette Commissioners
have in their power a means to provide a choice of a different kind to all voters at the polling place.
not yet “signed” a contract with Hart InterCivic
When they do, it
should be for a mix of both Hart InterCivic’s eSlate and eScan.
Both machines comply
with HAVA and are PA-certified.