Voting Machines: Access vs. Integrity?
Jul 07 08:31
I received the following e-mail -- which I’ve excerpted here -- in response to the blog entry “Red Machines, Blue Paper Trails” from Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Ph.D., president of Pennsylvania NOW and long-time disability rights advocate:
… The ES&S Automark is a paper-based ballot that is fully accessible. It also provides a paper trail and gets around … [the problem of] a single continuous paper roll. …
Tosti-Vasey’s point is there already are accessible voting machines that can be audited via a paper trail, so disability rights advocates can chill on that issue. Some of these machines have a single roll of paper, which is problematic.
Why? If there is a single voting machine in a precinct, then all anyone would have to do to figure out who voted for whom would be to compare the numbered voter diary to the position of the votes on the paper trail roll.
So no one could be guaranteed a private vote.
As for the electronic machines we do use, their accuracy is questionable.
These are the direct-recording electronic machines without paper trails that many disability rights advocates say our nation should stick with, since they seem to be the most accessible.
Here in Centre County, PA in November 2006, we (a group of voter integrity advocates) asked a group of researchers at Penn State University to test the accuracy of the machines. They compared the results off of the machines with exit polling data in two of the largest precincts in Centre County. The results showed that who people said they voted for was significantly different from what the machines said they voted for. And in two of the races, the winner would have been the opposite candidate had the results of the exit polling been what was entered into the voting machines.
I have also poll-watched and seen disability access problems with the electronic machines here in use in Centre County. … Other problems included a mis-calibration of the screens so that unless a person (disabled or not) punched EXACTLY in the middle of the voting square, his/her vote was cast for the other guy.
I want a fully accessible machine. With a paper ballot. Without the glitches and possible hidden problems I've seen and heard with the electronic voting machines.
Tosti-Vasey’s e-mail brings up many good points, and sent me on a Google orgy of fact-finding. But right now what I have is a pile of research and a page of more questions. I’ll be finding and posting the answers over the next week or so.
Here’s my Big Question: If the electronic machines some of our advocates defend aren’t working then what’s the advocates’ game plan exactly?
And here’s my Even Bigger Question: Even if these electronic non-auditable machines are fully accessible, is access to a flawed system right now better than delayed access to an efficient system that brings integrity back to our nation’s voting system?
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Jul 07 10:43
There doesn't have to be access to a flawed system. The Automark provides all the accessibility features a person could want. There is a touch screen with variables so a person with low vision can see it larger or with different contrast or a person with less fine motor control can have a bigger field to touch, it has headphones with volume control so a non reader or a person with low vision or no vision can hear the ballot read, it has puff controls for people without use of their hands, it has a braille keypad, and more. You can have your ballot read back to you after you have marked it to be sure it is correct. The Automark marks the same ballot other voters use - it is inked by machine instead of by hand. You can look at your ballot before it is processed. It is processed exactly as other ballots are processed. I've used these machines dozens of times when helping my state to decide which machine to use (& got no kickback) - you can vote privately, accessibly, with a paper trail.
Jul 07 10:52
Part 2 -- I have encountered problems with the Automark as has my son when it has come time to vote. None of the problems was due to the machine, but due to the poll workers being insistent that they knew how the machine worked when they did not. I have filed grievances with my state due to the poll workers being inadequately trained and not respecting that I did know how to properly use the machine. Accessible Automark machines have some nuances that need to be understood and I encourage anyone who lives in a state where they are used to go to a demonstration event to try them out a few times before you vote in an important election. I also encourage people with disabilities to become PAID poll workers. If every polling site had a trained person with a disability present, the experience would be better for all. Susan