Florida Voting ::
Voting Issues :: No Paper Trail
Touch-screen voting machines eliminate the "hanging chads'' of the 2000
election, but critics worry about security and the lack of a hard-copy
A paper trail can lead the way to voter confidence on elections being
held with electronic machines.
Gone are the punch card system and the infamous "hanging chads" that were
viewed as a key problem in the last presidential election.
This time around, the controversy involves the lack of a "hard copy"
ballot that can be examined by voters and, if necessary, election judges
during a recount of votes done on the electronic machines. There's also some
concern computer hackers might somehow be able to gain access to the
machines and change votes.
In the wake of the controversy, some officials in Broward County and
elsewhere are considering adding printers to their touch-screen machines
once manufacturers are able to get the printers built and approved for use
in the state.
Indian River County Election Supervisor Kay Clem is keenly aware of the
heightened concerns regarding electronic voting machines, but expressed
confidence that methods being employed by Indian River County will ensure
secure elections. Clem believes adding printers to the county's Sequoia
Voting Systems machines will only needlessly hamper the election process.
The Diebold Election Systems touch-screen machines raised the most questions.
The greatest challenge for officials is to ensure people of the
integrity of the voting process.
Martin County has used an ES&S touch-screen system since 2002, according
to Peggy Robbins, the county's supervisor of elections. The machine provides
a printout after voting has ended for the day, she said.
Robbins declined to comment about whether she would support adding
printers to the machines until the state made a decision about allowing
them. She said there might be several different options regarding costs and
type of printers that could be installed on the machines.
A report by the Ohio Secretary of State found some systems in place
had some degree of security vulnerability, which
the companies say they are addressing. Of the three systems, ES&S was found
to have the fewest problems.
In addition, a report issued by John Hopkins University raised concerns
about the security of the electronic machines.
"The most fundamental problem with such a voting system is that the
entire election hinges on the correctness, robustness, and security of the
software within the voting terminal. Should that code have security-relevant
flaws, they might be exploitable either by unscrupulous voters or by
malevolent insiders," the report said.
The John Hopkins report, partially based on an analysis of an older
version of Diebold touch-screen software, has been criticized by the
company, which said many of the report's conclusions are inaccurate and
Rebecca Mercuri, a research fellow with the Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard University, argues that thousands of printouts are issued each
day by automatic teller machines and lottery machines. She said the lottery
machines are often loaded by convenience or gas station clerks without a
problem. The long lines at these machines are usually the result of big
lottery prizes and not because of paper jams, said Mercuri.
She also questioned how printouts would accommodate the needs of blind
voters. Electronic voting machines equipped with audio equipment are
required by federal law to be available at each precinct by 2006.
Currently, the touch-screen machines provide printed tallies, but not
individual printouts for each vote.
So-called "ballot images" also can be printed out for a recount, although
they are not an exact reproduction of an individual ballot that lists the
names of all the candidates in the races.
Sequoia provided three samples of what such ballot images would look like
in different situations and basically they are printouts of the office and
the name of the candidate ed.
In the case where only one pick was made, the demonstration "ballot
image" listed only the office and candidate ed. The demonstration "ballot
image" of when no vote was cast simply consists of a page stating "No
County by County Map : :
Statewide map showing which counties have the scanned paper ballots,
and which have the controversial touch screens.
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