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 April 24, 2014   

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 backup.

 

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 incomplete.

 

Printing pain

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 Selections Made."


Additional Information on the problems related to the new touchscreen voting method: :

GOP flier urges using absentee ballots to "Make sure your vote counts."

St. Pete Times - 7/29/2004

Glitch prompts touch screen fears

St. Pete Times - 7/29/2004

Keep tabs on touchscreens State should heed calls for election-system audit

Sarasota Herald-Tribune - 7/23/2004

 


County by County Map : :

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Statewide map showing which counties have the scanned paper ballots, and which have the controversial touch screens.


 

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