AAPD attacking AutoMark

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Tue Apr 05 2005 - 18:38:09 CDT

This has implications for the OVC model architecture.

Best regards,

>electionline Weekly - March 31, 2005
><http://www.electionline.org/> electionline.org
>I. In Focus This Week
>'Hybrid' voting machines raise questions about certification, accessibility
>By <mailto:eschneider@electionline.org> Elizabeth Schneider
>They were touted as the solution to the problem of paper and accessibility
>in voting. Manufacturers of "hybrid" voting machines, which look and act
>like touch-screen systems but use a high-tech interface to mark paper
>ballots, say their systems bring the flexibility of e-voting - multiple
>languages, font sizes, accessibility for voters with disabilities, reduced
>printing costs - with the ballot-by-ballot auditability of optical-scan
>It's a tempting choice for states seeking to balance the needs of those with
>disabilities with concerns over direct-recording electronic (DRE) systems,
>which do not allow an independent paper audit of individual ballots.
>In nine months - by January 1, 2006 - states must meet the voting-system
>accessibility mandates of the Help America Vote Act. If a state accepted
>punch-card and lever machine buyout money, it must replace systems
>statewide. All states must purchase at least one machine per polling
>accessible to people with disabilities.
>And that gives them little time to figure out the maze of voting system
>Given the current and complex system of voting machine certification, which
>uses standards that were last updated in 2002, election officials are still
>unsure how to meet the January 2006 deadline, and at the same time comply
>with standards that might not be on target with the yet-to-be released
>guidelines. (See last week's
>electionline Weekly for more.)
>The manufactures of the hybrid
><http://www.vogueelection.com/products_automark.html> AutoMark system say
>their machines comply with the HAVA mandates. Some groups representing
>voters with disabilities disagree.
>In a <http://www.aapd-dc.org/dvpmain/votemachines/blackwell.html> letter
>addressed to Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the American Association
>of People with Disabilities (AAPD) states several counties in Ohio plan to
>purchase an AutoMark system in order to comply with the new state law. By
>doing so, the AAPD argues, they would violate the law.
>"The AutoMark is not accessible for those disabled Buckeyes who cannot
>handle paper... purchasing the AutoMark not only violates the Help America
>Vote Act, it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the
>Rehabilitation Act," states the AAPD letter.
>The AutoMark is outfitted with a sip/puff tube for voters who are unable to
>use a touch screen or touch pad and an audio function for voters with
>impaired vision. The <http://www.populex.com/> Populex machine, a similar
>hybrid, also allows touch controls and other "enhanced navigation" for
>people with disabilities.
>Jim Dickson, vice president of government affairs for the AAPD, argues that
>people who are unable to use their hands will lose their right to a secret
>ballot with the AutoMark machine because, "a voter who casts a ballot on the
>system would be required to carry the marked ballot and then insert it into
>a vote tabulator."
>"HAVA outlines that the voting process is to be independent," says Dickson.
>"And the simple problem [with AutoMark] is the loss of independence and
>According to several groups supporting the voting rights of the disabled
>community, including the American Council of the Blind, the use of
>direct-recording electronic machines, already certified by the federal
>government and in use in many states, has proven to be the most accessible
>voting system. DREs can also be outfitted with a printer to produce a
>voter-verifiable paper record.
>According to the National Institute for of Standards and Technology (NIST),
>HAVA allocates $850 million to the states over three years to purchase
>accessible voting equipment, footing about 95 percent of the total cost.
>The AutoMark has also drawn fire from the United Spinal Association.
>"This system is accessible, but not to all," the group wrote in a
><http://www.unitedspinal.org/pages.php?catid=231&pageid=808> letter opposing
>the use of the machines.
>According to Ellen Bogard, a spokesperson for ES&S, the voting machine
>company which markets the system, the AutoMark ensures the privacy of every
>voter. A voter would be able to use a secrecy sleeve which would protect the
>ballot from view, and for those who require assistance handling the ballot
>ES&S can "prepare ballots without any candidate names, initiatives or other
>ballot measures printed on the document."
>But the cost of the machines could discourage some localities, even if they
>want the hybrid technology. Ohio, for example, has increased its voter rolls
>by nearly one million people in the past two years. "The $106 million the
>state received for new voting technology will not be enough to reach the
>states original goal of supplying one accessible machine per 200 registered
>voters," said Carlo LaParo, a spokesperson for Blackwell. "The AutoMark is
>currently outside of our budget."
>According to the AAPD, the cost of the AutoMark is at least 30 percent
>higher than accessible touch screens. Elaine Gravely, Montana's deputy
>secretary of state for elections, told a local newspaper that the machines
>cost around $5,000.
>In contrast, Maryland reports the state paid just over $2,800 per
>touch-screen DREs manufactured by Diebold.
>To update the standards, NIST was given the authority, under HAVA, to
>provide technical and administrative support to the body that will make the
>final recommendation to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
>The Institute's Technical Guidelines Development Committee is expected to
>review and approve the final draft of the new recommendations and standards
>on April 20th and 21st.
>Allan Eustis, project leader for the committee, said the reports will serve
>as a road map to help the EAC create new voting certification standards.
>"It will be up to the guidelines committee to say 'yea' or 'nay,'" he said.
>The report from NIST, said Whitney Quesenbery, of Whitney Interactive Design
>and an advisor to the Technical Guidelines Development Committee
>specializing in usability, is being rushed out "precisely because of the
>gaps in the 2002 standards."
>What's missing, she said, is a specific standard which would cover the full
>range of a person's abilities, including those that face problems in
>accessing a voting system, and where the disability affects the usability of
>the system.
>According to federal election commissioner Ray Martinez, NIST and the
>committee are taking existing standards and updating them with a priority on
>security, accessibility and usability.
>The AutoMark system, he said, could be problematic for a person who does not
>have the use of their hands or is blind or visually impaired to take ballots
>from system to a ballot box which could possibly compromises the independent
>clause of HAVA.
>"The EAC has not weighed in on whether this is the case [with the
>AutoMark]," he said. "We need to look at any of these areas where there is
>ambiguity or need for greater clarity... and these will be voluntary

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
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Received on Sat Apr 30 23:17:02 2005

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