Re: NY Times: Editorial Observer: What's Wrong With My Voting Machine?

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Mon Dec 04 2006 - 16:12:24 CST

Hi Richard

This is an important point. Please send a letter to the editor at the
NYT. FYI, the 'top 5" are not a result of selection, they are a result
of being the only companies or products that are still in contention for
New York City's business.

Teresa Hommel

Richard C. Johnson wrote:

> I read this morning's NY Times and saw this article. The irony is
> that Open Voting Solutions, Inc. presented the State of New York with
> a 100% Open Source precinct scanner in the bidding and was not listed
> among the top five (see article for assessment of the "top") because
> OVS could not afford the exhorbitant fee of $280,000 (and more)
> charged by the state for doing its certification testing. By shutting
> out small companies (who has piles of money lying about? not small
> companies!), New York shuts out innovation and competition and
> guarantees that it will do without or in the end have pick from the
> likes of the "top" five.
> In fact, the ITA (Independent Test) fees on the federal level as well
> as fees charged by states must be found somehow, or we will have to
> wait for Diebold et al to convert to Open Source after being hit by
> lightning. Long wait, I think. Alternative #1, we could get the
> states to pick up the tab for testing and allow competition; this
> would lower the prices more than enough to cover the cost of testing!
> Alternative #2, we could find an investor that would provide the
> $500,000 or so needed to perform certification at the state and
> federal level in a couple of states. Alternative #3, OVS can
> bootstrap itself by selling registration systems to states (these do
> not have to be certified) to get enough money to pay for certification
> of voting systems.
> OVS will pursue all 3 alternatives. Meanwhile, New York may just
> prove a tough nut for the top five to crack. We will see.
> Cheers!
> -- Dick
> Arthur Keller <> wrote:
> December 4, 2006
> What's Wrong With My Voting Machine?
> To the long list of recent Election Day horrors from butterfly
> ballots to six-hour lines, add "vote flipping."
> In Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and other states last month, there
> were reports - some confirmed by election officials - that when
> voters touched the screen for one candidate, the machine
> registered it for another. One Florida Congressional race, in
> which the Republican won by fewer than 400 votes, is in the courts
> because paperless electronic voting machines may have failed to
> register as many as 18,000 votes.
> This year's election had voters across the country once again
> asking why voting machines are so lousy. Their technology is
> similar to A.T.M. technology, but when was the last time your
> A.T.M. flipped a $200 withdrawal into a $200 deposit?
> Voting machines, unlike home electronics, are not sold in a
> competitive consumer market, which is ruthlessly unforgiving of
> low quality. The officials who buy them generally do not know much
> about technology. They listen to sales pitches from vendors who
> relentlessly push the most expensive models. Sometimes,
> well-connected lobbyists apply pressure. The process is rife with
> conflicts of interest, from free meals to future jobs with the
> manufacturers.
> Since quality is not the deciding factor, it's not surprising
> there isn't a lot of it.
> Voters who complain about their own machines don't often get a
> chance to compare them with other options. But New York's boards
> of elections are replacing the old lever machines, and I recently
> went to demonstrations the city held to allow the public to try
> out the five finalists.
> There are many important things about a voting machine you can't
> tell from a quick inspection. But what was clear was almost all
> disturbing. Here are the ratings:
> Avante Touch-Screen (no stars)
> This is one of two A.T.M.-like touch-screen machines in the
> running. Even if they were reliable, touch-screens would not be
> practical for populous areas. Configured to hold New York's
> ridiculously large ballot, this five-foot-wide, 280-pound machine
> is so expensive, at about $8,000, that there might be only one per
> polling place, and lines could extend for hours. One machine I
> sampled cut off parts of words. And the bottom half of the name of
> one of the political parties was missing. A bigger problem is that
> this machine appears to run afoul of a New York law requiring that
> all voting machine computer code be given to the state. It runs on
> Windows, and Microsoft keeps its code secret.
> Sequoia Touch-Screen (no stars)
> Like the Avante, this machine should be ruled out simply because
> it is a touch-screen. But there is a lot more to dislike. The
> paper records produced by a voting machine should be secured in a
> lockbox. On this one, they fall into a small bag that could easily
> be snatched. Not that a thief would need to bother. The bag has a
> zipper on the bottom. Like Avante's, this touch-screen runs on
> Windows, which probably means it cannot satisfy New York's
> code-sharing law.
> Sequoia Optical Scan (no stars)
> With optical scans, many voters can fill out paper ballots at the
> same time. They are then fed into an optical scan reader, which
> goes very quickly. Unfortunately, this machine has other problems.
> Instead of blackening an oval next to their choice, voters connect
> a broken arrow. I have filled in thousands of ovals, but I had
> never before connected a broken arrow. As we saw with the
> butterfly ballot in 2000, the voting machine is not a good place
> to ask voters to acquire new skills. New York law requires that
> candidates of the same party be listed in a single column, to make
> it easier to vote by party. This machine scatters candidates of
> the same party all over the ballot.
> Diebold Optical Scan *
> When I fed my ballot into this machine, it jammed twice. The sales
> representative expressed shock, but this is a frequently heard
> complaint. Even a balky optical scan is better than a
> touch-screen, but how hard is it to make one that doesn't jam?
> Diebold has been the most infamous name in elections since its
> chief executive wrote that he was committed to helping deliver
> Ohio to President Bush, in an election in which his machines were
> counting the votes. The company has a long list of misdeeds,
> including installing unapproved and uncertified software in
> California.
> ES&S Optical Scan *1/2 (1.5 stars)
> This seemed like the best of the five machines on display, but
> that wasn't saying much. ES&S machines were used in Florida's 13th
> Congressional District, where they are still looking for the
> 18,000 votes that may have gone missing.
> New York's official testing agencies notified election officials
> last week that none of these five machines fully meet the state's
> standards. New York has been the slowest state to adopt new voting
> machines, and the fact that the manufacturers were displaying
> products that still did not comply with state law says a lot about
> the basic level of competence in the industry.
> No one in New York has much patience for more delay. But if it
> comes down to waiting longer or sticking voters with illegal or
> unreliable machines that will undermine democracy for years to
> come, officials should wait, and insist on better machines. New
> Yorkers, and all Americans, deserve better choices than the voting
> machine industry is offering.
> Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4507
> tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Sun Dec 31 23:17:05 2006

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