Re: Experience at Tuesday's Presidential Primary Election at a Precinct in Santa Clara County

From: Dylan Hirsch-Shell <dylanhs_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Thu Feb 07 2008 - 13:39:58 CST

I voted in Los Angeles County. My polling place was using the Inka-Vote
system. For those of you who don't know, InkaVote consists of paper ballots
that slide into a plastic ballot holder with holes through which an ink pen
with a flattened circle shaped tip can be pressed to mark specific circles
on the ballot (scantron style, but with a pen that fills the empty circles
on the ballot with a perfect circle of the same size). Each plastic ballot
holder has laminated pages on either side indicating which hole represents a
vote for which candidate/preference. Only one column of holes, consisting
of choices for a particular office or state propositions or city
propositions, is accessible at a time, such that when you first put your
ballot in and turn to the first laminated page you can vote for one
candidate for president, then you turn the page and you're presented with
the various state propositions that you vote "yes" or "no" on, then you turn
the page and you're presented with the city propositions that you can vote
on. Apparently, because of the situation with different parties allowing
different groups of voters to participate in their primaries, there were
different polling stations, each with a different ballot holder presenting
different sets of accessible holes for marking, set up for voters in each
party and for the Non-Declared voters.

As a Decline-to-State voter, I had heard before the election that I would
have to request a Democratic ballot if I wanted to vote for a Democratic
presidential candidate. When I requested a Democratic ballot at the polling
place, the poll worker still gave me a Non-Declared ballot (it clearly said
Non-Declared across the top), but said that I should go to the Democratic
booth that had been set up and mark the circle indicating that I wanted to
vote for a Democratic presidential candidate, and then mark the circle
corresponding to the candidate of my choice.

I hope this doesn't mean that my vote in the Democratic primary wasn't

On Feb 7, 2008 5:10 AM, Arthur Keller <> wrote:

> I was Precinct Inspector (chief poll worker for a polling place) at
> Tuesday's California Presidential Primary at Precinct 2113 in Palo
> Alto in Santa Clara County, California. I have posted messages
> describing my experiences at previous postings (see
> and
> ).
> Santa Clara County previously used Sequoia AVC Edge voting machines
> with VeriVote printers. However, these were decertified by Secretary
> of State Debra Bowen. So instead we had one voting machine per
> precinct together with paper ballots.
> Santa Clara County provides ballots in 5 languages. All of the
> ballots are bilingual with English and another language. If someone
> does not ask for a ballot in a specific language, the English/Spanish
> ballot is given to the voter. So there are 4 different language
> ballots.
> Because this was a primary election, there were ballots for each of 6
> parties (Democratic, Republican, American Independent, Libertarian,
> Green, and Peace and Freedom), as well as Non-Partisan. The
> Non-Partisan category is for the Decline-to-State voter. I suspect
> that a significant number of American Independent Party registrants
> intended to register as Decline-to-State voters. I noticed some of
> the ballots from other parties had Democratic Presidential candidates
> written in on their ballots. I doubt if those preferences will be
> included in the tally, but I assume that their preferences for the 7
> propositions will be included.
> At 4 different language ballots times 7 (6 parties plus
> Non-Partisan), there were potentially 28 ballot styles in Santa Clara
> County. There were about a dozen actual ballot styles based on our
> exact combination of language preferences and party registrations.
> That we did not need all the ballot style combinations is largely
> because the Registrar of Voters has made a concerted effort over the
> last few years to get all voters to state their language preference.
> Part of the intent is to provide the election materials to the voter
> in the right language and avoid unnecessary paper. Previously the
> materials were in all languages. Now they are in English/Spanish,
> Chinese-only, Tagalog-only, and Vietnamese-only. Printed in smaller
> batches, the Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese materials are printed in
> a sturdier paper, why the English/Spanish materials inside the
> booklet are printed on newsprint. All ballots, however, include
> English and one other language, so that English readers can hand
> count the ballots if necessary.
> Those who registered as Decline-to-State were given a Non-Partisan
> ballot unless they specifically requested a Democratic ballot or an
> American Independent Party ballot. Those are the only two parties
> that allowed Decline-to-State voters to participate in their primary.
> Specifically, the Republican party chose not to allow
> Decline-to-State voters to participate in their primary, and those
> who requested a Republican ballot were to be offered a Voter
> Registration Card to reregister. Decline-to-State voters who
> requested a Democratic ballot were not to be offered a Voter
> Registration Card to reregister unless they specifically requested
> it, as per Poll Worker training. I did, however, offer several Green
> party registered voters a Voter Registration Card when they requested
> a Democratic ballot, because I could not give them a Democratic
> ballot.
> Giving Decline-to-State voters a (paper!) Non-Partisan ballot by
> default was in general easily changed for Precinct Voters who wanted
> a party ballot, but it presented a problem for Vote by Mail voters.
> They were sent Non-Partisan ballots by mail, and had to specifically
> request a Democratic primary ballot if they wanted one. Many of the
> 33 Provisional voters in my Precinct were Decline-to-State voters who
> voted a Non-Partisan ballot absentee and came to the polls to request
> a Democratic ballot to vote in the Presidential primary. I have no
> idea how the Registrar of Voters will handle those duplicate ballots,
> but I hope that they are not prosecuted for voting twice. This issue
> was not covered in training. Perhaps there should have been ballots
> that included only the Presidential candidates (and not the
> propositions) for the two parties that allowed Decline-to-State
> voters to participate. Doing so would have allowed those voters who
> had cast a Vote-by-Mail ballot to have provisionally voted for
> President. Since we in the polling place new that they had received
> a ballot, but did not know whether they received a non-partisan or
> partisan ballot, the ballot would necessarily have to have been
> provisional.
> Many Decline-to-State voters in the Precinct specifically requested a
> partisan ballot for the Democratic party. Some of those that
> received a Non-Partisan ballot at the polls complained when they did
> see the Presidential candidates. We swapped the Non-Partisan ballot
> for a Democratic ballot (after asking which party, Democratic or
> American Independent) after marking the preference as required in the
> voter rolls.
> We were issued 200 English/Spanish Democratic ballots as part of the
> total of 430 ballots in about a dozen ballot styles. Late morning, I
> discovered that we had gone through more than half of the
> English/Spanish Democratic ballots (and we had 10 Chinese/English
> Democratic ballots, but no other languages). With about two-thirds
> of the time left until poll closing, I was worried about running out
> of paper ballots. So I called my Field Inspector and then the
> Registrar of Voters hotline requesting additional ballots. I was
> told to call back when I had 30 or 40 ballots left. Based on
> Secretary of State directive, we had been discouraged from offering
> the use of the electronic voting machine to anyone unless they
> specifically requested it. I had fully expected not to use it at
> all. Several hours later, someone from the Registrar of Voters in
> San Jose showed up with 100 paper ballots, or rather photocopies of
> paper ballot proofs (they had all the trim marks on them).
> At that point, I decided to offer Democratic voters the choice of
> "paper or plastic," that is, paper ballot or electronic voting
> machine. One Democratic voter chose the electronic voting machine.
> The second voter who chose the electronic voting machine was a
> Decline-to-State voter who did not request a party ballot. After the
> Decline-to-State voter cast a ballot on the voting machine, the voter
> returned to me and complained that the ballot did not offer a choice
> for Presidential candidate. I told the voter that the voter had
> specifically to request a ballot for Democratic or American
> Independent Party. The voter said that she was not told of this
> requirement and that how the option to vote in the partisan primary
> worked. The fact that the voter did not appear to be a native
> speaker of English indicates that there may have been some language
> barrier in the instructions. At that point, I decided to offer use
> of the electronic voting machine only to those who were voting a
> Democratic ballot. No one else specifically requested it (if they
> had, I certainly would have allowed them to do so). Had we not been
> running out of paper ballots, I doubt anyone would have used the
> electronic voting machine, since it was used only by request. As the
> number of Democratic ballots dwindled, I switched to requesting that
> everyone who cast a Democratic ballot (including Decline-to-State
> voters) do so on the electronic voting machine. In the end 78 voters
> used the electronic voting machine (for 77 Democratic ballots and one
> non-partisan ballot), and I had seven Democratic ballots in
> English/Spanish left. So we had 270 Democratic ballots cast, when we
> were originally supplied 200. While I was given 100 spare
> photocopied paper ballots, first 50 were taken away for use by other
> precincts, and then 25 more were taken away. I had 25 unused spare
> photocopied paper ballots. None were used at my precinct.
> We had a steady stream of people coming all day, with the line to
> sign in never longer than 7 voters, and the line for the electronic
> voting machine never longer than 5 voters. As far as I could tell,
> most voters had no problem with the electronic voting machine. But
> some were confused about how to review their ballots and get the
> paper trail printed. When presented with a rounded rectangle saying
> something like, "Press here to review a paper copy of your ballot,"
> they instead pressed the "Review" button. To get back, they had to
> press the "Return" button or something similar but non-intuitive. I
> encountered this particular problem previously at other elections.
> Clearly the human factors engineering for the Sequoia AVC Edge
> electronic voting machine related to the paper trail is faulty. But
> such problems often arise when a process or software is modified with
> a "bolt-on" step instead of being rethought and re-engineered.
> In the November 2007 local election, precincts were given paper
> ballots (I think they were only in English/Spanish). These paper
> ballots were only to be given to those who specifically requested it
> (I think non-English speakers were to use of the five electronic
> voting machines provided). Few voters specifically requested paper
> ballots, while no voters specifically requested use of the electronic
> voting machines. Several voters, when handed a paper ballot, said
> something like, "Back to the Future." Although some were
> disappointed that so much money was spent on voting machines that
> were then not to be used, no one handed a paper ballot requested to
> vote on the electronic voting machine. Only those who the poll
> worker requested to vote electronically did so. In the November 2006
> election, when I specifically gave voters a choice of paper or
> plastic, as the paper trails on the electronic voting machines ran
> out, most voters chose paper ballots since they could get to vote
> faster (as the line grew for the one electronic voting machine left).
> This unscientific study indicates that voter preference is dominated
> by poll worker instruction.
> One person (a computer expert very knowledgeable about security) at
> my precinct specifically said he has surprised that I was requesting
> he vote on the electronic voting machine, as he knew that I knew
> about their security risks. I told him that Secretary of State Debra
> Bowen's directive to hand verify the paper trail against the
> electronic voting machine totals for 100% of the ballots for 100% of
> the machines assured me that the electronic voting machine ballots
> were more likely to be correctly tallied than ballots marked on
> photocopied paper that would have to be hand-transcribed for machine
> tallying. Knowing my knowledge in the area, he was reassured and
> proceeded to vote electronically, as did his wife. One voter asked
> whether the ballot was encoded on the activation card returned to the
> poll worker. So I demonstrated the status key that showed the card
> contained only that the card was used to vote on a specific voting
> machine (by serial number) at a specific time.
> The card activator had a security seal over the whole were it is
> designed for a PC card to be inserted.
> The card activator has a menu provides access to a bunch of
> undocumented features, including the ability to change the date and
> time on the card activator. (I did not check whether that feature
> was still available, but I noticed previously that it was a feature.)
> One security risk is that a card activator may have its date and time
> changed, a supply of cards activated with the time stamps of during
> the election, and then the date and time restored. Those cards could
> be used to vote in one or more busy precincts. However, the number
> of votes cast would exceed the number of voters who signed in to vote.
> When opening the polls in the morning, we had one small glitch.
> There are four long strips of paper seal for sealing both sides of
> two cardboard ballot boxes. The strips had backing, but these were
> also in strips several inches wide crosswise. It was hard to pull
> off all of the backing strips. One of the poll workers accidentally
> caused the half-exposed sticky part to stick to itself while trying
> to remove the remainder of the backing. I had to call the Field
> Inspector for a spare. The Field Inspector quickly brought a spare
> prior to opening the polls. Later, as the ballot box for
> vote-by-mail ballots filled up, one side sagged, with the paper seal
> failing to stick very well. I surmised that the seal that failed to
> stick was the spare one, and perhaps it was from a batch of a
> previous election. I note that the backing of the strips for sealing
> the box of cast ballots and the box of unused ballots were cut the
> long way, which was easier to fully remove with less risk of the
> strip sticking to itself. I suggest that long backing strips also be
> used on the strips for sealing the ballot boxes used during Election
> Day.
> The white cardboard ballot box was for regular paper ballots, and the
> brown cardboard ballot box was for vote-by-mail and provisional
> ballots, as well as voter registration forms, preferred language
> surveys and permanent vote-by-mail requests. Separation of those two
> types of ballots is mainly a capacity issue. The large paper ballots
> stack neatly by themselves in the white ballot box. Had vote-by-mail
> ballots been added to the mix, the combination of short and fat
> envelopes along with large and flat ballots would have required a lot
> more space. I understand that some election protection volunteers
> were concerned that some poll workers in Mountain View were putting
> Democratic ballots from Decline-to-State voters in the brown
> cardboard box. While this was a training issue and potentially a
> voter privacy issue, it should not have mattered since all the voted
> paper ballots were returned to the Registrar of Voters in a single
> box after polls close and the ballot boxes are opened and the ballots
> counted (but not tallied).
> When all (or most) ballots were cast on the electronic voting
> machine, provisionally ballots were identified by activating a card
> as provisional. The card activator displayed a number, which was
> recorded on a pink paper form. This number was also recorded on the
> card along with the activation and presumably recorded with the
> ballot on the electronic voting machine so that the Registrar of
> Voters can have the electronic ballot included in the canvass if the
> provisional ballot is to be counted. The paper form includes the
> voter identification and information needed to ascertain whether the
> provisional ballot is to be counted. There are two problems with
> this approach. First, the ballot is permanently identified with the
> voter by provisional ballot ID. Second, it may be possible to
> determine how the voter voted and use this information in determining
> whether a provisional ballot should be counted. Because the process
> of determining whether a provisional ballot is to be counted has
> little or no public oversight, the potential exists to systematically
> disenfranchise voters who vote a particular way. Of course, even if
> the ballot is not available, the voter's party affiliation can be
> used to disenfranchise. Furthermore, certain ethnic groups who use
> multiple last names or who write their family name first and given
> name last can be systematically disenfranchised by failing to check
> for these variations when trying to match a voter to the voter rolls.
> This problem also arises with voter registration databases that are
> to be checked against social security records or drivers license
> records. While the problem of voter registration database
> verification-caused disenfranchisement has been dealt with by the
> courts, I am not familiar with court adjudication of this issue in
> provisional vote counting. Because the result of whether provisional
> ballots are counted is communicated only with voters who inquire and
> only in jurisdictions providing this service, it is not clear whether
> the information is available to enable a court case to be filed and
> adjudicated. That such ethnic groups are less likely to be native
> speakers of English can compound the problem.
> For the November 2007 election, the usual pink paper form was used.
> If the voter cast a paper ballot, the paper ballot was to be placed
> in an envelope along with the pink paper form. A code using the
> voters birthday was to be used for the voter to be able to find out
> whether the ballot was counted. In a private meeting with Assistant
> Registrar of Voters Elaine Larson several months ago, I suggested
> that envelopes be printed with the pink form and serial numbers
> pre-printed on both the envelope and a tear-off stub. The voter
> would be handed either the provisional ballot envelope or a ballot
> secrecy sleeve but not both. A ballot returned in the ballot secrecy
> sleeve was cast in the white ballot box. A ballot returned in the
> provisional ballot envelope was sealed by the voter in the envelope,
> the stub returned to the voter, and the envelope cast in the brown
> ballot box. If a provisional voter was to vote electronically, the
> activator card provisional ID number was written on the envelope,
> with the stub handed to the voter with the activation card and the
> provisional envelope placed in the brown ballot box without a paper
> ballot. I made sure all provisional voters used paper ballots, so
> their envelopes were not opened until it was determined that their
> ballots were to be counted. Provisional ballots are separated from
> their envelopes and counted in batches by high speed scanners, just
> like vote-by-mail ballots. I talked to poll workers and election
> trainers, all of whom were happy about the system with the pink
> provisional envelopes. One quibble is that the portion of the flap
> that stayed with the envelope was not long enough to seal well, and
> voters did not like licking the envelopes. Postal workers at the
> post office service counter have a solution to this
> problem---moistening sponges---that should be considered to address
> this problem.
> There were 340 ballots cast in my precinct, of which 78 were cast
> electronically. There were also well over 100 vote-by-mail ballots
> dropped off at the polls. The bag in which vote-by-mail envelopes
> were to be placed did not seal well. And this bag was so full, it
> would not fit into inspectors bag. I recommend that better sealing
> vote-by-mail ballot bags be used in the future and that multiple such
> vote-by-mail ballot bags be provided in case the number of ballots
> did not fit in the bag. (I had that problem previously.)
> With only one electronic voting machine in each precinct, the process
> now follows California Election Code Section 19370. After the vote
> tallies are printed on the sealed paper trail, the paper trail box is
> removed and another paper trail box is installed. Two more copies of
> the vote tally are printed and the paper trail box is removed. Some
> of the paper tape is removed from the box, and the two copies are
> separated. Both copies are signed by all the Precinct Board members
> (i.e., poll workers), with one copy posted outside the precinct and
> the other copy placed in the roster index.
> Voters were encouraged to mail their ballots in early to ensure that
> they were properly received and counted, and also that their ballots
> were included in the totals announced as the polls closed rather than
> days later. However, with the compressed primary cycle, and one
> candidate withdrawing a week before the election, I suspect many
> voters will wait until the last minute in the future. Not only will
> this mean more work for Registrar of Voters staff after election day
> dealing with the large amounts of paper ballots submitted at the
> polls, but it also will mean more ballots dropped off at the polls
> (hence the need for more bags).
> Having enough qualified poll workers is an issue. My two best poll
> workers were one who has worked with me several times before and one
> high school student. The one who worked with me before was
> experienced, knowledgeable, worked fast, and followed my directions.
> The high school student was a quick study, worked fast, and also
> followed my instructions. I had one more poll worker who worked all
> day and a pair of poll workers who split the day. Those three poll
> workers were slow and did not always follow instructions. For
> example, there were 325 voters on the tally sheet (in part because
> one poll worker was confused whether provisional ballots are to be
> marked on the tally sheet---they are, but vote-by-mail ballots are
> not!), 340 ballots cast, and 343 voters signed in on the roster
> index. I suspect the problem with the extra 3 voters on the roster
> index is that 3 provisional voters were told to sign the roster index
> where they appeared as well as on the provisional ballot pages.
> These were voters who had been sent vote-by-mail envelopes but could
> not surrender them at the polls. I recommend that the instructions
> with the vote-by-mail envelopes should indicate that they may be
> mailed in, dropped off at the Registrar of Voters, or dropped off at
> the polls, and that they may be surrendered at the polls on Election
> Day if the vote wishes to vote in the precinct (for example, if the
> voter has spoiled the ballot). Doing so would increase the number of
> surrendered ballots with a corresponding decrease in the number of
> provisional ballots. Much of this problem had to do with
> Decline-to-State voters or with voters who had chosen a candidate no
> longer actively running for office.
> One of the poll workers parsimoniously kept removing pens from the
> Pollstar voting booths. I figured it was easier to leave them there,
> since we had more than enough. Few pens if any were taken from the
> polling place. Although I requested poll workers leave a few pens at
> the polling place, I noticed there supply of pens on the table would
> periodically increase, with all the Pollstars bereft of pens. This
> particular poll worker hastily carried materials out, when I wanted
> to take them to my car systematically. He dropped some of the bags
> because he was unable to carry them all at once, and the bulging
> vote-by-mail bag seal failed and spilled out a few ballots. I
> resealed the bag and warned election officials to the problem at the
> drop off point for election materials at a local middle school.
> Another poll worker (the one who kept on getting confused whether
> provisional ballots are marked on the tally sheet that counts the
> number of voters) was rather slow. For the rush of voters in the
> last two hours, I moved him off the roster index and replaced him
> with the "good" experienced poll worker. I moved the other poll
> worker to marking the tally sheet (the street indexes aren't marked
> after 6pm).
> One other poll worker arrived at around 9am (as we agreed) and left
> not long afterwards. This poll worker is a Spanish-speaking Stanford
> student who specifically volunteered to work as a bilingual poll
> worker. She left because there were few if any voters who needed her
> services, and the high school student also knew Spanish. I
> encouraged her to volunteer earlier next time and to specifically
> request being placed at a precinct with a Spanish speaking population
> that is located convenient to public transit. The transportation
> issue is why the voter arrived at around 9am.
> In some earlier elections, we were told to record the tally number in
> the roster index or street index. However, starting with the
> November 2007 election, this practice that risked voter privacy was
> stopped. There are 3 street indexes, one from 7am to 11am, one from
> 11am to 3pm, and one from 3pm to 6pm. Since voters are crossed off
> when they vote only for the street index when the vote, one can tell
> the biock of time when a voter voted. Since this does not include
> sequence information, it does not present the same risk to voter
> privacy.
> I recommend that the Non-Partisan sample ballot include the option
> whereby the voter can request a partisan ballot, as part of the
> regular form for requesting a mail ballot. Along with the
> Non-Partisan vote-by-mail ballot should be instructions for how to
> exchange the ballot for a partisan ballot either by mail or at the
> precinct. Similarly instructions should be provided for how voters
> should deal with spoiled ballots, such as when a voter's desired
> candidate withdraws. Considering that vote-by-mail turnout in Santa
> Clara County, California exceeded precinct voting by nearly 50%, the
> problems of Decline-to-State choosing partisan ballots and candidates
> dropping out are likely to recur in the future. In contrast, three
> times as many non-partisan vote-by-mail ballots were cast than
> precinct ballots. Given that turnout was about 60% vote-by-mail and
> 40% precinct. It is likely that as many non-partisan voters chose a
> partisan ballot in the precinct than voted non-partisan. My
> guesstimate is that at least 6500 Decline-to-State voters chose to
> cast a Democratic ballot at the polls. This number contrasts with
> nearly 353,000 total ballots cast and just over 220,000 Democratic
> ballots cast (including Decline-to-State). I do not know how many
> Decline-to-State voters received and cast vote-by-mail Democratic
> ballots.
> It may be helpful give poll workers instructions on how to count the
> number of paper ballots and the number of envelopes. While this may
> seem as a trivial task, I find it best to have poll workers create
> group of 10 at a time. This process can be done by multiple poll
> workers in parallel. The paper ballots are placed crosswise, with
> each group of 10 perpendicular to the next. All of the piles of
> paper ballots are combined into one pile, with an extra short group
> of 0 to 9 ballots kept separate. Then the groups of 10 are counted
> with the count of the short group added to the overall count.
> Counting them without making groups is a more error prone process
> that can't easily be restarted if someone gets confused or
> interrupted in the process. This process is well known to those who
> hand-tally ballots, but out of practice when in this era of
> electronic voting machines.
> This election had the first widespread use of optical scan paper
> ballots in the polling place in Santa Clara County. (Fewer voters
> used them in the November 2007 election when they were given only to
> those who requested them.) Because these ballots were virtually the
> same as vote-by-mail ballots (although it is possible to tell them
> apart other than by the creases), there was some familiarity with
> them, and the Registrar of Voters already had the high speed scanners
> for counting them. However, some voters were confused. To make a
> selection, the voter was instructed to complete the line (connect the
> two line segments) with the arrow pointing to the voter's selection.
> One voter showed his ballot to a poll worker to ask if he had done it
> right. He had circled the selections instead, so we took back his
> ballot and marked it spoiled and give him another one after
> instructing him how to use it. At that point, I had the poll worker
> who handed the voter the ballot demonstrate how to mark the ballot
> (fortunately, we were given a pad of sample lines to connect). We
> added that to the instructions to mark both sides of the a ballot,
> remove the stub, and return the ballot to us in the secrecy sleeve or
> provisional ballot envelope. I think this step should be added to
> poll worker training.
> Clearly this problem was voter error. I do not think the problem was
> ballot design. But it does confirm the quip that the problem of
> making systems idiot-proof is that they keep on making more clever
> idiots. This experience confirms the need for ballots to be checked
> at the precinct when the voter is still able to correct them. A
> precinct-tally optical scan system provides feedback for overvotes.
> However, unless the precinct-tally optical scanner provides feedback
> to the voter for all the selections (either visually or by auditory
> feedback), the voter can't be sure that scanner has interpreted the
> ballot correctly. I have previously written about the benefits of
> such a system to providing true voter-verification using a consistent
> process for all precinct voters (including the reading impaired), and
> this case confirms the benefits of such a system.
> The electronic voting machines in Santa Clara County as Sequoia AVC
> Edge Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines. If these
> were converted to print paper ballots (that is, to be Electronic
> Ballot Printers), then the Decline-to-State voter who was given a
> card activator for a Non-Partisan primary ballot could have
> complained that the printed paper ballot was wrong, had it marked
> spoiled, and then given a card activator for the party ballot of the
> voter's preference. This case demonstrates one benefit of the
> Electronic Ballot Printer architecture over the Direct Recording
> Electronic voting system architecture. I believe that none of the
> paper trail systems are accessible based on the directive of
> California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley as later enacted in state
> voting law. (See California Election Code Sections 19250 and 19251.)
> The auditory report of the ballot is supposed to come from either the
> paper trail itself or a by-product of printing the paper trail.
> ("'Accessible' means that the information provided on the paper
> record copy from the voter verified paper audit trail mechanism is
> provided or conveyed to voters via both a visual and a nonvisual
> method, such as through an audio component." -- California Election
> Code Section 19251(a).) With an Electronic Ballot Printer coupled
> with a Precinct-Tally Optical Scanner with voter feedback, true
> accessible voter verified paper ballots are possible. However, this
> approach does require that the voter handle the paper ballot, which
> some accessibility advocates criticize. I believe that a consistent
> manner in casting ballots and providing voter verification to all
> voters provides a greater benefit.
> Another benefit of Electronic Ballot Printers is that they are
> supplied with "blank" ballot stock that is customized to the specific
> ballot style by the voter activation card. The "blank" ballot stock
> has numbered stubs for inventory control as well as identification of
> the date of the election and county. However, the ballot style
> details, such as lists of candidates, are printed along with the
> selections made to the voter, such that a ballot printed by an
> Electronic Ballot Printer is functionally identical to a hand-marked
> paper ballot. One key benefit of an Electronic Ballot Printer is
> that they could be used to create ballots of specific styles, but
> without selections marked, for marking by hand by voters. Electronic
> Ballot Printers could be used to print ballots for particular parties
> or languages when those run out as well. The Registrar of Voters
> could safely reduce the number of pre-printed ballots and supply more
> "blank" ballot stock for the Electronic Ballot Printer. It would be
> far easier for the Registrar of Voters to have a supply of "blank"
> ballot stock for distribution to precincts if turnout was higher than
> expected. Electronic Ballot Printers are also useful for early
> voting, when a single polling location has multiple voting
> jurisdictions and many potential ballot styles.
> For ease in dropping off vote-by-mail ballots, ballot collection
> boxes should be provided in the City Hall for each city or town in
> the county. These could be serviced daily during the week before the
> election, and perhaps less often previously.
> I recommend that vote-by-mail ballot also list the "home" precinct
> location, which is useful when the voter wishes to surrender the
> ballot to cast a precinct ballot.
> The process of administering elections in quite complex. It is
> important not only to get the voting machinery to be reliable,
> accurate and safe, but also to get the processes and procedures
> right. Systematic study of these processes and procedures is
> warranted with the goal of sharing best practices. This is not to
> say that one-size-fits-all, that is, that every jurisdiction should
> follow the same practices. If nothing else, whether a jurisdiction
> is urban or rural or in between, and its consequences on precinct
> size, will affect what the best practices should be. Large
> jurisdictions will be able to afford larger dedicated elections
> staff, while smaller jurisdictions may need to outsource more to
> vendors or use staff usually dedicated to other government functions.
> Our system of democracy is plagued by comparatively low voter
> participation. I believe this is also reflected in the shortage of
> qualified poll workers and the need to continue to use poll workers
> who are less effective. I can only imagine how our government would
> be different if voter turnout were in the 90 percent range.
> Considering that the high school student who worked in my precinct
> was nearly as effective as my best experienced poll worker, we would
> do well to encourage high school seniors to work in the polls. It
> would do well also to encourage young people to vote. I daresay that
> the student learned valuable lessons, not only about the nuts and
> bolts of democracy, but also about how people function together as a
> team and how to deal with problems and systematically improve to
> resolve them. While that learning experience will differ from
> precinct to precinct and from Precinct Inspector to Precinct
> Inspector, I do think that the learning does justify taking a day off
> from school. As Mark Twain said (paraphrasing), "Never let your
> schooling interfere with your education." Unfortunately, California
> state education code discourages high schools from having their
> students work in the polls by penalizing them in the ADA (Average
> Daily Attendance) money for the day. A bill to remove this penalty
> was vetoed by the governor. Perhaps the culture in those
> jurisdictions that hand-count paper ballots at the close of polls
> after Election Day is different than the culture in jurisdictions
> with mechanized counting. With the shortage of qualified poll
> workers, I'm skeptical about the finding enough people to tally
> ballots.
> It is an honor to serve as a Precinct Inspector, as well as a
> learning experience. I recommend that all voting system researchers
> and election integrity activists do it at least once. Jan L. A. van
> de Snepscheut reportedly said, "In theory, there is no difference
> between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is." This
> concept clearly applies to elections.
> I certainly don't work 15 hours or more on Election Day for the
> money, or for the lack of sleep the night before or after.
> Increasing funding for poll workers increases their supply, but not
> their quality. The Declaration of Independence states, "That to
> secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
> their just powers from the consent of the governed." Thomas
> Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." It is
> time to retire that tired statement: "Don't vote -- It only
> encourages them [politicians]." Actually not voting encourages them
> even more. [Adapted from an article by Lee Strong in the WSFA
> (Washington Science Fiction Association) Journal; hopefully increased
> voter turnout isn't just science fiction.]
> Please attribute or cite if you quote from this article. This
> article was publicly posted on the web at
> Arthur Keller
> Precinct Inspector, Santa Clara County Precinct 2113 on February 5. 2008
> Researcher, Technology Information Management program,
> Baskin School of Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz
> --
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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 Fri Feb 29 23:17:04 2008

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