Re: Printers Revisited

From: Karl Auerbach <>
Date: Sun May 23 2004 - 01:11:02 CDT

> ... It is pretty obvious to me that inkjets are completely out of the
> picture, for reasons of small ink cartridges, potentially poor print
> quality, and the paper exiting the printer printed-side-up. Plus, what
> county would want the huge expense of ink cartridges and the likelihood
> that the printers won't work for the next election after being stored
> for a year.

I tend to take the opposite point of view and prefer ink jets.

One major reason is that they don't overload UPS's. Where I am (Santa
Cruz, California) continuous electrical power is a luxury; we have,
because we need, UPS's on pretty much everything - only my cats seem to
run well without 'em. Pretty much every other piece of commercial voting
gear that I've seen considers UPS power a necessary component.

As for the print quality - I find ink-jets to be on par, or better than,
lasers, particularly when the color dimension is thrown in. (And one of
the proposals for differentiating different ballots in a multi-ballot-type
election is through the use of color.)

Yes, cartridges dry up - and it's sometimes more than the cartridges,
sometimes even the printer itself clogs when stored. But with ink-jet
printers being pretty much the same price as a set of cartridges, I tend
to consider the printers nearly disposable. (And my eyeballing the
shelves at Fry's tends to indicate that a set of ink jet cartridges is
about the same as a laser toner cartridge.)

And we can't forget that many printer vendors are now including clocks in
the ink-jet and laser toner cartridges that cause them to stop working
after a fixed period of time even if there is unused ink/toner. That
makes it fairly important to put new cartridges into printers for each and
every election.

I am also quite concerned about the laser warm-up time. For HP printers
this can be a long time (5 to 10 seconds or more) and it will be hard to
hold a voter in the voting both while the printer warms up. Of course,
ink jets have their periodic delays too - particularly when they decide to
recharge (whatever that means) their cartridges. My Epson's go weird for
sometimes minutes at a time when the do that. But that usually only
happens on power-up cycles.

I like the way that ink-jets let you know very clearly that they are
printing - that will tend to hold the voter at the voting station - laser
printers tend be less expressive as they prepare to print.

Another area of concern is the failure modes - lasers tend to fade with
vertical non-dark bands on the page. That can be fairly subtle and it's
rather a subjective call whether a printer is going south. Ink jets, at
least the ones I use, generally tend to have more overt visual indications
of failure. But that is something that needs more experimentation and

> ... HP PCL is a good print protocol...

I agree. Until I hit the CUPS spooling system I tended to prefer it. I
still feed PCL to my PCL printers even if it goes via CUPs.

> 3. Provide suggestions for current printers which meet 1, 2, 3 and 4

Part of the packaging of the system involves a secure path between the
printer and the computer. This ought not be just a USB cable that the
voter could get to and unplug. Engineering a tamperproof cable connection
will probably depend on the shape and surroundings of the two end-points.
That tends to suggest that specific printers will have to be designated.

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:58 2004

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