Re: Printers Revisited

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Sun May 23 2004 - 18:47:32 CDT


> I don't know that any of these suggestions are actually true. Maybe
> words and monochrome rules do just as well for the above goals. But if
> color *did* empirically reduce human errors, by either elections
> workers or voters, it would certainly be worth paying a few extra cents
> per ballot to have. That is, of course, unless some other disadvantage
> associated with color (i.e. inkjet) printers increased errors by a
> larger amount.
There are two other models (or variations of the model) that I have talked
about over the years that might be worth mentioning. I first approached
people in the State Legislature (Dec 2000) discussing AB 56. This was the
bill that eventually turned into Measure 41 (bond measure passed by the
voters). Most of the controversial Diebold machines purchased in Calif were
purchased with Measure 41 money. One of my questions to the AB 56 authors
back then was whether or not equipment purchased with AB 56 money could be
for non-dedicated PCs and peripherals that could have other uses (e.g.,
schools, libraries, rec centers, etc). They seemed to say that could work
but the point because moot once it became clear (with energy crisis and all)
that AB 56 didn't have necessary support.

Anyway, my idea back then was to buy PCs and printers that would be set up
and used for other purposes in buildings that could also serve as polling
places. For example, a lot of people vote at schools. Schools nowadays
have computer rooms. What if PCs and printers were purchased in a
configuration that would serve perfectly well in the school setting?
Concerns about PCs being abused or tampered with could be mitigated by
putting them in an enclosure something like the table with cage underneath
that I've sketched. The PC would sit in the locked caged (hanging from
underneath the table) with the drive bays inaccessible (tamper seal on the
lock). In the voting configuration, I have the screen laying flat with no
keyboard. In the school mode, the screen could tilt up and a keyboard could
be attached. The printer could sit right behind the screen (or to the side).
To prepare for an election, a tech would come out and lock the screen in the
horizontal position, unplug the harddrive, insert backup media (now talking
about thumb drives for this ... I was talking about removeable HDs back
then), unplug the network cable, remove the keyboard, and test
everything--shouldn't take more than an hour for per site (unless
problems... ideally, these PC would have a special designation so that any
problems get fixed before the voting prep). On Election Day a pollworker
(with witness) puts in the CD, turns the machine on, and locks the cage
door. Ready to vote! After the polls close, the backup media (thumb
drives) are removed, and the PC restored to its school configuration.

In this model, no transportation or storage is required. The asset gets
full use. You could even afford to put in new b/w and color cartridges
since the school would have a regular use for them. A key point would be to
verify that HAVA funds could be applied to purchase dual use systems. I
intend to bring it up to them.

Here's another model

One vendor for each voting booth
This is an idea I brought up to the Sacramento County registrars office in a
meeting on Feb 13, 2001. It was hugely unpopular. Nonetheless, I still
think it is worth investigating. Suppose the county (of one million
residents) needs 7,000 PCs and printers for the voting application. The
county would manage a process where 8,000 citizens--known respected
individuals, "pillars of the community"--would become election vendors.
They would sign a contract to deliver a PC and printer that would meet all
these specifications and according to schedule. The county would sign up
enough extras so that they could be assured an adequate supply in case
someone had to go out of town suddenly...whatever. The county would pay a
nominal amount to rent the system (say $25). The vendor-citizen might be
allowed to have his or her name visible on the monitor case.. say something
like "Tony Ramirez of La Fiesta Restaurant, Sacramento." This tells people
that Tony Ramirez is a good guy and supports truth, justice, democracy and
the American Way. The citizen-vendor benefits by looking good, gets maybe
some free advertising, and a small stipend. The cost to the citizen-vendor
is small because they are just bringing one of their PCs to the local
polling place. The county benefits because they get a computerized voting
machine for a very low cost. Administration of the vendor-citizen database
could be automated to a large degree use the web and email. The
vendor-citizen would have to respond to queries from time to time so that
the administrator would know that the vendor-citizen will deliver as
advertised. The county contract with the citizen-vendor would require the
citizen-vendor to certify that the hardware is strictly COTS. The contract
would spell out stiff penalties for any funny business with the hardware.
The vendor-citizen would put a tamper seal on the PC that s/he could remove
after the election. This model may also be attractive due to increased
community involvement in the democratic process.

Alan D.

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:59 2004

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