From: Rick Gideon <rick_at_openvoting_dot_org>
Date: Wed May 25 2005 - 11:14:53 CDT

While we're on the topic of ES&S and the AutoMARK, I thought I'd share
this. It is posted on


Does ES&S Really Want to Sell the AutoMARK Machines?
by John Gideon*
Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) has a marketing agreement with
AutoMARK Technical Services (ATS) to be the sole purveyor of the AutoMARK
voting machine. ATS can market the system, but pricing and contracts are
all handled by ES&S. In March of 2004, when ES&S announced the agreement,
Aldo Tesi, ES&S president and CEO said, "we recognize the incredible
responsibility we have in supporting the democratic process and ensuring
it is open and accessible to all voters."
A few months later, when ES&S representative Mike Devereaux praised the
AutoMARK over touch screens, it appeared that ES&S had partnered with ATS
in order to take advantage of the growing demand for paper ballots. The
company's subsequent business decisions seem to say otherwise.
ATS describes their AutoMARK voting system as:
A ballot marking system designed to provide privacy and accessibility to
voters who are blind, vision-impaired, or have a disability or condition
that would make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot in the usual
way. In addition, it provides language assistance to voters who are more
comfortable speaking an alternative language or who have reading
difficulties. The AutoMark voter assist terminal has been developed with
input from election authorities and disability organizations, and meets
all of the requirements of "The Help America Vote Act of 2002."
The system marks a ballot that is inserted into the machine. That ballot
is then either read by a precinct based optical scan machine or is put
into a ballot box and counted later by a central count optical scan
machine or by hand.
In February of 2005, Bo Lipari of New York Verified Voting asked ATS to
bring a complete voting system (AutoMARK touch screen and an ES&S precinct
based optical scan machine) to New York so the state legislators could
look at the system in an informal setting and see how it operates. ATS
brought the system and set it up for the legislators in Albany.
Unfortunately, a lobbyist for ES&S happened to walk by the demonstration
and almost immediately told the ATS representatives to remove the
equipment. According to a source close to the issue, a protracted
discussion between ES&S representatives and ATS ensued in which ES&S
refused to allow the system to be shown. Finally a compromise was reached.
ATS was allowed to show the AutoMARK in New York State but without any
optical scan machine to complete the system.
Following this incident one state assemblywoman, Sandra R. Galef,
(D,I,WF-Ossining, NY), was interviewed by The Legislative Gazette, which
Galef believes that corporate interests were fueling previous support for
DRE machines. Lobbyists and the president of ES&S, a voting machine
manufacturer, told her that New York State was a touch-screen machine
state. She responded by saying, When was that decision made? Weve
[Legislature] never voted on it, New York doesnt have a voting system yet.
The New York Daily News also reported this story:
All the major companies offer both types of equipment (optical scan and
DRE), and they deny promoting one technology over another. But they
mysteriously avoid making the cheaper equipment available for inspection.
At the Capitol recently, a lobbyist managed to shut down a demonstration
of optical scanning by getting his client to pull its machine from the
Assemblywoman Sandra Galef of Westchester called the company to object and
was told that New York is "a touch-screen state."
"I said, 'We are?'" Galef recalled. "I'm a legislator. I don't think I've
voted on anything."
"Why are the vendors deciding what type of state New York State should
be?" asks Bo Lipari of Ithaca, a retired software engineer who founded New
Yorkers for Verified Voting. "We ought to be able to look at all our
alternatives and make a rational choice."
Why would ES&S not want to sell the system that everyone has been waiting
for? Why would they not want to provide the state of New York with a
choice of voting systems? Is this evidence that ES&S is trying to control
the market and make decisions for its customers?
A source has told this reporter that ES&S sales representatives are being
paid a much higher commission rate for selling their DRE system than they
are for the AutoMARK system. ES&S is clearly controlling the marketing of
their systems by offering a far less lucrative reward for selling ATS
systems than for products produced by ES&S. Is this more evidence that
ES&S is attempting to keep the sales of the AutoMARK system to a minimum?
On May 6, 2005 the AutoMARK voting system completed the last testing with
an Independent Test Authority enabling the system to be qualified to the
federal standards within days. This opens the doors to all of the states
that require federal qualification before a voting system can be certified
and sold in the state. This success should have been big news for AutoMARK
and for their partner in sales, ES&S.
I called AutoMARK to ask if they were going to be sending out a Press
Release to announce their successful ITA testing. I was told that a press
release would be sent out the following Monday. On Monday I searched the
wires and found no Press Release. I then called AutoMARK and asked about
the promised release. I was told that ES&S wanted to review the release
before it was sent out. In fact, as I found out a few days later, a
release was written by ES&S but it only appeared on their website  not in
the news. AutoMARK also issued a Press Release but it, too, went only on
their website. Nothing was sent to the business-wires as normally happens
with corporate news. Essentially, ES&S controlled the news and kept this
announcement as secret as they could. Is this even more evidence that ES&S
is attempting to keep the sales of the AutoMARK system to a minimum?
There is no doubt that many elections officials and voters have been
looking forward to the qualification of the AutoMARK voting system. South
Dakota didnt wait for federal qualification. They bought AutoMARK's system
for $5,400 per machine, according to a state election official.
Bowie County, Texas was quoted an average price of $5,500 for only 36 of
the machines. A Texarkana newspaper reported that the cost per machine to
them was $5,400. These seem to be fair prices though sources say $4950.00
was quoted in many locations last year. (Note: If the optional ADA
compliant privacy tables is ordered, an additional $600.00 is added.)
"Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections" provides the following
information, collected before the ATS and ES&S agreement: "According to
AutoMARK Technical Systems (formerly Vogue Elections Systems), which
manufactures a ballot-marking device, the cost for the device would be
comparable to the cost of a DRE with a printer attached."
Why then did ES&S, quote a price of $6,500 per machine to Cook County,
Illinois, a potential customer with 2650 precincts? Is there any better
way to minimize the sales of a product than by inflating the price quoted
to its largest customers?
Refusing to demo its product to the largest market in the United States,
reducing the commission paid to salespeople who sell the product,
minimizing publicity about the product's successes, increasing the product
price as the size of the contract increases  are these marketing
techniques designed to take advantage of a business bonanza or are they
evidence that ES&S is trying to decide where and whether Americans will be
voting on paper?
John Gideon is the Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA and for
On Wed, 25 May 2005, David Webber \(XML\) wrote:
> Charlie,
> Thanks for these insights.
> It is very difficult to get independent verification in
> this industry.
> And then the marketing hype wants to sell anything -
> even when its only little more than a concept demonstrator!!
> DW
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Charlie Strauss" <>
> To: "David Webber (XML)" <>; "Open Voting Consortium
> discussion list" <>
> Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 1:48 AM
> Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] Fw: "DOES ES&S REALLY WANT TO SELL THE
> > The automark is a wondeful concept but at the present time somewhat
> > roughly implemented.  I have high hopes for the second generation.
> >
> > One of the reasons that it has not been pushed I think is not a major
> > conspiracy but because the first units had major problems anc coul
> > dnot pass the ITA and FCC requirements.  It was only approved by
> > NASED about a month ago despite being sumbitted long long ago.
> >
> >
> > The first one flunked (according to the ES&S reps I spoke to) flunked
> > it's FCC emmissions test.  In my encounter with one I found the
> > interface is clumsy, balky and slow to move from page to page.  The
> > text can overfill the screen and in my experience if prone to
> > crashing.  On the other hand the concept is among the best ways of
> > rescuing optical scan and I think the next generation of these will
> > likely be quite good.  However I dont see how they justify the price
> > and I suspect they could be undercut by a simple ballot on demand
> > type system that printed the ballots directly.  It does have audio
> > capability, high contrast, brail, sip-puff and jacks for different
> > size headphone plugs.
> >
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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:48 2005

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