Further Experiences with Sequoia AVC Edge with VeriVote Printer as Precinct Inspector in Santa Clara County

From: Arthur Keller <voting_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Fri Nov 10 2006 - 00:34:45 CST


On November 7, 2006, I served as Precinct Inspector for the
Gubernatorial General Election in Santa Clara County at St. Albert
The Great Church on Channing Avenue in Palo Alto at Precinct 2065.
This precinct was combined with another precinct for the election.
There were 1210 registered voters for this combined precinct. Based
on sampling done by a poll worker of the roster of voters, we
estimate that there were approximately 360 voters who received
absentee voters, leaving 850 voters who could cast votes at the
polls. There were 5 Sequoia voting machines, and 6 printers
containing paper trails.

A total of 501 voters cast ballots in the precinct, a figure that's
59% of the eligible non-absentee voters in the precinct. In
addition, 114 absentee ballots were dropped off at our precinct. I
expect that this turnout was significantly larger than anticipated by
election officials, not only in Santa Clara County, but elsewhere as

Instead of the usual 3+ hour in-class training, experienced poll
workers were allowed to take an online training course followed by
1.5 hour hands-on training. I chose to take the online training.
Typically, it took me about half the time for each online training
module as the table of contents indicted. There were some minor
glitches in the online training, such as double sounds on Safari and
jaggies in the text making some of it hard to read, but on the whole
the online training was a good refresher.

I was concerned about a video clip demonstrating how to speak with
voters that used the example that with a voter who had arrived late.
The basic concept is sound, but the example wasn't. The supposedly
late voter was demonstrably in the polling place when the poll worker
announced the polls were closed, but had not yet gotten into line.
It is my understanding that if a voter has entered the polling place
(or is in line outside the polling place if the line extends outside)
prior to the time the polls is closed, that the voter should be
allowed to vote.

At the 1.5 hour in-class training, we were informed that voters who
requested it would be allowed to vote on paper ballots. I understand
that the California Secretary of State had mandated that all counties
with electronic voting machines allow voting on paper. However,
instead of providing the precincts with paper ballots, voters could
use the sample ballot in their own county-supplied election booklet
or one from the stock of booklets in the normal precinct supplies.
In response to my question at training, the sample ballots were in
general too flimsy to be read by the automated central optical scan
tabulators, so hand-marked paper ballots made from the sample ballots
would have to be transcribed by hand onto regular paper ballot stock
for processing by the optical scan tabulators. The instructor did
know know how the voter-marked ballots were identified to match
against the transcribed ballot stock paper ballots. However, I was
subsequently informed by others on the OVC-discuss mailing list that
such ballot transcription is permitted according to the regulations
in the California State Elections Code.

By the time the polls opened at 7am, several voters were already
waiting outside. It was rather busy for the first few hours. By
9:15am, the 100th voter had arrived. The pace gradually slowed down,
but not by much. There were almost always some voters in the polling
place. About a quarter of the first two dozen voters needed help at
the voting machine. Most of the confusion involved the non-intuitive
sequence for printing a paper record of the ballot and then casting
the ballot. The "return" button on the screen had different meanings
depending on where in the sequence it was used. At the advice of one
of the voters, I started training voters standing in line to vote:
make your selection by pressing the screen; if you select the wrong
candidate, press that candidate again to clear the selection; there
are two review screens; then "return" to "print" your paper record;
yes, printing a paper record is required so audits and recounts can
be done; no, you don't get a copy---after all, what would you do with
it anyway?; check the three strips of paper to see if they are
correct and, if so, "cast" your ballot; then return the card to get
your sticker. This training did speed up the voting process and the
line somewhat. Fortunately, the line never got longer than a 15
minute wait.

By around 6pm, about 8 voters had requested to use paper ballots.
Nearly all voters were either content to vote electronically or
didn't know they had the option not to. Shortly after 6pm, one of
the voting machines ran out of paper tape for the voter verified
paper audit trail. Fortunately, we had a spare printer with a new
roll of paper tape, so we replaced the printer. A few minutes later,
a second voting machine ran out of tape. But this time, we had no
spare. We were told during the training that we could remove the
printer seal and check to ensure that the paper hadn't off alignment
and how to reset the control for it. It did appear as there was not
very much tape left, and that some tape would be needed to close out
the machine at the end of voting. We were given spare numbered
tamper evident seals to reseal the printer. So we affixed a new seal
on the printer and closed the flaps on the front of the monitor to
indicate it was not to be used.

At this point, I called our Field Inspector and was told to call the
County Elections poll worker hot line. When I called them, they
asked if I had a long line. When I said no, they said to keep
going. When the third machine's printer ran out of tape, and we were
down to three working voting machines, and the line for a voting
machine was getting longer, I figured it was only a matter of time
until we were down to just one voting machine (the one with the
replaced printer tape). So a poll worker and I gathered a bunch of
sample ballots from the voter booklets, carefully opening the staples
to remove the sample ballots without tearing them. I then offered
them to anyone in the line for a voting machine and said it would
likely take a while before they got to vote on the electronic voting
machine. About a dozen voters took me up on the offer, shortening
the line to a more manageable number. Soon all the voting machines
with the original printers had run out of tape. Given the size of
the ballot, and that some confused voters had printed the paper
ballot record copy more than once, a paper tape roll can handle only
about 83 ballots.

Now with only one working voting machine, we reserved that machine
for provisional ballots, voters with kids, and those who insisted on
voting electronically. Sometimes we had 20 people at a time voting
on paper. Hand-marked paper ballots are clearly more scaleable and
more resilient than electronic voting machines. However, our supply
of sample ballots was dwindling. So I called the County hot line,
who reported the problem of running out of tape was widespread and I
was on my own. At about 7:10pm, I sent one of my poll workers with
$40 of my own money and my car keys and one of the remaining paper
ballots (one of the foreign language ones, because they're more
sturdy and still have English on them---the Spanish and English ones
are printed on newsprint) to Kinko's to print more ballots. In about
20 minutes, he returned with a stack of ballots, my car keys, and
just over $20 in change.

The remaining voters had their choice of "paper or plastic." Most
chose paper. The rate of voters slowed down. When the last voter
was done at 8:05pm, we started the close out process. We were done
just after 9pm. Of the 501 ballots cast in our precinct, 63 were on
sample paper ballots, about 10 of which were on Kinko's ballot stock.
The ballots were two tabloid (11x17) sheets printed double-sided. We
counted 501 signatures in the roster book, which exactly matched the
number of paper ballots plus the total number of ballots reported by
the electronic voting machines. And the number of provisional
ballots reported by the electronic voting machines exactly matched
the number of provisional forms we had.

With 501 voters, we had more ballots than 6 printer rolls could
handle (note that 83 times 6 is 498).

In the times I've worked the polls, I've never seen anyone use the
audio device. I have seen voters use the height adjustment feature
(make the screen more vertical), and that's been done only a handful
of times for people in wheelchairs.

It has never been practice in Santa Clara County to post any time of
results at the polling places. Prior to the Sequoia voting machines,
punched cards gathered and centrally counted.


The number of voting machines allocated to each polling place appears
to be consistently five. This quantity is reasonable for a polling
place with a single precinct of about 600 voters. I expect that over
100 of these voters would be absentee.

When two precincts are allocated to a single polling place, it is not
reasonable to keep the same number of voting machines and other
supplies. With 5 voting machines, 6 printers are acceptable only if
field replacement of the paper tape rolls are supported. Otherwise,
10 printers (twice as many printers as voting machines) should be
provided. However, with twice as many voters, additional voting
machines are warranted. My guess is that 7 voting machines would
accommodate the larger load. But then we would need 8 printers with
field replaceable paper rolls or 14 otherwise.

Hand-marked paper ballots offers far more scalability than electronic
voting machines. Most of the HAVA requirements can be met by using
in-precinct optical scanners. Handicapped accessiblity can be
provided more cost effectively by having one accessible electronic
ballot marker or one or more electronic ballot printers.

Electronic ballot markers use an electronic voting machine interface
to mark a ballot designed to be hand-marked. Because of patent
restrictions, only one vendor can provide these devices.

Electronic ballot printers use an electronic voting machine to print
a ballot for voter-verification and in-precinct or central scanning.
With electronic ballot printers, the voter inspects the ballot before
placing it in the ballot box. And it is easy to replenish the ballot
stock in the field if a printer runs low. Unlike hand-marked paper
ballots, there is no need to supply separate ballots for each party,
as ballots are printed--filled in--as needed.

Finally, the practice in Santa Clara County of not posting results
tapes appears to violate California Elections Code Section 19370:

19370. As soon as the polls are closed, the precinct board, in the
presence of the watchers and all others lawfully present, shall
immediately lock the voting machine against voting and open the
counting compartments, giving full view of all counter numbers. A
board member shall in the order of the offices as their titles are
arranged on the machine, read and distinctly announce the name or
designating number and letter on each counter for each candidate's
name and the result as shown by the counter numbers. He or she shall
also in the same manner announce the vote on each measure.
    If the machine is provided with a recording device, in lieu of
opening the counter compartment the precinct board shall proceed to
operate the mechanism to produce the statement of return of votes
cast record in a minimum of three copies, remove the irregular
ballot, if any, record on the statement of return of votes cast
record. The irregular ballot shall be attached to the statement of
result record of votes cast for the machine and become a part
thereof. One copy of the statement of return of votes cast for each
machine shall be posted upon the outside wall of the precinct for all
to see. The statement of return of votes cast for each machine for
the precinct shall constitute the precinct statement of result of
votes cast.

My experiences from the June 2006 Primary Election can be found at

Arthur Keller
Precinct Inspector, Santa Clara County Precinct 2065 on November 7. 2006
Founder and Board Secretary, Open Voting Consortium
Researcher, Information Systems and Technology 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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