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Politicizing Accessible -- uh, Electronic -- Voting

In the wake of lawsuits filed by CA Attorney General Bill Lockyer in October against two California counties for failing to make voting accessible to blind and disabled voters, a number of communities in that state have been testing new equipment. Stories about the tests have been in the news -- as have the ongoing alarms about electronic voting.

Voting electronically has become such a political hot potato that it is difficult for an outsider to determine where the truth lies. What does seem clear, however -- as we have reported in the past -- is that concerns about fraud in electronic voting far outstrip the public's concern that blind and severely disabled people have a chance to vote in secret. While there are a number of stories featuring blind voters who exult that this is the "first time I've been able to vote in secret," we haven't found any editorials or columnists discussing the importance of a disabled person's right to a secret ballot -- although we have found a lot of heat, although not much light, over the Voter ID controversy.

A story from the Contra Costa Times on Sunday reported that a test-run of the AutoMARK electronic voting machine by students from the California School for the Blind in Fremont pronounced the machine "uncommonly user-friendly.

"The students found a device that affords a rare ease of use."

Contra Costa and Sacramento counties in California will be using AutoMARK on Nov. 8 in a special election. Not too many elections are being held this November, and that's probably good. Gives local politicos time to test the machines. Under the Help America Vote Act, communities have until 2006 to acquire at least one machine per precinct that allows disabled people to vote independently -- a "handicap-accessible voting machine," the Lubbock, TX campus paper for Texas Tech called it.

The machine Lubbock was using wasn't identified as to brand, but it was described:

The voting machines use a wheel turn. To use the wheel, the voter turns the select wheel to highlight their ballot choice. Then the voter presses the enter button to enter their selection.

It is very handicap friendly ... The machines also come with Braille and headphones for blind voters.

The new machines are often referred to as DRE machines. "DRE" stands for "Direct Recording Electronic" -- generally shorthand for electronic "touch screen" voting machines.

The Contra Costa Times reports that the AutoMARK machine tested "features magnified print, contrasting colors, an audio headset, directional keys, a foot pedal and a port for a respiration-activated device."

The Sacramento Bee's Robert Davila began his story about the AutoMARK units like this:

Unlike most American voters, John M. Franklin Jr. of Rancho Cordova doesn't cast a secret ballot on Election Day.

Because he is legally blind, someone else must accompany him at the polling place to read the contest choices and mark Franklin's selections.

"My wife has to go with me," said Franklin, Sacramento County's chief of disability compliance programs. "She has to go over the whole thing with me. If there's a long ballot, it can take a long time."

Next month, a new device will let Franklin and other people with disabilities mark their choices in private and keep them confidential. All Sacramento County polling places in the Nov. 8 election will have special terminals for voters who are blind, visually impaired or unable to mark a ballot in the usual way.

While Sacramento County voter registrar Jill LaVine told Davila that "the new terminals will be available at all 419 polling places for the special election" on Nov. 8, at least one wheelchair user has complained privately that, while the new machines may be accessible, many of the locations of California polling sites using them remain inaccessible to wheelchair users. Ragged Edge hasn't been able to confirm this report, although studies and reports from other communities about the slow pace of making voting sites accessible make the comment seem reasonable.

Across the country, other stories focus on the fact that so-and-so has never before been able to vote in secret, or independently, until now.

A story like this, also featuring the AutoMARK, appeared in the Joliet, IL Herald-News. After beginning with the typical now-I-can-vote-independently lede --

[Richard] Parrish was born blind so his wife, Valerie Brew-Parrish, has had to mark his ballot for him.

"I would take her in (to the voting booth) and tell her who I wanted to vote for," he said.

That's all about to change. Parrish and thousands of other Will County voters with disabilities will be able to cast ballots independently for the first time in March.

-- Staff Writer Cindy Wojdyla Cain reports that

People with visual impairments will use headphones to hear ballot choices. They will push a keypad to vote.

People with motor impairments can use hand or foot pedals to vote. The pedals will be provided at polling places.

People who use "sip and puff" devices to operate wheelchairs can use the same systems to vote by plugging their equipment into the voting machines....

AutoMARK can be used by a wide variety of people ranging from someone who forgot their reading glasses to someone who is completely blind. People who are illiterate or have reading disabilities like dyslexia also can use the system. Motor skill disabilities can range from minor grip problems to quadriplegia.

(Valerie Brew-Parrish, interviewed in this story, is a Ragged Edge contributing writer).

There are a number of DREs out there, and opinions fly fast and furious about which ones are less subject to fraud, which ones won't overcount or undercount the vote, which ones can't be hacked.

A number of locales in Massachusetts will field-test allegedly accessible voting machines on Nov. 8 after which officials will select one machine to purchase, reports the Watertown TAB and Press.Among the machines being tested is the Diebold AccuVote-TSX. Officials there stress that the machines all offer "a paper trail of a voter's ballot."

The Porterville, CA Recorder reported that the Sequoia system Tulare County would use in June, 2006 in its next scheduled election has "a feed system that will automatically reject ballots that haven't been properly filled out, and a new ballot that features broken arrows that when filled in represent a vote, as opposed to the old 'oval' ballots. ... The machines also include several failsafes to ensure voting integrity, including a key-card system that only allows for a voter's key to be read once."

Back in California, Monterey County Registrar of Voters Tony Anchundo appeared on the Oct. 24 Peter B. Collins Show on Monterey's KRXA radio, bringing into the studio one of the Sequoia touch-screen units being used Nov. 8. Here's how Anchundo explained the system to host Peter Collins:

This technology has been around for many years, but this is the first time that a voter-verifiable paper report will appear to voters. They don't actually get a receipt, it's an opportunity for them to verify with the paper report, that the votes that they voted were cast properly and they can review it and then cast their ballot and you know, leave the polling place knowing that there's some integrity and honesty to the voting system. ...once a voter comes into their polling place, they have to be a registered voter, so they will sign the roster, determine eligibility, ... then the poll worker will insert a voter card into the activation unit. The activation unit just tells ... that this voter is eligible to vote.

Collins says,

I want to describe the activator, which is a box about the size of a Playstation, or an Xbox, and it features a display screen at the top and there is an insert where this card, that is a plastic, digitally encodable card, the kind of thing you use at a hotel room. People are very familiar with these, these days, credit card size. What you did is inserted it and based on the verification of my information, that I'm a registered voter, you then issue me this card, which enables me to go to the DRE machine itself.... So I push it in and now it's asking me whether I want English, or Espanol, and I'll choose English. Now it's giving me a choice of candidates...

Is it hack-proof? asked Collins and his guests.

There seems to be a great deal of debate as to whether electronic voting systems can really be made "hack proof." The debate seems hopelessly politicized. On the website of Voters Unite, that politicization has extended to questioning whether the machines are even really accessible. It seems that http://www.votersunite.org is trying to convince visitors that they're not. They try to convince visitors that there's no need to go to a DRE machine; that the old optical scan machines are fine.

They link to an article by Kelly Pierce, described as "a blind voter who works in the Cook County [Chicago] State’s Attorney’s Office." The article, "Accessibility Analysis of Four Proposed Voting Machines," is dated March 23, 2005.

Because the issue is so hopelessly politicized, it seems almost impossible to judge any of this stuff on its merits. Pierce seems to suggest that even the new machines are not really able to be operated independently. "The likely cause for the difficulties experienced by blind users on these voting machines," writes Pierce, "is the minimal and unsubstantive involvement of blind persons and those with disabilities in the design, development, and testing of the machines, their software, and their interfaces."

The fact that one of Pierce's reports is offered in inaccessible PDF format leaves a bad taste in the mouth, however, as well as bringing into question the group's own commitment to access.

Other testimonials on their site include those by blind people who say the artificial speech is difficult to understand, and that the directions are unclear. They insist that statements made in April by American Association of People with Disabilities Vote Project's Jim Dickson are simply incorrect.

Voters Unite seems to be espousing returning to non-electronic forms altogether -- including ways to using a tactile ballot template from Vote-PAD, much like those templates blind people use to sign checks -- and other non technical solutions such as voting by phone. ( Read more on the accessibility page of Voters Unite. )

So what are we to make of the comments of people like Richard Parrish and the students at the Fremont school?

Who's right?

In late October, Democrats released a Government Accountability Office report warning that there were still "security and reliability flaws" in electronic voting machines. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D.-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Reform, said, "The report makes clear that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in electronic voting systems -- from the day that contracts are signed with manufacturers to the counting of electronic votes on Election Day. State and local officials are spending a great deal of money on machines without concrete proof that they are secure and reliable."

The report, in accessible format (which was hard to find) is at http://www.gao.gov/htext/d05956.html. It does not exactly "make clear" that the machines all have problems. What the preparers of the report do say, as their first paragraph in the "what GAO found" section, is this:

While electronic voting systems hold promise for improving the election process, numerous entities have raised concerns about their security and reliability, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete voting system standards (see below for examples). It is important to note that many of these concerns were based on specific system makes and models or a specific jurisdiction's election, and there is no consensus among election officials and other experts on their pervasiveness. Nevertheless, some have caused problems in elections and therefore merit attention.

One might interpret this to mean it's been politicized beyond any true ability to make sense of things.

Following the GAO report's release, Znet and Truthout, two progressive websites, quickly trumpeted the fact that"GAO Report Finds Flaws in Electronic Voting""

Both sites, like the Waxman site, provided the GAO report in the graphics-based PDF format inaccessible to blind folks.


Hi -- I write a local newsblog for Watertown, MA, where the Diebold TS-X is being tested. I've written about it, and I'm surprised it's not more controversial than it is. Watertown is home to the Perkins School for the Blind, the nation's first major educational institute for the blind. I think it's terrible that the state and Diebold are taking advantage of blind peoples' desire (and right) to cast a vote in private by foisting this crap on them.

If you click on the story, you'll see that the optical scan machines (where you fill out bubbles on a form )aren't trouble free either -- a computer scientist was able to hack into the tabulator that counts up what the scanner sees and effectively control the results.

Hi Lisa,

Mary Johnson, Ragged Edge Online Editor here: I read your blog entry -- can you interview some students from Perkins? I think that would be quite interesting. If you do, please let us know what they say, or post it here! Thanks for commenting.

I can try! In fact I was just talking to someone from our local commission on disabilities today, about upgrades to site accessibility. Maybe a few people would want to share their experiences.

These are just some recent comments on Michigan's Revised Hava State Plan. The long and short of it is that there are no accessible devices of any type here. And in fact to this date none of any type have been certified and no Invitation to Bid has been even developed to this date. Now how can Michigan meet its required HAVA Section 301 deadline to have systems in hand state wide by January 1, 2006?

Moreover, most polling places have access issues and only last month have but a few scant dollars been let for barrier removal.

And virtually all information related to HAVA development here is inaccessible to this blind person.

Oh they've violated 504 all these years. They've violated Title II of the ADA. Now they're violating HAVA.

Its disgusting!
Comments to follow:
October 27, 2005

Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.
1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.
Mt. Morris, MI 48458
E-mail: michiganadapt@peoplepc.com
Re: HAVA comments relative to performance goals on accessibility for people with disabilities

Made to: elections@michigan.gov

To Whom It May Concern:

(Note: This is from page 28 of my accessible text copy. My comments will be in quotes after each asterisk item.) Performance Goal 5: Accessibility
One of the Help America Vote Act's principal objectives is to make the election process more accessible. Michigan will address both voting equipment and polling place accessibility. Michigan will also utilize part of the remaining Help America Vote Act funds to address accessibility issues through training and to provide materials and web information in accessible formats.
Performance Measure #5
The following information will be collected to measure the effectiveness of the accessibility initiatives for statewide federal elections:

· Number of military/overseas absentee applications.
· “While this certainly is a laudable goal I am unclear what this has to do with accessibility for people with disabilities.”
· Number of military/overseas ballots cast.
· “Again this doesn’t concern accessibility for people with disabilities.”
· Number of military ballots rejected and associated reasons.
· “See above comments.”
· Number of polling locations.
· “This is done to my knowledge.”
· Number of polling locations that are accessible.
· “This is a bit messy as all locations have not conducted the polling place accessibility survey in this state. And for those who have we often find severe problems. Moreover I have personally surveyed polling places with literally dozens of major access violations which have been and currently are still used for voting. Additionally I have requested accessible versions of these surveys themselves or information related to them. In some cases that information has been forthcoming. In other instances it has not been so. Might I suggest that the Secretary of State post in accessible electronic form each and every polling place accessibility survey? And that it post again in accessible form the certification of local clerks that state that their sites are physically accessible in order to monitor compliance and to ensure that indeed polling places are accessible?

Moreover could the ipublius site stop labeling polling places as “handicapped accessible” which the Secretary of State’s office and of which Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service polling place accessibility surveys clearly document are not accessible in whole or part?
· Number of polling locations with accessible devices.
· “This one is simple. No location in Michigan has any voting system to date that is independently accessible to people who are blind, visually impaired, have reading disabilities or who have manual disabilities. Moreover, no system as of this writing has been certified for accessibility for people with said disabilities and nor has an ITB been issued.
· Number of polling locations without accessible devices.
· “See prior comments.”
· Number of accessibility brochures distributed.
· “I would like to have that information and would like to see the brochure in an accessible format for this blind person.”
· Number of accessibility complaints received and resolved.
· “I would like to see this data in accessible form.”
· Whether Michigan Web site and materials are available in accessible formats.
· “As of this writing I personally have informed the Michigan Secretary of State’s office that for the most part the web site itself is accessible to this person who is blind. However, as documented in several correspondences many of the “materials”/documents on the site are not accessible. Additionally much of the HAVA and voting related information is not on the site at all like minutes of the HAVA public hearings, or its advisory board or the aforementioned polling place accessibility surveys.

Additionally I’ve made several requests for documents in accessible format including required ADA and Section 504 compliance documents that have not been remitted in accessible format.

That includes some response to Freedom of Information Act requests that are sent to me in inaccessible printed form in spite of the fact that I specifically requested any correspondence in accessible format and invoked the ADA and 504 specifically.

I have also requested Braille sample ballots on Election Day again pursuant to the ADA and 504 (including last year’s primary) and that request was not honored.

The term “materials” should and does include all things related to the Michigan Bureau of Election’s activities including all documents related to the entire voting process.
In responses to requests for information relative to the SOS own ADA, Title II and Section 504 obligations I have denoted that that entire agency in all of its activities has failed to follow the obligations of the ADA regarding effective communications with people who have sensory impairments in that it has not conducted nor implemented its required ADA Self Evaluation by its own admission of which means, methods and procedures for meeting effective communications requirements were to have been identified and, again implemented.”
January 1, 2005, and every odd-year January 1 thereafter.

Description of the criteria used to measure performance
Local election officials will submit this information semiannually to the Michigan Department of State's Bureau of Elections.

“Where is the enforcement mechanism or assurance here in practical terms which will ensure this”?
Process used to develop criteria
Election officials will be required to certify polling place accessibility.
“Again could SOS make these certifications available to myself and the public? Has this been implemented? What happens to a clerk who certifies that the polling place is accessible and which is not? What sort of monitoring to ensure accessibility goes on here?”
Description of official responsible for ensuring each performance goal is met
The local election officials will be responsible for certifying polling place accessibility. The Bureau of Elections will ensure that the Web site is in an accessible format.

“Above comments and questions will suffice here.”

(A final and general comment hereJ

“For practical purposes and a practical measure of compliance with physical access issues the measures are clear. Either a facility complies with the minimal standards set forth in the polling place accessibility survey or it does not.

When it comes to voting instrument and material access the measure is again clear. Either a system is independently usable with secrecy and verifiability for people, who are blind, visually impaired, have reading disabilities or manual impairments or it is not.

Currently in that regards I as a blind person and as reported to several entities have not been able to cast my ballot in secret, independently and with verification. This goes to the claim in other parts of the HAVA plan that the existing, new OCR based systems have Section 301 compliance. They clearly do not.
Simply no blind person or others with disabilities can use those systems without intrusive “assistance”.”


Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.

These official comments on Michigan's Revised State Plan speak for themselves. Bottom line is that people who are blind or otherwise print impaired could not vote accessibly last year. They won't be able to do so tomorrow. And it appears pretty darned certain that Michigan won't be able to ensure that we will january 1, 2006 (re: HAVA Section 301 and subsequent guidence from DOJ on requirements...
Comments follow:
October 26, 2005
Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.
1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.
Mt. Morris, MI 48458
E-mail: michiganadapt@peoplepc.com

Re: Comment related to earmarked citation of Michigan’s Revised HAVA State Plan

Made via e-mail at: elections@michigan.gov

To Whom It May Concern:

(Note: The following cite is from an accessible plain text electronic version of the Revised HAVA State Plan sent to me as an accommodation for my blindness by Ms. Amy Shell of the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Monday last. It is from page 31 in my version but that may not correspond with the print or other digital versions. Regardless I wish to comment on the following section and my comments will follow the quoted section.)

“* Accessible Voting Equipment
Provide accessible and HAVA compliant voting systems for every polling location in the state. An Invitation to Bid will be issued in October of 2005.”

First and foremost as a person who happens to be blind and a long time advocate for fully accessible access to instruments of voting for myself and others similarly situated I am delighted that the State of Michigan is taking a step forward in ensuring that people who are blind, visually impaired or who have severe reading or manual impairments might just for the first time be able to vote with the same independence, secrecy and verifiability as other citizens.
However, there are several elements to this issue that perplex me. One as recently as yesterday in written responses from the Michigan Bureau of Elections and in several phone calls to various personnel there over the past few weeks no invitation to bid for accessible voting systems has yet to be actually developed or issued. Yet, the comment period for the public has a deadline of tomorrow (October 27, 2005 at 5 p.m.) according to the press release related to the public comment process itself.

I thus wonder how anyone or I can meaningfully comment in any informed manner upon a policy that does not at this time exist? Clearly this is a conundrum.

I have been promised verbally on several occasions last year dating back to May by various personnel in the Michigan Secretary of State’s office that an in Invitation to Bid for a demonstration project of accessible voting systems (to people with disabilities) would be issued and actually take place. Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services, other individuals with disabilities, and my own county head of the Bureau of Elections informed me that an ITB would be issued in this regards as well last year or that they were told by the Bureau of Elections that one would be issued. It never was issued and just plain never was actualized.

Moreover, the same individuals also stated that an ITB with certification of accessible systems would be issued before the November (2005) general election. In fact I made a specific personal request invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to have an accessible system in place for the general election of last year. Moreover Rob Caufman of the Genesee County Bureau of Elections informed me that he was ready to meet this request not only for myself but in nine precincts last November if only the Michigan Secretary of State would certify the accessible system which would have been done in the promised ITB. It never happened because no promised ITB or certification of any accessible voting system was ever issued. (I should note here that in these regards Mr. Kaufman is to be commended for his efforts but that he was hamstrung in fully accommodating myself and others by a facially discriminatory practice of the Michigan Secretary of State which certified and funded inaccessible voting systems without concurrently certifying and funding accessible voting systems in this county and elsewhere.)

This fact is born out in other sections of the state plan which clearly denote the certification, funding and acquisition of inaccessible (OCR) systems in many counties including mine dating back to 2003.

Now, back to the present no actual ITB for any accessible voting system is issued to date, but rather only the vague promise cited above in the Revised State Plan.

Now as a most practical matter just how can counties purchase said accessible technology and meet the deadlines of HAVA in this regard if an ITB has not been issued as of this writing? And again how can the public or interested parties comment in a meaningful manner on something that does not exist?

The bottom line once again is that I and thousands of people with disabilities wish to vote with the same protections, secrecy, independence and verifiability as other citizens who have already been afforded at the federal trough brand new voting instruments in this state by money managed by the Michigan Secretary of State.


Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.

This article is significant on several counts. First note the comments like "I wish we were more aware abut the ADA". Well the ADA is fifteen years old.
How much time do officials need to understand that it applies to the cherished voting process itself? Also one official noted that Oregon does most of
its voting by mail and didn't understand the need for purchasing this new, accessible system. Wel the absentee voting is not independently accessible to
people who are blind, visually impaired or those who have other print impairments. And this comment goes to the long standing ignorance of public officials
about the effective communications requirements of the ADA and indeed those in HAVA related to voting systems and the very ballot itself.

This said this is another example of a community coming into partial complience with Section 301 of HAVA by tomorrow's election. Others like Michigan mistakenly
think that they don't need to have accessible systems in hand by January 1, 2006 under HAVA or polling places accessible by that date. That's the deadline
as sighted in several U.S. Department of Justice circulars on the issue.

In fact I called the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Friday to see if they have even put out an Invitation to Bid with corollary certification of accessible
systems. No response. But they didn't meet their promised deadline in their own revised HAVA plan to do so by the end of October. Nor, have they remitted
to me an accessible version of that ITB in accessible format which was requested under the effective communications requirements of Title II of the ADA
and 504 of the Rehab Act.


Paul joseph Harcz, jr.

The BG News - Voting technology to debut on Tuesday

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Monday, November 7, 2005

Electronic voting machines will replace punch card voting

By Matt Clark


November 05, 2005

Originally printed in the Oct. 13 edition of In Focus

When the voting booths in Wood County opened for elections last year, it was the same old story: punch cards. Voters poked holes in to the same voting device

that was the focus of so much controversy in the 2000 presidential election.

But this time, voters are getting an upgrade, care of the president's Help America Vote Act. When the polls open tomorrow, Bowling Green voters will experience

488 Diebold Election Systems AccuVote-TSX electronic voting machines, some concerns over security and a slight learning curve.

Those submitting their vote by absentee ballot will also have a new experience, as the ballots are now counted by an optical scanning machine. Absentee

voters will now fill in bubbles corresponding to the correct candidate or issue choice.

According to Deborah Hazard, Wood County Board of Election's deputy director, the new machines have many advantages over the old punch card systems.

"Now the voting system has to be [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible so we have headphones and keypads for blind users," she said. "With the electronic

voting it is not possible to overvote. We obviously had to make a change to get in line with HAVA. In the long run it will save Wood County taxpayers money."

The machines are also equipped with voter-verifiable paper audit trails to ensure that votes are accurately recorded, and to serve as a backup in case the

electronic votes are lost.

Losing those electronic votes, however, may turn out to be a challenge. The machine stores votes in two ways: On a drive located inside the machine and

on a removable media card that is secured with a lock.

If one of the devices fails, the other can send it the backed-up information. The machines have numerous other security features, including state-of-the-art

encryption, battery backups, other locks and voter access cards.

The access cards ensure each voter gets a clean ballot. When the voter enters the polling location, an official will supply him or her with a freshly-encoded

access card that allows for the ballot to be displayed on the screen, ensuring no one is able to vote twice.

The access card allows for shorter lines at precincts as well - the electronic machines can be used for either precinct at polling locations which serve

more than one precinct.

"Before, the machines from one precinct would remain empty while there was a line for the other precinct. Now they can use any machine they want," Hazard


Bowling Green City Council President B.J. Fischer, who is not seeking re-election, believes the transition to the new machines will be successful, but is

skeptical of the need for them.

"The punch cards were working fine here. There is no error-proof system. Also, I think we are moving toward voting all by mail. There are no polling places

in Oregon, and more and more people are doing absentee ballots," he said.

The new machines were recently shown at senior centers around Wood County in an effort to familiarize the important voting group with the new machines.

"We haven't had anybody that after trying it out has said they do not want to use it," Hazard said.

Digital arts major Brien Strancar, junior, also feels the transition will work out.

"I think that we have a lot of good, user-friendly technologies these days and I am sure they have put forth their best efforts to suit voters," he said.

Other than preparing for the use of the new machines, the elections board has also been busy preparing an updated list of polling locations aimed at ensuring

a speedy vote and becoming compliant with new accessibility standards laid out in HAVA.

"This summer we have tried to combine precincts and have 14 fewer polling locations so that there will be more precincts able to share," Hazard said. "HAVA

defines what a handicap accessible facility is like in more detail. I wish we would have been more aware of ADA in the past. We are looking at it with

fresh eyes so that now they will be even more accommodating."

The new precinct maps were made available yesterday on the elections board Web site,


Contrary to popular belief, tomorrow's election will not be the first time electronic voting has been used in Wood County.

In February of 1999, an electronic voting machine manufacturer donated systems to be used for a special election in the Northwood School District.

Hazard said she saw fear in the face of the elderly as they entered the polling location, and was surprised when she learned the results of an exit poll

conducted by the machine's manufacturer.

"We did a survey of voters and 98 percent of the people that took the survey liked the electronic voting and wanted to use it again in the future, 95 of

the 98 percent felt Wood County should use county tax dollars to purchase such a system," she said, adding that nearly every voter took the survey.

Voting technology to debut on Tuesday

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Going back to the beginning I'd like to thank you all for the original article and of course the ongoing comments and stories on the voting access issue itself.
I would like to clarify some things about the Automark though and forgive any typoes for I'm writing online here.

The Automark system is not a DRE in the traditional sense of that term. It is a voter activated terminal or a sort of smart pen which can be used to mark and verify a paper ballot that is then counted electronically by an OCR system.

To my knoledge it is the only thing on the market that can make paper ballot based systems like ours in Michigan accessible all by itself. (In other words one would not have to have a duel system of OCR and DRE which is ok in my opinion but just different with cost factors too boot).

Regardless using OCR with a system like the Automark would get around the VVAPT issue.

It also has some advantages in my opinion over DRE that I've tested like the Sequoya system used in Nevada last year that had accessible features and left a printed record.

First, the Automark is very user friendly for a wide range of people with disabilities and non-disabled alike. It does have a labeled keypad and can enlarge print and has audio output for people who are totally blind. The navigation features work well and compare in my opinion favorably to those of the Harte Inter Civic which is good. Plus the monitor can be turned off for complete secrecacy. Additionally it does allow adaptive aids like puff and sip for PWD with dexterity issues.

It is not perfect in that regard though for like other systems a PWD with gross motor issues would need assistence in placing the paper in the system and removing it from it thus that assistent might see the ballot.

That is a bit of a digression though.

This system does one other thing that no paper based system does that I know of. It affords verification by even a totally blind person for the ballot is not marked until a person reviews it.

With all the talk about paper trail folks still miss the boat, in my opinion for with other systems the only one who cannot verify how his her paper ballot is marked is the blind voter using those systems. In other words even though I also favor accessible DRE for PWD including the blind and even if they leave a paper trail the blind person cannot confirm independently that the paper output matches the elctronic entry.

I think having used OCR systems that the Automark or systems like it would also more clearly mark ballots and thus the likelihood of a machine reading of that ballot would be reduced over the "chicken scratches" of the conventional pen user.

In other words the OCR reader would read the machine mark at higher rates and I think if oCR systems are to be used in the first place then all voters and not just disabled voters should use a system like the Automark.

All of this said I've long felt uncomfortable about appearing to promote one accessible system over another. I think that the general variety of options should be certified by states and then opened to competitive bid.

This whole issue though has been clouded by folks who have overlooked the fact that people who are blind, visually impaired, have reading disorders and those with manual impairments have been denied secrcy, independence and indeed verifiability since the dawn of our democracy.

The technology does now and has existed to afford both security (no system is fool proof), secrecy and verifiability for all.

Generally the debate over the paper trail, in my opinion has been made by many who have denied equal access to the ballot itself for years anyway and who never have considered our civil rights in the first place.

But here in Michigan the point is that absolutely no accessible voting system is being cosidered and no accounting for millions in federal funds on those accounts has taken place.

Moreover, I have to laugh at those who now promote templates which are clumsy and which offer no verifiability (a blind person can't see if he marked with pen the right item) because many of these same people fought just that option over the years. That includes the former Secretary of State here in Michigan who fought an ADA/504 case in 1997 in the Sixth Circuit and prevailed on that very issue. (It was an ADA/504 effective communications claim).

Simply some folks and many entities don't wish for millions of us to vote on equal terms and would rather spend more state resources fighting equal rights than making accommodations to grant them.

I, a blind man have been fighting these issues for years and at the age of fifty two haven't been able to vote with independence, secrecy and verifiability for now more than 25 years (when I went blind). That goes for even when I ran for office (School Board in New Hampshire). Damned I couldn't even know if I voted for myself.

And let me tell you folks I and others like me have nightmare stories on this issue.

Nope we've had thirty plus years to figure this stuff out under the auxilliary aids and services provisions of 504. Fifteen under the effective communications requirements of Title II of the ADA. And now four years under HAVA.

The time has long passed for ending the stalling, stonewalling and spurrious arguments against accessible voting and equal access to the ballot itself.

And for those who think that offering assistence to mark one's ballot is an equal accommodationI'l tell you what I've said to the Secretary of State of New Hampshire and Bureau of Election Chief here in Michigan,"I'll consider it a reasonable accommodation for you to mark my bloody ballot if you allow me to mark your ballot while you are blindfolded."

Now as for Diebold and outfits like NFB on this issue let me say that Diebold ain't the only accessible system in town and NFB ain't the only outfit of people who are blind.

If both of them were never engaged in elections it wouldn't bother me in the slightest or should I say if they weren't in the voting system buisines.

But that is another issue for another day.


Joe Harcz

While interviewing students at Perkins may prove useful in a lot of ways most of the students there are not of voting age.

However, it sure would be useful to get the input of teachers and others in that community who are blind and of voting age and who haven't had an equal vote for years.

Many of these individuals are on list serves that I'm on and have tried to engage state officials on this issue along with the feds.

Many (including staff of Perkins and of the Carroll Center for the Blind and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind) are experts in adaptive technologies for the blind including text to speech synthesis which in fact is all that most accessible DRE and other devices are.

Back to Perkins I do believe that although the students are not of voting age there were demonstrations of various voting systems including accessible ones going back two or three years.

And the Diebold system wasn't and isn't the only one.

Personally I think the Diebold product is not the most accessible or user friendly DRE. I have not demoed one for about two years though but its features are outpaced (even from a user standpoint) by the ES And S DRE (forgot the model number right now off the top of my head), the Harte product (DRE) and the Automark.

Again this doesn't promote one system over the other except from apersonal point of view based upon hands on use.

I've not been able to sample any of the Sequoya models for a few years. But I've heard from others that while accessible it isn't the most user friendly either or at least wasn't so.

I'd be curious though to hear from anyone experienced with the accessible Seqyoa systems that also all had a paper trail component used statewide last year in the nevada elections.

In all the brouhaha over the so-called conflicts between VVAPT and accessibility I haven't heard a peep about Nevada which offered both in the general election.

That was last year too!!

Now again though since the paper copy of those ballots were literally under glass the only people who could not "verify" the paper portion or output of the vote in that election were indeed people who are blind.

Anyway all DRE can produce a paper trail which I don't personally argue with for recount purposes.

But if people think that paper alone is a safeguard against fraud let me remind all of elections in the past that were documentedly robbed using paper ballots and/or lever machines.

Does the nickname "Landslide Lyndon" (re:1948 Senate election and Duval County, Texas mass fraud) ring a bell?

Again I don't argue against a paper trail here. I do argue for accessibility. And often from both the right and the left for lack of better words tthe arguments surrounding this whole issue are slanted against access for PWD and weighted only around issues phasing non-disabled voters.

Moreover most pundits on the issue in this vein wouldn't know accessibility if it bit them on their backsides.


Joe Harcz