[E-voting] article supporting optical scan machines for Utah

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Wed May 4 22:00:48 IST 2005


Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - 12:00 AM

*Get voting machines that work best for Utah*

Kathy Dopp

How about this for irony?

Utah residents apparently don't get much of a say in a decision that 
affects their right to have their own votes counted. Instead, it looks 
like those decisions will be made based on what is best for a few 
lobbyists, not what is best for Utah.

As a result, the state's entire election process may be at risk.

For months now, the state has been considering which voting machines 
counties throughout the state will use. This process is part of a 
national effort to improve elections, make them more accessible for 
people with disabilities, and eliminate outdated equipment. Many Utah 
residents have advocated for a paper-based option called optical scan, 
because it is the most secure and most reliable approach.

Optical scan voting uses paper ballots and scans each person's votes 
electronically. It provides the speedy election results that come with 
counting votes electronically, but it also includes a paper record of 
each ballot cast, in case an independent hand recount is needed.

I think most Utahns would agree that scanned paper ballots are the best 
approach to ensure accurate and timely election results.

In addition to accuracy, the state must make meeting the needs of people 
with disabilities a priority. Currently, nearly 200,000 Utahns have 
disabilities and may have difficulty using certain voting technologies.

Any system the state selects should allow people with disabilities a 
full opportunity to vote privately and have their ballots counted the 
same way as every other voter.

One of the two companies under consideration offers an optical scan 
technology called the AutoMARK which I strongly encourage elected 
officials to consider. The AutoMARK would allow voters with disabilities 
to cast the same ballot as other voters and has been endorsed by the 
Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. It meets all 
disability-related requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act.

But, a number of lobbyists have been pushing the state to use 
electronic, touch screen voting machines made by ATM giant Diebold. 
These machines use electronic ballots, are expensive and provide no 
means for Utah's election officials to independently audit our vote counts.

Diebold's electronic voting machines use Windows as a base operating 
system. Windows is susceptible to viruses because it was written for 
general purpose computers for which Microsoft Corp. releases security 
fixes on a regular basis.

One study by credible computer scientists found the Diebold system could 
be easily hacked by outside intruders. How can we entrust something as 
significant as the foundation of our democracy and the right of every 
Utahn to have his or her vote count to a voting system with a 
questionable reputation for security?

I call on everyone involved in making this important decision to make it 
based on which voting machine works best for Utah, not which vendor 
spends more money on lobbyists.

In addition to these concerns, it is really troubling to me that Utah's 
decision appears to be closed to the public and controlled by politics. 
Many of those who attended the mock election were not allowed to fill 
out surveys. The public input of many technologists and Utah's computer 
scientists have been ignored.

The fact is this decision should be made based on which voting machine 
works best for Utah, not which lobbyists work best for their clients.

If the people making this decision look carefully at the facts about 
each machine, they will select optical scan and the AutoMARK for Utah. 
We all deserve a voting machine that will make sure our vote counts.

Kathy Dopp is founder of Utah Count Votes.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A5.

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