Only a voter-verified paper ballot-based
optical scanner voting system meets the county commissioners' criteria for new voting system choice.
Accuracy, ease of use and
cost: These are three criteria that the county commissioners have said they will use in making their decision about
a new voting system. The optical scanner system, which is based on a paper ballot which the voter marks, is the only one of
the four voting systems presented at the county commissioners' forums that meets these criteria.
Accuracy: the most
important criteria. Counting every vote is the very heart of our democracy Do we want a cheap, easy-to-use, but unsecured
and inaccurate machine counting our votes? The other three voting systems at the forum, Danaher, ES&S ivotronic, and Advanced
Voting Systems winvote are direct recording electronic machines (DREs). The Government Accounting Office has stated these
electronic machines have "caused problems in recent elections resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."
In New Mexico, the Danaher machine,
now being considered by the Commissioners, lost so many votes for president in 2004, that the governor of New Mexico has asked
that all counties purchase only optical scanners. Five states are already 100 percent optical scan along with 50 percent of
all U.S. counties and 38 percent of Pennsylvania counties. It is the tried and true system.
The op/scan system, which saves the
paper ballot marked by the voter, is the most accurate system. While the paper ballot is read by an electronic counter, which
could be faulty, the paper ballot itself is saved for possible recounts and is a check on the machine count. Votes can be
lost or changed inside a DRE and no one may ever know When the voter presses his choice on one of the three DREs, that vote
may not have registered and may not be counted. No voter verified paper ballot is available for recounts or audits on a DRE.
Ease of use: The
optical scan system is also the easiest to use. Most voters have filled out tests or forms by blackening ovals next to their
choices, as you do marking this paper ballot. For many senior citizens, DREs are intimidating and confusing. Much less training
will be needed with the optical scanner and long lines will be avoided at the polls because voting takes less time.
Cost: The optical
scan system has the lowest costs both initially and over the long run. ES&S, a company which makes both DRE and op/scanner
machines, did not even bring their op/scan to an exhibit for New York State legislators, because the profit is in the ongoing
costs of their DRE.
The operating costs for an op/scan
system are considerably less. While the op/scan system has the ongoing costs of paper ballots, the DREs have significantly
higher costs for programming, software upgrade, storage and replacement because they are larger, more complex systems. A Duke
University professor's five-year cost analysis of the operating costs of the ES&S DRE and op/scan systems (including paper
ballot costs) showed that the DRE is 38 percent more expensive to operate than the op/scan -and this cost analysis did not
include the higher storage and programming costs of the DRE.
In Florida, a study of 67 counties
found that counties using DREs have costs 40.4 percent higher than counties using op/scan machines. The supervisor of elections
in Miami Dade County has proposed that ES&S ivotronic touch screen machines bought in 2002 for $24 million be replaced
by optical scanners-- not only because optical scanners will not lose votes, as the ivotronics have done, but also because
election costs will be 29 percent lower with op/scans. In North Carolina a county comparison study showed that a county using
DREs spent 39 percent more per voter than a county using op/scan machines. A cost analysis in Connecticut by a Yale professor
found that "optical scan is a much less expensive voting technology system than DRE machines."
Judging by their own criteria, the
county commissioners must chose the Voter-Verified Paper Ballot-based Optical Scan Voting System. Please call or write the
commissioners today Tell them that you want your vote counted on the most cost-effective, easiest-to-use, and, most importantly,
accurate system: an optical scan system. The decision is imminent, and your vote is at stake.
Sandy Schiff and Madeline Rawley
are both retired teachers and members of the Coalition for Voting Integrity. This article represents six months of research
on voting systems.