Vote Trust USA

The New Diebold Printers
by John Gideon*

Diebold Election Systems has begun showing its new voter verified paper record printer to election officials around the country. The new system is still not qualified by an Independent Testing Authority approved by the EAC.


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The New Diebold Printers

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This new system consists of a thermal printer that attaches to the Diebold AccuVote TSX touch-screen voting machine. The voter has the ability to look at a paper printout of the vote in the printer and verify that record before finalizing their vote; or so the company says. This add-on printer satisfies many states voter verified paper trail requirement.

A closer examination of this device, as described in news articles, shows that the paper record is actually on a 290 foot roll of thermal paper. The printing on the ballot is so small that when the voter looks at the record to verify it, they are looking through a magnifying piece of plastic.

Are these problems? Is there a better solution?

My first question was about the thermal paper. I wrote a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal, Stephen Dyer, who wrote an article on this new printer. I questioned the thermal paper and whether it would preserve the ballots for the 22 months that are required by federal law. His response back was, „It's on 15lb. paper that's supposed to hold off longer than dot-matrix printing..........š Being a bit skeptical I then called a large supplier of thermal paper products and asked if there was anything special about 15lb. Thermal paper. The sales person told me that all thermal paper is 15lb.

I then asked the sales person to tell me if she would feel comfortable storing federal records on thermal paper for any length of time. Her response was that records on thermal paper can last 5 to 7 years. That is hardly as long as records printed by a dot-matrix printer but longer than I suspected. She then qualified her statement by telling me that everything depended on those records being kept away from light sources and heat during storage and a lack of handling.

So, instead of paper ballots that can be stored anywhere secure we are now going to be asked to allow records of our ballots to be printed on thermal paper that must have special storage.

Also a problem with this new system is the fact that all records are printed, in the order that they were cast, on a single roll of paper. If anyone wanted to match ballots to voters who cast those ballots this system simplifies that task. The right to the secrecy of the vote is under attack when these machines are used.

Finally, many state‚s voter verified paper record laws state that the records must be human readable or readable by the voter without the use of another device. This would include the use of a magnifying glass. The fact that the printing on the paper record is so small that it requires a magnifying glass to read it is certainly problematic especially when you consider that those ballots must be read during audits and/or recounts.

Many states that are requiring the printing of a voter verified paper record or ballot, are doing so because they realize that there must be some means exterior of the machine‚s software to audit the machines. These paper records are to be that vehicle to an accurate audit. The printing of these ballots on thermal paper, on a single roll, in print that is too small to be seen with the naked eye and in a non-machine readable format does not allow easy auditability. It seems that Diebold is throwing more obstructions into the way of auditing elections and doing less to ensure fair, transparent, auditable elections.

Not wanting to throw up my hands and point out problems without having solutions, here is my solution. Diebold has only to add a serial port to their voting machines to allow an off-the-shelf printer to be used for printing the paper records. They can add some extra software that will enable the printer and direct the printer to print the record before the voter pushes the final „Voteš button.

Counties can then contract with a computer supply house to buy enough printers to equip their machines. Those printers would be much cheaper than Diebold will be charging for their printer and they would use regular printer paper that can be bought by the pallet from any paper supplier or from Costco.

My solution is probably too easy; but why does this all have to be so hard?

John Gideon is the Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA and for VotersUnite.Org.

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