Editor's Note - This article, first posted on the VoteTrustUSA
site on April 15, 2005
has been requested frequently as more states (Mississippi, Utah, etc.)
are choosing to buy the Diebold TSx with printer at the same time that
others (California in particular) are recognizing problems with the
systems. It seemed like a good time to repost John's artilce and
make it more readily available.
Election Systems has begun showing it’s 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
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.
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
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..........” 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 “Vote” 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?
Comment on This Article
You must login to leave comments...
Other Visitors Comments
You must login to see comments...