New Mexico: Letter to County Clerks
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By Robert Stearns and Paul Stokes
November 23, 2005
The following Memorandum wa sent to the 33 County Clerks in New Mexico by Robert Stearns of VerifiedVoting New Mexico and Paul Stokes of United Voters of New Mexico.
AutoMark Plus Optical Scanning or DREs? - Before You Decide, Think About This
Like you, every official wants to run an efficient election in which
citizens are given full opportunity to vote independently and
privately, and in which their votes are counted correctly and preserved
for auditing and recounting.
In deciding whether to use an ES&S AutoMark system, a machine that
does not count votes but does produce voter-verifiable conventional
paper ballots which are counted by precinct-based optical scan machines
and preserved for auditing and recounting, or a Direct Recording
Electronic (DRE) system, with ES&S iVotronic or Sequoia AVC Edge
touch-screen machines that count the votes and produce a
voter-verifiable paper trail on rolls of paper tape that are preserved
for auditing and recounting, have you considered comparative costs,
staff training, election challenges, and legal exposure?
Here are some comparisons worth considering:
1) If you choose a DRE in place of an AutoMark with optical-scan
counting, your costs will go up. Counties using optical scan have much
lower costs than those using DRE systems. In Florida, the yearly
operating cost for Sarasota County’s DREs was 67% higher than Manatee
County’s optical scanners. Orange County’s operating cost for its
optical scanners was only a third of Miami-Dade County’s cost for its
DREs. Another study covering 32 Florida counties showed that it cost
them 40% more to operate DREs than it did for optical scanners.
The difference arises largely because many more DREs are needed to run
an election without long lines of waiting voters. The voter must turn
pages on the touch screen to access the full ballot, which takes longer
than marking a full ballot on a sheet of paper for optical scanning. A
single AutoMark and a single optical scanning machine can accommodate
all but the largest polling places. By contrast, to handle the same
number of voters, you would need multiple DRE machines for all but the
smallest polling places.
Many counties already use optical scanners to count the large numbers
of paper ballots from absentee and early voters, who make up an
increasingly bigger proportion of the voter total. Why use DREs whose
paper tape ballots cannot be counted by the optical scan machines you
may already have? Such ballots must be separated in order to be audited
or recounted manually, which takes much more staff time. By contrast
the AutoMark machine uses conventional paper ballots which are tailor
made for optical scanning. It is also much more easily programmed than
a DRE machine. With AutoMark you avoid the cost of setting up the
counting and merging of ballots since they all get counted by optical
2) DRE failures have forced elections to be redone in North Carolina
and Mississippi at considerable expense. DRE machine jamming has caused
major delays in election day voting in California and Florida. When
something goes wrong, the consequences are extreme on the DRE but
relatively contained on the AutoMark since it is only an assistive
device and should it break down, voters, including the handicapped, can
still vote by using its paper ballots. Because DRE systems are more
vulnerable to problems, you must train your election workers to a
higher operating standard.
3) The AutoMark is preferred by disabled voters, particularly the
visually and physically impaired. It utilizes a ballot marker that
enables the disabled to vote without assistance and in private. It has
a sip/puff tube for voters unable to use a touch screen and an audio
function for blind voters. It is equally efficient for non-disabled
voters. Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Minnesota have selected
the AutoMark as their voting machine of choice, as well as counties in
Wyoming, California, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Florida. The AutoMark
is fully compliant with the requirements of the Help America Vote Act
(HAVA) and purchase of it is being made with HAVA funding.
4) The federal government says that states with verifiable paper trails
must allow blind voters to verify their paper ballots. DRE systems
cannot meet this mandate. They only allow the blind voter to verify the
electronic record of his vote. Tests in California of the DRE system
revealed cases where the paper and electronic records did not match.
Thus it is more likely that DREs producing paper tape ballots will be
challenged in court.
5) There is no statistically significant method to do your
Logic-and-Accuracy test on a DRE voting system, but there are
statistically significant ways to test an optical scan voting system.
Therefore elections using DREs are much more open to challenges for
6) The sequence of ballots on DRE paper tape can be matched with the
sequence of citizens registering to vote, which unless protected by
close and costly security at the polling place and thereafter, can
destroy the secrecy of the ballot and lead to “vote selling.” This is
not a problem with the AutoMark whose ballots can be easily shuffled so
that vote order is eliminated
Robert Stearns, VVNM and Paul Stokes, UVNM
NOTE: Verified Voting New Mexico and United Voters of New Mexico
have no connection with the makers of the AutoMark machine, but we do
believe that all alternatives should be fully considered before
purchases are made with taxpayers’ money.
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