Nassau County (NY) Voting Machine Decision
submitted by Joel Peskoff
written by Harry Halikias
I thought about writing part of this a couple weeks ago after our Primary elections ended and hesitated. Today I experienced something and I want to share my feelings. As many of you know, I am lucky enough to live in Nassau County, NY. We are to have a good Democratic government. Our County Executive is Tom Suozzi who ran against Eliot Spitzer for Governor. Tom ran a tough campaign and was undeserving of the result he got, but he ran against one of the biggest Democratic power houses in the country. Tom ran on a record of leadership and results. My experience today was just another example of this.
Last week I was notified by several people and the county that the voting machines that the county is considering for our future voting machines would be on display for public testing and comment. I felt that this was a great opportunity to participate in something crucial to the survival of our republic. I couldn't live with myself if an election in Nassau County was botched or stolen. So I went out to the Cradle of Aviation and kicked the tires on a few of the machines. I mentioned this opportunity to other Democratic friends from around the country. They felt that it was an incredible public service and truly something special. They didnt get the same opportunity. So my point is that yes, it was depressing for many people that Suozzi lost, but you know what? We are blessed to have Tom Suozzi to ourselves for the next 3 years and thats a great thing!
So I checked out the voting machines that were on display and learned a lot in the process. There were two types of voting systems on display called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) and Optical Scan. The machines were made by Diebold, Populex, Sequoia, Avante, and Precise Voting.
The selection process is being driven entirely by state law based on the HAVA law. Two of the requirements of NY State are that the entire ballot must be visible on the screen and there must be a paper trail. This immediately eliminated some of the machines on display.
There is a significant difference between DRE and Optical Scan. DRE technology is basically a touch screen. A voter would have to make their selections on the screen and then accept their selections. Once their selections are accepted, a paper ballot is created. The handling of the paper ballot varies by machine. Optical Scan is a more traditional method. Voters must fill the circles on a piece of paper that is later scanned by a machine. Its similar to the way schools do standardized testing.
The first machine that I checked out was the Diebold DRE. The Diebold DRE cannot display the entire ballot on the screen, so it does not qualify for NYS. It can be used for handicapped voters. The Diebold DRE is the machine that was recently cracked by Princeton University.
Diebold Accuvote TSX
I asked the Diebold guy if his company has been having a hard time since Princeton cracked the machine. He said no, theyre the largest machine manufacturer in the country. I said thats because their CEO said hed deliver the election for Bush. He said thats bullshit in a real evil republican tone.
Diebold Accuvote TSX view2
Next was the Populex Digital Paper Ballot System. The populex machine was also not capable of displaying the entire ballot on the screen. Nevertheless, they were there and happy to participate.
Populex Digital Paper Ballot System
The first machine that I saw that has a chance is the Sequoia Voting Systems DRE Advantage Plus Touch. This machine was HUGE. It had 4 screens combined to make one large display. It looked like the NY ballot we all know on a digital screen. This machine was getting a lot of attention because it looked good.
Sequoia also had an optical scan machine called Optical Insight. On this machine a voter must complete the arrows pointing to each candidates name. The ballot is then scanned into what looks like a giant shredder. The ballot is then ejected and filed by election workers. The machine notifies the voter if there is an over-vote or under-vote.