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Pull the Plug on Touchscreens

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Message Rebecca Mercuri
Pull the Plug on Touchscreens

Forbes' Magazine (9/4/6) included a commentary by Aviel Rubin where he
complains about the "Help America Vote Act, which handed out $2.6
billion to spend on voting machines." Avi's recent recommendation is
that voters cast only optically scanned ballots that will be randomly
audited. But does he go so far as to suggest that voters be allowed to
prepare these ballots by hand? Absolutely not. Although I have publicly
recommended the adoption of only scanned paper systems since at least
2003, Avi continues to recommend electronic ballot preparation methods,
such as described in his Forbes piece, that require all voters to "make
their selections on a touchscreen machine."

If humans are deemed capable enough to audit ballot counts, they should
also be allowed to directly prepare their own ballots without the
intervention of a computer. Most voters already do this, since some 60%
of US counties and a steadily increasing number of mail-ins (such as in
CA, FL and NJ where any voter can register as a permanent absentee) use
hand-prepared paper ballots. Sure, modern technology must be available
to provide assistance for voters who need or want it, but this does not
necessarily have to be limited to "touchscreen machines." Tactile
ballots (endorsed by the United Nations, see http://www.electionaccess.org/bp/ballot_templates.htm) and mechanical devices (such as the Vote Pad http://www.vote-pad.us) offer inexpensive alternatives that do not require electricity.

So, will this advice help America's voters avoid the use of unreliable or insecure voting equipment in 2006, 2007, or even 2008? No, because purchases (costing in excess of $5B, including state allocations and brassociated long-term service contracts) are already in place. Avi's change of heart (he's previously supported vote-tabulating DREs, see http://avirubin.com/vote/eac2.pdf) now favoring optically scanned ballots is simply too little, too late, and his ongoing endorsement of touchscreen voting has made him part of the problem, not its solution.
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Rebecca Mercuri has been in the forefront of the voting integrity movement since 1989. She provides expert witness services for elections and other forensic computing matters.

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