SOS Announces ‘Voter-Verified Paper Trail' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

SOS Announces ‘Voter-Verified Paper Trail'

It seems the secretary of state's office is trying to respond to concerns about the new voting machines such as the JFP reported more than a month ago:

[verbatim release] Secretary of State Eric Clark has signed an agreement with Diebold Election Systems to allow every voter to see a printed paper ballot on touch-screen machines provided by the state beginning in 2006. "All Mississippians must have confidence that their votes are accurately counted," Clark said. "These printers will give voters an additional level of comfort as they use the new, more accurate touch-screen machines."

A "voter-verified paper audit trail" allows a voter to see his or her vote as it is being cast. The paper ballot is displayed beneath a clear plastic window with the voter's choices printed on it. After a vote is cast, the printed ballot scrolls into a secure, locked canister kept inside the machine. In addition, the machine stores a photographic image of every ballot cast that can be printed. The paper ballots may be used in the event of a recount, or to assure any citizen that all votes were accurately counted.

Mississippi contracted with Diebold in June to purchase up to 5,164 voting machines using $15 million in federal and state funds provided under the federal "Help America Vote Act." The initial contract specified a price of not more than $425 to purchase and install external printers, or $2.2 million for all 5,164 machines. In intensive negotiations Wednesday, Clark persuaded Diebold to drop the price in half to $212.50 per printer, or $1.1 million for 5,164 machines. This makes it possible for Clark to make the purchase now with existing funds.

Mississippi law and federal law do not require a voter-verified paper trail for voting machines. Hinds and Rankin counties, which already use touch-screen machines, do not have the devices. A voter-verified paper trail is required in 25 states, and the federal Election Assistance Commission is expected to set guidelines this fall to be used by independent testing authorities in evaluating the devices. The Mississippi printers will be required to meet all federal standards.

The final year of federal funding for the "Help America Vote Act" - expected to be $6 million for Mississippi - is pending in Congress. Clark emphasized the need for Congress to fully fund election reform so that voters will have every opportunity to become familiar with the new machines before the 2006 congressional elections.

"It is essential that Congress fully fund election reform this year," Clark said. "If our elections are to run smoothly, it will take more than just replacing old, inaccurate machines. We must carry out extensive voter education for election officials and ordinary Mississippians. In addition, we need federal funds to help the counties make polling places accessible to the disabled and reduce any unfunded mandates on our local governments."

Counties face an August 19 deadline to decide whether or not to be part of the statewide voting machine effort. As of Wednesday morning, 34 counties across Mississippi have signed on, and no counties have opted out.

"Momentum is building in support of the new machines as county officials learn more about them," Clark said. "We believe that adding a voter-verified paper trail will give every county the assurance that this is the right step to take."

Under federal law, all central scanner machines, lever machines, and punch-card machines must be replaced by 2006. More than 75 counties will be required by federal law to change to new, more accurate machines by January 1, 2006. In addition, at least one device that is fully accessible to the disabled must be in every polling place. Touch-screen machines are the most disabled accessible machines available, Clark said.

Previous Comments

ID
137980
Comment

I often wondered how a recount would take place with electronic voting. Glad this is at least a step in the right directions. Still not sure about Diebold or the way the bid was "selected," however.

Author
Johann
Date
2005-08-10T15:31:53-06:00
ID
137981
Comment

Yeah, I'm not sure about all that, either. This does sound like a positive, and it's evidence of how the people can make a difference when they speak up. However, I don't know if it's enough; I'm not the expert on it around here. We'll have more soon on it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-10T15:41:32-06:00
ID
137982
Comment

I'll give 'em points for trying.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-08-10T22:13:48-06:00
ID
137983
Comment

But did you notice Diebold was willing to drop the printer price in half - I'm thinking they'd give them away just to sell their touch screens. It's been a big push on counties to go with this particular machine....inquiring minds want to know. I agree with Johann in having some basic distrust of that company. Warren Co. has not purchased them yet, almost half the counties are holding out, do they know something??

Author
haupc
Date
2005-08-11T18:15:55-06:00
ID
137984
Comment

some interesting comments about the Miss. situation at a forum on BlackBox Voting http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-auth.cgi?file=/1954/9624.html including that Calif. turned down these machines. see quote "just how stupid do they think the people of their state are.." concerning just what kind of photo image will be retained.

Author
haupc
Date
2005-08-12T07:07:29-06:00
ID
137985
Comment

Haupc: Diebold was willing to drop the printer price in half - I'm thinking they'd give them away just to sell their touch screens. To sell their touch screens or to control elections? Hinds announced they will not be going to the Diebold machines even theogh their machines donít produce a paper copy of the vote. I think itís more a question of manufacturer and operator integrity than a printout per se. Everyone is aware that the local Diebold representative was working for the Secretary of State when all these negotiations first got started? I say counties should investigate and re-bid independently.

Author
Johann
Date
2005-08-12T08:10:10-06:00

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