[Image courtesy of gardneredge]
Last week, I blogged the release of “Counting Votes,” a new report assessing the voting technology readiness of states nationwide. The report has already gotten significant media pickup and will certainly be a topic of discussion as the countdown to Election Day continues.
Usually, a high-profile report like this will generate feedback from election officials; but it isn’t always provided in a form that offers an opportunity to learn more about the subject.
Fortunately, Johnson County, KS’ Brian Newby isn’t your usual election official. Last week, he wrote about the report the same day it was released on his blog ElectionDiary. Here’s his response, which illuminates how reports like Counting Votes foster a discussion of voting tech issues – and provide election officials an opportunity to discuss their own preparations for Election Day.
Today, Verified Voting released a study in conjunction with Common Cause and Rutgers School of Law regarding what they term Voting Technology Preparedness.
(Note to self: I think this means that it’s officially too late to get back with Verified Voting on their survey this go-round. Thankfully, our state election director did respond to them and nothing has really changed since our last response).
A reporter from a local radio station called me this afternoon about the study and a couple of its conclusions and implications for Johnson County.
One of the study’s conclusions, overall, is that Internet voting is a risk for military and overseas voters. We aren’t using Internet voting for these voters in 2012, so I explained that wasn’t an issue in Kansas.
(Second note to self: I think voters expect Internet voting to be something they can do very soon. Of course, it’s not ready for late-night, let alone Prime Time. I have raised many objections to Internet voting myself, but, gee, hasn’t anybody read, “Getting to Yes”? Surely we can crack this code if we work together.)
I also explained a centerpiece of the Verified Voting study with relation to Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs). Verified Voting wants them and our machines were put into service before VVPATs were invented. Thus, we’ll never score well in this department until our fleet retires and we have a new solution around 2017.
Our current machines are fourth-generation electronic voting machines in Johnson County. We’ve had electronic voting machines of some sort or another since Lyndon Johnson was running for president.
That doesn’t mean we’re paperless, though. We printed about $100,000 worth of ballots in this election alone for ballots by mail, potential provisional ballots, and to be able to have paper at the polls for anyone upon request.
We were the first electronic voting machine county in the nation to do such as thing as far as I can tell, by the way. We have a special process for these voters, in fact.
We call them Gold Voters so they don’t feel like second-class citizens asking to vote on paper. Their ballot goes in a special envelope to distinguish it from a provisional ballot. It’s a Manila envelope, but “Manila Voter” doesn’t sound very prestigious, so “Gold” won as the name.
I then explained our various security measures with our machines. Besides physical security procedures, one thing we do is a manual logic and accuracy test, which is kryptonite to many of the supposed viruses that others claim could infiltrate voting machines over a period of years. This spread of a virus to control a future election is speculation at best, but the manual test would catch such a thing if it really existed.
We do this for every machine before every election. We had one of our election workers do a simulation of our machine diagnostics in the video [here]. In real life, we use the actual ballot with actual votes placed at random and then compared to the tally, which is an expected outcome. We chose the simulation here so that even our random votes would not in any way be construed as endorsement of an actual candidate.
Still, you get the idea, and imagine doing this for a full ballot on 2,000 machines before each election. Then, we prepare for the Public Test, for which we will have rehearsal tomorrow. I’ll plan to post some photos of next week’s public test. We also do post-election audits to compare results from the machine printouts to the machine totals and also to what was uploaded to the tabulation server.
These observations are substantive and thoroughly constructive – and therefor incredibly valuable. Thanks to Brian for sharing in such detail!