Ohio votes yes on e-voting

Election Assistance Commission

Ohio state officials have certified touch-screen voting machines from AccuPoll Inc. for use in the state. AccuPoll's machines create a voter-verified paper record.

Such paper records are at the heart of the debate over touch-screen machines, formally called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines. Other vendors do not offer the feature unless election officials specifically request it. Critics of electronic voting say that fraud or errors in the machine's recording of votes could go undetected without an external record that could be used to audit results.

"This is a significant event because Ohio has been on the forefront of the [paper audit trail] debate," said Frank Wiebe, president of AccuPoll, in a statement. Ohio recently passed a law requiring the paper trail, he added.

Earlier this year, AccuPoll received federal qualification for its system and now officials are working to get certification from state election officials nationwide, according to company officials.

"We, like many public officials throughout Ohio, strongly believe that a paper audit trail is absolutely essential," Wiebe said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) has called for an investigation into when Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood and other state officials became aware of a problem in the auditing system of Election Systems & Software Inc. machines used in 11 Florida counties.

The software glitch made it difficult to accurately audit the machines, and state officials had been aware of the issue for almost a year, according to articles in Florida newspapers that Wexler cited. However, state officials maintain that the votes were counted accurately. According to a Wexler spokesperson, Florida's Division of Elections chief, Ed Kast, resigned unexpectedly this week.

"The timing of Mr. Kast's departure is suspicious," Wexler said in a statement. "There is a significant problem in the auditing software of the electronic voting machines used in 11 counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward ... Glenda Hood and her top officials have repeatedly given conflicting accounts about how long they have known about the problem. Only an investigation by the attorney general will get to the bottom of this mess."

Wexler had filed a lawsuit against Hood, but it was dismissed last month.

Some e-voting advocates say a paper trail causes its own set of problems. There are no national standards for how paper records would be generated or what information they should contain. The need to preserve voter anonymity makes it more difficult to create meaningful receipts than for a nonanonymous transaction such as an automated teller withdrawal, they argue.

They also say that the electronic machines prevent errors such as over-voting, in which a voter marks more choices than are allowed for a particular race. Ballots with over-votes must be discarded. Electronic machines are also much easier for voters with disabilities to use, because they can be adjusted for people in wheelchairs and the text display can be enhanced or augmented with spoken information for those with visual impairments.

The federal commission created to study e-voting and make policy recommendations is considering creating a national drive to recruit poll workers. According to Election Assistance Commission Chairman DeForest Soaries, dedicated poll workers are needed to ensure that elections are carried out fairly and securely, regardless of the voting technology used.

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