FROM:   CVF Staff
DATE:   October 15, 2002
RE:   Sacramento tests touchscreen voting with a paper trail

Hi Folks,

Today I went to the Golden State Museum in downtown Sacramento and cast my first electronic ballot; I thought you might enjoy reading a brief summary of my experience.

My county elections department is experimenting with both early voting and touchscreen voting this election. Sacramento is the first county in California, and perhaps anywhere in the U.S. to try out a touchscreen voting system that produces a voter-verified paper trail.

Sacramento County is using Avante's touchscreen voting machine, which looks a lot like others I've seen, but has one feature the others don't -- a built-in printer, and a clear plastic tube attached to the front through which I can view my final voting decisions on a printed slip of paper. After a few moments on display, the machine pulls the slip of paper back inside of it.

Knowing that slip of paper exists and will be retained by my elections department for the next 22 months helped give me the confidence I needed to trust the electronic voting machine with my votes. I don't know if other voters feel this way, but I am glad that my Registrar of Voters is asking us to answer survey questions about our experience with the touchscreen machines, including one about my level of confidence using it.

The Avante machine was certified last Friday by the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems Panel. I sat in on that meeting and listened to the panel's systems expert share his findings of the Avante machine's performance. I got a look at the machine last week, but today was the first time I actually used it to cast my ballot.

The paper trail procedures still need to be worked out. At the certification meeting the panel was told that the voter could view and discard the printed receipt up to five times. But today when I tried to
discard my paper receipt and start over, I was told it was not possible, that the machine was not set to do that. These kinds of procedures are important if the paper trail is to have meaning in the computerized voting process.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate today debated HR 3295, the "Help America Vote Act of 2002". While the final bill does require "manual audit capacity" for voting machines, this does not necessarily mean a voter verified paper trail - it could simply be a printed tally of all the votes cast on a machine.

It's up to the states and counties to decide what kind of paper trail they need. I'm glad my county is working toward a voter-verified paper trail; I sure hope others will do the same.

-- Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation,
(916) 452-7706

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This page was first published on October 15, 2002 | Last updated on October 15, 2002
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