Monday, January 14, 2008

Rundown voter paper ballot marking by hand with electronic Second Chance Review

An assessment by Net the Truth Online publisher

My assessment is this: the paper ballot with the optical scan reader affords:

voter verification of a paper ballot

voter verification of a paper ballot marked by the voter

voter verification prior to casting the ballot

voter opportunity to review paper ballot prior to casting ballot

voter opportunity to be prevented from casting a paper ballot which is over-voted

voter opportunity to correct any such over-votes, thus afforded second-chance voting

voter opportunity to select none of the above and cast under-voted selections

voter opportunity to select none of the above (under-voted) and have intent of such read accurately by the optical scan reader. This prevents potential for human interference in discerning voter intent

voter opportunity to have official review of the process with ability in disputes to have the digital image of the paper ballot and the actual paper ballot (record) compared to determine accuracy of the digital record in comparison to accuracy of the paper record

Thus, the recommendation to boards of commissioners who currently possess Hart InterCivic's electronic direct recording eSlates for the county is to provide the Hart InterCivic voter marked paper ballot and record eScans with the second chance voting at the precinct.

A secondary recommendation is to consider at some future date, when available, a supplement to the eScans which enable for handicapped accessibility. To date, to my understanding, the eScan is not certified for such, nor is it certified for handicapped accessibility. The eSlate (DRE) is certified in PA for disabled access.

There are reportedly other systems out there by other mfg. which are paper ballot optical scans which can have an added feature for handicapped accessibility.

Commissioners should review for the future.

For now, commissioners should provide Fayette voters with the choice at the precinct polling place. Direct Recording of their vote by electronic eSlate,(paperless) or Voter Hand Recording of their vote by electronic optical scan eScan.

Both the eSlate and the eScan make and record a digital "image" of the voter's ballot.

Unfortunately, even with a voter verified paper audit trail feature added to the eSlate, if PA law changes, the voter is unable to be assured his/her vote was "recorded" in digital format as cast.

With the paper ballot as a record of the ballot in addition to the digital record, the voter is able to be assured that at least on the "paper" record his/her vote was recorded as cast.

though the privacy of the voter is maintained in both use of eSlate or eScan, for purposes of a recount, the eScan with second chance review and the paper record has the best opportunity to show voter intent when paper record and digital record are compared.

With the eSlate there is no such ability for comparison as the digital record would only have the ability to be compared to a digital image record, not a paper record made by the voter.

One argument for the use of the optical scanner is it takes a digital image of the ballot. With the paper ballot record also available, there could be an independent check and audit of the optical scan system before the final results of the election are made official.

Net the Truth Online

The following and more were used for this analysis.

Pennsylvania Voting Systems


Hart InterCivic White Paper
Semantic Securing the eSlate Electronic Voting System

Hart InterCivic White paper
Managing Paper Ballots with Ballot Now

Hart InterCivic eScan

Hart Intercivic white paper

Q & A

Bedford County

Lancaster County, PA

County's 550 new voting machines ready for debut
by Chad Umble - Lancaster New Era
published May 12, 2006

Ohio easier to review eScan process

eScan data sheet

The eScan Electronic Voting System

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania uses Hart InterCivic eSlate (DRE) and precinct eScan (paper ballot with optical scan reader/precinct second chance voting)

How to use

Demo link for both systems

Scattered e-voting problems
But in many places with past snafus, voting seems to be going smoothly
Computerworld staff

In neighboring Pennsylvania, however, problems cropped up early in the day.

In Lancaster County, Pa., 67 out of 232 Hart InterCivic Inc. eScan voting machines did not work properly when the scanning devices on the machines would not scan paper ballots as they were fed in, said Mary Stehman, chief clerk and registrar for the Lancaster County Election Board.

The 67 machines "have a small problem," Stehman said. One problem was that elections officials at the polling places did not tear off the ballot stub at the end of the paper ballot, she said, "so the machine jammed." The ballot stub is a receipt given to the voter to show that he has voted. If the stub isn't removed before the ballot is fed in to the scanner, it can disable the machine, she said.

The problem has occurred despite previous training by the county to teach poll workers how to use the new machines, Stehman said...

Lengthy, but informative eScan digital, not optical, scanner important material

Hart InterCivic answers questions Note the answer to the last question is an adequate one, but may not be accepted by the activist

Mr. Raborn,
I am an election integrity researcher who happens to live in Tarrant County. At the moment I am interested in optical scanners and how they are prepared for use. I wonder if you'd be so kind as to answer some questions for me?

Activist lead-in question

These machines have to sense marks in specified locations on a ballot to determine the voter's choices. When a mark has been sensed, the x-y location on the sheet permits the ballot definition software to correlate that mark with a particular candidate/issue. There must be pattern recognition software involved to detect marks. Is there any calibration procedure required to prepare the machines for reading ballots? Do we know anything about the pattern recognition software used in the E-scan?

Before answering your specific questions, it is important to be aware of major differences between the Digital Image Scanning technology used in the eScan and the traditional optical scan technology you have described and may envision in the eScan.

For example, where optical scan machines use optics to identify marks in specific locations on the physical paper ballot, the eScan uses digital scanning to create an image of the ballot and then analyze that image electronically (as opposed to physically) to identify voter choices. This distinction is important in two ways: first, the eScan does not depend on precise matching of the physical attributes of the scanning sensors with physical attributes of the ballot...electronic processing of the ballot image provides an opportunity to identify and correct physical attributes of the ballot such as skewing and/or ballot orientation. And, second, electronic analysis of the scanned ballot image provides the ability to electronically identify and process thousands of different ballot layouts without having to re-program or re-calibrate the device itself.

With that background information, the answers to your questions are:

The calibration required to prepare the machines for reading ballots is an electronic calibration of the digital scanning sensors. Once this calibration is completed, since it is not a mechanical calibration of components subject to physical wear, dislocation or relocation to match new target areas for a new or different ballot layout, recalibration is only required when the internal firmware controlling the scanner (not the election data set) is changed or upgraded.

During the ballot scanning process, the eScan passes electronic images to a computer board that runs the same core digital image analysis software as is used by Hart’s PC-based Ballot Now absentee and paper ballot central count application. Image analysis accomplished with this software includes confirmation of "target box" identification and location, as well as an image analysis algorithm to ensure the accurate detection of ballot marks and their meeting certain threshold parameters.

Activist lead-in question

All pattern recognition operations involve the possibility of false detections and failures to detect caused by human variation in marking. Does the E-scan have a specified misread rate? Is the misread rate tested on all machines? Is this done even if the machines are said to be self calibrating? How is it tested?

Hart Voting System components are submitted to federally approved independent testing authorities (ITA) for qualification as a pre-requisite to certification by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), or most recently, by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). During ITA certification testing of the eScan system, the eScan must achieve a target error rate of no more than one in 10,000,000 ballot positions, and within that error rate, the system must read at least 1,549,703 consecutive ballot positions correctly.

Even though the use of digital scanning technology used in the eScan as described above can be considered as technically obviating the need to test every device once the initial electronic calibration is completed, Tarrant County conducts pre-election testing of each eScan unit for every election and also performs Logic and Accuracy Testing (LAT), as required by Texas state law. Test decks of ballots marked with a pre-determined number of votes, including over and under votes, are scanned and tally tapes are produced and compared to the pre-determined results. Tarrant County staff also performs an additional LAT of each eScan unit once it has been delivered to the polling place.

You may also be interested to know that in addition to national and state certification, the Hart Voting System’s software design and development process is certified under ISO 9001: 2000 Quality Standards. In May 2004, Hart InterCivic received the prestigious BS7799 Information Security Certification, making them the only election systems vendor to achieve this recognition. BS7799 is an international standard recognizing excellence in all aspects of information security, including security policy, personnel security, physical and environmental security, computer and network management, system access control, and system development and maintenance.

Activist lead-in question

The kinds of misreads that can happen (comparing machine performance to hand counting) are:
1. Calling detection when no mark was intended.
2. Calling "empty" when a mark was intended.
Of course, these situations imply some sort of smudge or stray mark in case 1 and a faulty mark in case 2.
In the absence of experimental data one would assume that the probability of each type of "misread" would be equal. Is there any reason you know of why these probabilities would be unequal?

We have no statistical data or anecdotal information relative to this question.


Jerry Lobdill

Talking With your County Commissioners and Election Officials

Mercuri and Doherty

Urge County Election Officials to Choose Optical Scan Systems Over Touch Screens June 1, 2005 West Virginia Citizen Action Group

Optical scan ballots are their own voter verifiable paper ballot. While DREs with a printer attached provide a voter-verified paper record, that record is only ever counted in the case of a recount or manual audit. An optical scan ballot is counted in ALL cases -- initial counts, recounts, audits, final canvass -- and is the one and only ballot of record.

Optical scan ballots provide a more uniform voting system. When augmented by at least one ballot marking devise per precinct, optical scan ballots provide access for voters with disabilities and allow all voters to use an identical paper ballot.

from Lancaster County, PA website

Dear Lancaster County Voter:

After several months of careful review, we have selected a new voting system for our voters. Beginning with the Primary Election in May 2006, the Hart Voting System will replace our lever machines. The new voting system has two components: the eScan for paper ballots and the eSlate for accessible voting. Both will be available at each polling place, so you may use either system.

The eScan is a precinct-based digital scanner for paper ballots and the eSlate is an accessible voting machine that ensures those who are blind or have low-vision, have limited or no upper-body mobility, and those who have difficulty reading can vote in privacy without any assistance. If you are an absentee voter, you will continue to vote by mail.

The purchase of this new system is necessary to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) signed into law by the President on October 29, 2002. This law requires voting systems to be accessible so that all voters can cast a vote privately and independently, including those who are blind or who have mobility impairments. It also requires second-chance voting, giving voters a chance to review and change a vote or correct a ballot where an incorrect mark may have been made. Through HAVA, the federal government has appropriated funds to assist with the purchase of new systems.

Article clips

Early problems in Bedford, Cambria reports strong early turnout
Mid-day election update

POSTED: November 6, 2007

The E-Scan machines in Bedford, which read paper ballots, were down in every polling location in the county Tuesday morning.

Election commissioner Peg Koenig planned to visit all 40 precincts in the county to reprogram machines.

The troubleshooting should solve the problem without any late-night hand counting.

Polls were expected to close at 8 p.m. as planned.

Hart InterCivic Introduces the Technologically Advanced and Federally Certified eScan Digital Ballot Imaging System for Precinct Voting
eScan's Digital Voting Technology is More Accurate and Secure than Optical Scanning Systems published October 20, 2005

State to pay for Wayne County paper-ballot November Election
Brian Hineline 27.DEC.07

The state Department of State did not certify the 100 WINvote electronic voting machines the county purchased to comply with the Help America Vote Act due to a technical malfunction. As a result, county voters used paper ballots that were tabulated by using an eScan digital ballot imaging system that was leased through Hart InterCivic, of Austin, Texas.

Auto-Mark Technical Systems Certified PA

I've included this link to the Auto-Mark PA Certification because this includes the procedures utilized by a voter who may be disabled, or non-disabled.

Beware. The paper ballot is tabulated at a central count location. That is unlike the paper ballot on the eScan which is tabulated at the precinct level.

In addition, although from the information provided, it appears the voter may review the ballot and correct for errors, it isn't clear that the voter is notified of an over-voted ballot. The voter has to catch the over-vote. As the certification paper also says, there are problems with a voter choosing straight party, (in general election, then attempting to deselect. Thus, it may be possible the voter will not review carefully and catch for over-votes. In that case, the voter's ballot may be read at the central count, and thus the potential for voiding the ballot for over-votes may exist.

This is precisely what happens with many absentee ballot situation. The voter doesn't have the opportunity for a second chance review. There is the potential for over-votes which would then void the ballot in key races where the over-votes occurred.

Commissioners should lobby for early voting in PA, so that voters who might be away on election day, will have opportunity to utilize the machines in this case, eSlate and eScan, which both prevent over-votes by notifying the voter of such before the ballot is cast.

As the Texas exam site notes of the eScan

Straight party / crossover
Yes. Also, a warning is given if a straight party vote cancels a crossover vote that has already been selected. This prevents straight-party voting from having an effect the voter did not intend.

The site also indicates a potential problem if Ballot Now (for absentee paper ballot processing) is used for tallying the eScan ballots (when the eScan ballots have already been totaled at the precinct level). The recommendation is for election officials to keep the paper ballots cast at the precinct using the opti-scan separate from the absentee ballots opened and counted at the precinct.

Texas exams Hart InterCivic

If the same ballot is scanned by an eScan and by Ballot Now, it will be counted twice. This is not a big enough problem to prevent certification, since many systems will count ballots twice if they are scanned twice. However, since the Hart system normally refuses to count the same ballot twice, election officials may become somewhat lax about enforcing procedures to prevent this.

Recommendation: Hart should warn counties of the importance of keeping eScan ballots separate from Ballot Now ballots, so they are not scanned twice.

Net the Truth Online

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