Timeliness and Trust in Voting Technology

There are two election process issues facing the nation this November:
* Can the polls be opened on time?
* Will voters trust the results?

The large deployment of new technologies is what drives the first question. Poll workers are often people who do not see computers often in their everyday lives. Turning on these new high tech machines in scores of thousands of polling places at 6 AM is going to be a challenge. Only machines designed for usability and jurisdictions that invest appropriately in training will lead to a "yes" to the first question.

The second question is more complicated and has several parts. Having accurate results is a very different question than trust. In a voluntary system such as our democracy, trust is certainly as important as accuracy. Even if the new machines cannot be tampered with, some will likely have bugs. In our opinion, only an unambiguous paper ballot solves the trust and accuracy questions. But not all paper ballots do so. Here's why:

The instructions for marking a paper ballot are usually quite clear - but interpretation of hand marked ballots is not. We've had the opportunity to see hundreds of hand marked paper ballots. Voters don't always follow directions. If the instruction says, "Fill in the Oval" you will find voters marking an X in the oval. Will the machine read it? Who knows? The problem with a hand-marked paper ballot is that it can be ambiguous. We expect that one day the nation will once again see judges looking at paper ballots through magnifying glasses trying to determine voter intent. Paper ballots are not an answer to trust and accuracy if the paper ballot is ambiguous.

In our view (yes we are a voting machine developer) the only way to deliver trust and accuracy is via a statistically valid human recount of unambiguous paper ballots comparing machine tallies to human tallies.