Saturday, July 21, 2007



July 19, 2007

Bill Huennekens
Superintendent of Elections
King County
500 Fourth Avenue, Room 553
Seattle, Washington 98104

RE: Touch Screen Voting

Dear Mr. Huennekens:

At its June meeting, Seattle Community Council Federation community representatives discussed touch screen voting using AVU (Accessible Voting Unit) machines and agreed upon this recommendation: voting must provide a paper ballot that the voter can handle before it is counted.

During your presentation about mail-in voting and touch screen voting to the Federation in May, you indicated that King County is committed to the current process with AVU machines through April 2007 and to mail-in voting for the 2008 primary and general elections with supplemental regional voting centers. Our June newsletter (enclosed) summarizes the discussion. After your presentation, the Federation voted to reaffirm its earlier stand that Seattle will need at least ten in-person polling places scattered throughout the city.

In June, the Federation also discussed using the current AVU machines at the “regional polling places.” The AVU machines have a printout within the security canister, but the voter has no opportunity to mark the ballot directly before voting, nor does the voter get a printout to view during the process of voting. A voter can only see his or her ballot by looking through the small window in the security canister below the keypad, and few do. The print is too small for older eyes and nothing tells voters to look there to verify the ballot. In contrast, voters using ACCU-vote machines have paper ballots that they can handle and review before insertion into the machine for counting.

The ability to handle paper is important. People are used to voting by paper and many (especially older voters who do not have computers at home) are uncomfortable with electronic voting. Paper ballots allow voters to skip over an issue or candidate race leaving that portion of the ballot blank for the moment, and then come back afterwards to fill in the blank areas. Electronic voting is not nearly as convenient for that. Paper ballots let a voter glance at his or her ballot as a whole and recheck it at a glance whether something is awry. Paper ballots provide an audit trail. A paper ballot properly prepared by the voter is independent of the voting machine; a printout inside the security canister depends on the machine, and malfunctions or manipulation of the machine impeaches the integrity of the ballot. Paper ballots are also quicker, e.g. when the supply of paper ballots ran out at the Bryant Elementary School in the November 2006 elections, lines formed for the AVU machine and some voters left rather than endure the long wait. Interviews about the 2006 election revealed that after some voters chose to try the AVU machine they disliked it as awkward. Paper ballots are much more amenable to write-in voting, and gives the voter greater confidence in the integrity of the election process.

Democracy demands the casting of one's vote in an election be free of doubt, ambiguity or third-party interference. Citizens deserve a voting system with stringent protections to protect the integrity of the election process. The touch-screen electronic voting system must undergo a critical, broad-spectrum analysis of advantages and disadvantages, and its potential impact upon voting, voter turnout and voter confidence in election results. Our current dilemma is the thrust of vote-counting, and-sorting machines which have rendered the practice of unencumbered public elections as something of a mirage. A paper ballot accompanied by an audit trail is the solution.

We urge King County to move its touch screen voting to machines which give voters a paper printout that they can review before inserting into a counting machine or before they touch the “confirmed” space shown on the screen. We acknowledge that some of the voters who are at ease with computers prefer touch screen voting and that many disabled voters would rather vote unaided with AVU machine than call on assistance from election officials. A preliminary printout would allow those voters an added option for reviewing their ballots and assure an audit trail. Until machines that give out a printed ballot are in use, we feel that those voters who would like to use a paper ballot at the “regional polling places” should be entitled to vote in that manner using a process like that of the ACCU-vote machine.

Thank you for considering the views of the Seattle Community Council Federation.


Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

cc: Secretary of State Sam Reed, Attorney General Rob McKenna

No comments: