Karen L. Hoover MD ScD

 

November 21, 2006

Statement before the Commissioners of the New York City Board of Elections

 

I want to thank the Commissioners for hearing my concerns regarding selection of the future voting systems for New York City.

 

I am here today to support inclusion of paper ballots in this process and therefore use of optical scanning.

 

As a citizen with an ordinary and barely basic knowledge of computers, yet who sits in front of one everyday--and regularly has to wrangle with (usually) minor system failures--I am greatly alarmed that our votes may be cast on error-prone DREís. This concern does not stem from my technical knowledge, clearly, but from a great and growing body of literature derived from investigative reporters and, more impressively, from a wide cross-section of academics representing institutions such as Johns Hopkins University. Despite the vigorous protestations of the manufacturers of these DREs, there are enough questions raised regarding the reliability of these devices--either through deliberate program manipulation or simply random circuitry failure--to look for better alternatives to safeguard our vote and thereby our democracy.

 

I have another concern about touch-screen voting as well--

 

On Election Day I voted on one of the Ballot Marking Devices to see what it was like to vote for the first time on a touch screen. The poll workers enthusiastically gave me the instructions and left me to it: it took eight minutes from instruction to printing out the completed ballot, with one brief confusional state when I didnít understand that new offices kept cycling forward and I didnít have to press "Cast Ballot" after every choice.So, all told, it wasnít a bad experience. (Itís also true that I couldnít see the screen due to the glare of overhead lights but I remedied that problem by standing up). On average Iíd say it takes me two minutes to vote on the lever machine. So it served to reinforce my concerns that: #1, touch screen voting can be a little intimidating--even for folks who use computers and/or ATMs frequently--and, if youíre using it only once a year or, unfortunately in most cases, once every 2 or 4 years, it takes a little time--or a lot of time--to accustom yourself to the voting protocol of the machine and #2, as a segue from #1, how accessible will touch screen voting be to the broad range of NYCís citizens who represent many different educational and cultural backgrounds? Indeed, would DREs be able to accommodate voters in a timely fashion?

 

Hereís my last concern--.

 

In 2004, my mother voted in the Presidential election on a DRE in Mahoning County, Ohio. This year she submitted her (paper) vote early as an absentee voter. The reason? In the Presidential election she selected her candidate on the screen and the opposite candidateís name popped up as her choice.Although she called over the poll worker and started the voting over, it was enough for her to lose confidence in the touch screen method and she selected a method this year that seemed tried and true to her--the paper ballot. As more and more accounts of voting irregularities with the DREs emerge and more voters find this system of voting either confusing or--as in my motherís case--unreliable, I believe voters in New York City will rightly question the validity--and perhaps the reason--for voting on this system.

 

I urge you to select a PBOS system and thus the paper ballots.

 

Thank you.