Report by Teresa Hommel of NYC Election Commissioners Meeting, May 16, 2006
At the meeting of the NYC BOE today, the staff with the assistance of their Project Management/Quality Assurance contractor Gartner under the leadership of Mr. Fraga, submitted a report which the public did not get copies of, in which they evaluated the 4 systems under consideration on the criteria
a. Voter ease-of-use
b. Poll worker ease-of-use (starting the system in the morning, maintaining it during the day, closing it out at night)
c. Integration with existing programs (CBIS(?), last-minute ballot changes, testing prior to the election)
d. Vendor Strength and Support (can they deliver their systems on time, can they train our staff, are they being sued by lots of states?)
They came out with this ranked list:
2. ES&S AutoMARK (was not first due to ES&S lawsuits)
3. IVS phone system
4. Populex (does not handle Chinese and Korean, mandated languages in NYC)
They announced clearly for the public that
1. These are being treated as ballot-marking devices for 2006 only, not voting systems for 2007 and beyond.
2. For next year they will have different criteria (more criteria)
3. They will place these machines at the boro offices only, where the staff of permanent employees will have training and where they will have a controlled voting environment
4. This year the focus is solely on voters with disabilities. Next year there will be a broader focus.
5. The state board has not certified any equipment, so if the state board does not certify Avante, NYC will go to the second choice of Automark. If the state board does not certify Avante and Automark, NYC will go with IVS, etc.
6. Other conditions that must be met are that the vendors must finally agree to go to contract, and the contract must be prepared for products and services.
7. THE BALLOTS WILL BE HAND COUNTED.
I asked whether the decision to hand-count the ballots was based on the fact that the ballots from the Avante or Automark could not be counted by our existing central-count optical scanners due to the following two considerations:
1. The Avante system prints a ballot in the exact design of the jurisdiction. During preparation for the election, Avante's software copies the ballot design. During the election, after the voter has entered their votes, the Avante machine prints the ballot with the votes marked according to the voter's choices. The printer is in fact a fax machine. It prints on standard 8.5x11 inch or 8.5x14 inch paper (regular or legal size paper). Meanwhile, NYC's regular paper ballots used for absentee, provisional, and emergency ballots are scanned by an old Sequoia scanner, and these ballots are 8.75 inches wide by 14 long. The extra quarter inch in width is used for the registration marks for the scanner. The Avante printed ballots would be a different size from what our current scanners are set up for. Was there any interest in making our scanners work with the Avante ballots?
2. I thought that Automark had modified their machine to handle NY State ballot designs. Why couldn't the Automark be used to mark ballots that could be counted by our scanner?
Lucile Grimaldi answered my questions, and said that they had not asked the vendors to make their ballots readable by our scanners, and had not tried to make them scannable, because they were only a one-year interim solution, and why go through all that work.
MY REACTION -- They are really working hard to isolate this year's "solution" so that it does not bear on next year's choice. I am fine with the idea of hand-counting, but if the paper ballots can't be scanned this year, they won't be a viable choice next year. The NYC BOE must be counting on the expectation that very few voters with disabilities will travel to the county BOE office to vote on the machines. I don't know if these machines will be limited to voters with disabilities. I will go to observe the voting on election day, and the counting activity afterward. In the past the counting of paper ballots by the scanners has been done before the public.