People for the American Way


To whom it may concern:


I am aghast at PFAW's analysis of HR811.  As much as I can understand various organizations and experts --especially those like Avi Rubin who vote in states where there is no VVPAT -- supporting HR811, PFAW's analysis is definitely skewed toward DREs. (However, even Avi Rubin has changed his position and is now calling for HR811 to be amended to ban DREs.)


While election integrity groups may disagree how best to obtain our goals, most have the utmost respect for each other.  Every reputable election integrity organization, created for the purpose of obtaining honest, secure elections, favors a paper ballot optical scan system (PBOS), over direct recording electronic systems (DREs).  Even most of those supporting HR811 realize its flaws, but feel it is the best alternative at the present time.


However, in your effort to discredit groups who are withholding support for HR811in an attempt to modify it or obtain better legislation, PFAW is not presenting an honest assessment of the systems and is disparaging the more secure, reliable and affordable PBOS system.


In one fell swoop you have not only undermined the last four years’ efforts of every reputable election integrity organization in the United States, but you have discredited the voting system that can best put integrity back into US elections.  And you have misrepresented it to the very people whose vote you require to reverse the disastrous policies implemented over the past five years.  Many of your own members believe George Bush won the last two elections because of flawed elections.


The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting has already outlined a great deal of the misinformation contained in your analysis, stating that your analysis reads like a sales pitch for touch-screens, and will be used as a rationalization to saddle our states with more failed technology and more failed elections for years to come.


In addition to these comments, I would point out other misrepresentations in PFAW’s analysis. Your statement, “many civil rights and disability rights organizations …have testified that the electronic interface inherent in DREs and Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) offers better access options to voters with disabilities and voters who have minority language needs”, ignores the fact that PBOS systems must include an interface ballot marking device (BMD). Accessibility is a requirement of HAVA. And any PBOS county I contacted, allows voters to use these BMDs to access other languages. AutoMark does this wonderfully! Do you know of any county who forbids this?  So the counties do not have to print endless ballots in different languages for poll site voters, or train poll workers to handle thousands or millions of ballots in different languages. Minority language voters do have the choice, when using the BMD, to use whichever language they choose when they use the BMD to mark their ballot.


In the PFAW analysis, you refer to the national broadcasted film, “Hacking Democracy”, which focused on Black Box Voting's demonstration of the tamperability of Diebold's optical scanner, "Indeed, the “hackable” technology at issue in the film… was optical scan technology, not DREs”, but you conveniently fail to mention that Diebold’s DRE and DREs of other vendors have also been hacked. Even Bev Harris of Black Box Voting is not supporting HR811 until it bans the use of DREs.


PFAW’s analysis incorrectly implies that the NIST recommendations were equal for PBOS and DREs with VVPATs:  “However, the scientists at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have stated in a report after the 2006 election that, while DREs without VVPAT lack the software independence to make them adequately secure, DREs with VVPAT and optical scan systems both possess auditability such that they are software independent and therefore can be made adequately secure."


What NIST actually says is: the "use of EBMs [electronic ballot marking devices] holds great promise for usability, accessibility, and security. It may well be that the combination of an EBM and an optical scanner is a simpler approach than VVPAT."  


The NIST papers also discuss problems with DRE VVPATs and barcodes at length: "To a large extent, though, the usability of the paper record depends on how well the voting system in question has been designed to work with a paper record or whether the paper record is an afterthought. Current examples of DRE-VVPAT are a good example: current DRE-VVPAT is basically a DRE with a printer grafted on. Current implementations of DRE-VVPATs using relatively small paper rolls with unreliable mechanisms are not as usable or accessible as they could be if designed from the ground up to use paper. Some studies assert that use of EBMs might be a more usable and accessible approach than DRE-VVPAT… because the EBM is designed specifically to be usable, accessible, and to produce a larger, more complete and legible paper ballot."


Later NIST states:" At present, most if not all DRE-VVPAT systems print and store the voter verified paper records on a continuous paper roll." NJ is still waiting for Sequoia's "cut & drop" VVPAT to work.  So, while NIST recommends -- and legislation may mandate -- that paper rolls should not be used in new voting systems, again, working, tested alternatives don't exist.


Once more Congress is mandating choices of voting machines, some of which are merely prototypes, trusting that vendors will do what they have failed to do in the last four years: perfect DREs in time for near-future elections.  On the other hand, PBOS systems have been in use, successfully for many years in many counties and are shown to be more reliable for voting, recounts and audits.


If you look at the many serious failures of DREs in the 2006 elections and how many states and counties are switching from DREs to PBOS systems, you will see the disastrous failure of DRE systems and the disenfranchisement they have caused. (,


PFAW has taken many actions to bring integrity and justice back to Americans, and I have aligned myself with many of your campaigns. But you are not an organization expert on voting machine issues, and you have made a serious blunder.  Hopefully you have the courage and integrity to correct your misinformation.  If not, please at least remove the flawed analysis from your website and emails.




Marge Acosta

Centerport, NY 11721