Hearing by The New York City Council

Committee on Governmental Operations

April 24, 2006


Testimony of Rick Schwab

Poll Workers and Voters


I am here to urge you to sponsor and support Resolution 131 for safe, reliable paper ballots and optical scanners, and Resolution 228 for public testing before selection and purchase.


My concern is for the poll workers and voters.


Around our country, every time there is a problem with electronic voting machines, it is blamed on so-called "poorly trained poll workers and voters."


There is one obvious reason for this: Electronic voting machines are poorly designed.


The designers knew what the machines were for, they knew who the intended users would be, yet we keep hearing that itís thepoll workers who cannot manage or use the machines properly. We should ask if this was intentional. Was there an intention to suppress the vote or discourage people from voting or working at the polls?


There is a second, less obvious reason for blaming the failures of electronic voting machines on voters and poll workers.


Federal law prohibits the use of equipment that has more than 1 error in 500,000 ballot positions.* Even a few errors in an election could de-certify equipment -- if the errors are blamed on the equipment.

And there is a third reason. Election officials don't want to be held responsible for selectingfaulty equipment, or continuing to use it after it becomes clear that it doesn't work. So, officials keep blaming errors on poll workers and voters, and only activists question why the equipment keeps being used, or why the training is so poor. Maybe the words "poorly trained poll workers and voters" are magic words, because after someone says them, any and all election irregularities are acceptable.


The poll workers I know are patriotic retired people of normal intelligence and high civic pride. They do a wonderful job, and they do it well with little thanks.



Will New York City turn their election-day into an experience of frustration and humiliation? Will we get electronic equipment that is exorbitant, hard to use, and has a high failure rate such as other jurisdictions have had?** Will we let our poll workers be insulted and belittled by angry voters, and condescending technical staff? Will New York City use our poll workers and voters as scapegoats so that decision-makers can escape blame for choosing high-tech machines that fail?


I love technology...but I love Democracy much more! I say, keep our elections safe,. reliable and manageable.


Thank you.



*HAVA Section 301(a)(5) requires that the equipment that counts ballots meet the FEC 2002 accuracy standards, which allow a maximum error rate of 1 in 500,000 ballot positions.



Machine malfunctions: Zero vote totals, freezes, crashes, mis-calibrations, blank memory cards, battery failures, encoder failures, Candidates/races not appearing on ballot.


Palm Beach County, Nov. 2004, over 100,000 errors logged in their Sequoia machines including voter access cards getting stuck in the machine, memory failures, hard drive crashes, re-boots and re-calibrations.