Saturday, October 23, 2004

e-voting in New Westminster, BC

Information provided by Chris Brand.

For the 2002 election, Election Systems & Software Model 100 machines were leased from the City of Toronto.
The firmware in the machines has been tested in the US to meet the US Federal Elections Commission's standards.
ES&S programmed the software for this specific election.
I asked about the possibility of the count getting reset to zero partway through the day, and was told that very few people knew how to zero the machines. The Presiding Election Officials were told to call Election Headquarters if they had any problems. There was a technician there would could deal with such problems (I wasn't told whether the technician was somebody from ES&S).
I asked about power outages and was told that the data is stored on a smart card so no information can be lost. There is a way to separate uncounted ballots cast while the power is out, which can then be fed through the machine once power has been restored.
This election happened to be very close, so there was a judicial recount which showed the machines to be very accurate.

From my own memory of the election, the ballot reminded me of the answer sheet for a multiple-choice test to be marked by a computer. We had to fill in the appropriate ovals with a pencil. The completed ballot was fed into the machine, which incremented a counter on its face. I did see it reject a ballot where the wrong number of ovals had been filled in. The completed ballots were stored inside the machine ... and were available for a hand recount.

Related stories:
The Royal City Record
City goes for lease on voting machines

In February, city council approved a staff recommendation to proceed to a Request For Proposals to purchase electronic vote counting equipment. Staff continued to look at alternatives and have now determined that leasing the machines is a viable option.

"I am glad to see this happen. We have had concerns about technology change," said Coun. Bob Osterman about purchasing electronic equipment. "This is good."
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