Yolo County, CA Spurns ES&S, Signs up to Use Vote-PAD for Voters with Disabilities, Other Jurisdictions may be Right Behind!
Made of paper, plastic and NO SOFTWARE AT ALL, the device works with a paper ballot and costs about one-tenth of flawed, hackable electronic voting machines...Could this be the HAVA voting solution America has been waiting for?
By Brad Friedman on 1/25/2006, 2:06pm PT  

State and County Elections officials from coast to coast to coast are now in a mad, confused, frustrated scramble trying to figure out how the hell to comply with and make sense of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) legislation.

HAVA has proven to be an unmitigated disaster, gamed as it was from the start by Congressmen like Ohio's Bob Ney working in cahoots with voting machine companies. The effort has shamefully employed disabilities groups like the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), who received more than a million dollars from companies such as Diebold, Inc., to help trump up the sympathy factor in order to force jurisdictions to purchase unreliable electronic voting machines (read: junk), said to be needed by disabled voters who would be unable to vote in secret without assistance from others.

As of the 1/1/06 HAVA deadline, Boards of Elections are now officially plunged into complete and utter disarray as they attempt to comply with the reckless and cynical legislation's mandated requirement (dreamt up by the American Voting Machines Vendors who stand to make billions) for at least one disabled-accessible voting device in every precinct around the country --- even in small precincts without a single disabled voter!

Touch-screen (DRE) voting machines created by mega-corporations like Diebold, Inc. and ES&S have been proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be unsecure, hackable, unreliable and finally, not fully accessible by many segments of the disabled community. Meanwhile, the one electronic-based device in which voters with disabilities have expressed the most interest, the AutoMARK system, has reportedly been kept largely out of the marketplace through a number of means. ES&S, the voting machine company who managed to secure exclusive rights to distribute the AutoMARK system, has reportedly been overpricing it in favor of their own DRE systems. As well, there have been a number of reports of ES&S sales reps being actively dissuaded from properly demonstrating that system in pitches to potential customers around the country.

As well, states such as Florida and many others have been incredibly slow at certifying the system --- which prints a readable, verifiable, recountable paper ballot with every vote cast --- even while they've already giving their blessings to DRE systems made by both Diebold and ES&S, despite the demonstrated inaccuracy, hackability and secret-software that employs "interpreted" source code, explicitly banned by HAVA guidelines.

With the rapid approach of the 2006 primary elections, the question is now: What the hell are these Boards of Election around the country going to do, to both meet HAVA requirements for voters with disabilities and provide all voters with some semblance of an accurate, reliable, recountable, democratic means of casting their vote in secret and with some certainty that it may be counted, and counted correctly?

Comes now, with not a moment to spare, an ingeniously simple, non-electronic device to allow voters with disabilities of all sorts to be able to cast their own vote, in secret, and with the knowledge that their paper ballot will accurately reflect their intent.

Say hello to the Vote-PAD, the little paper and plastic voting assistive device, that just may save American democracy...

At approximately one-tenth of the cost of competing (and crappy) electronic devices, the Vote-PAD (which stands for "Voting-on-Paper Assistive Device") was designed by Ellen Theisen, the former Executive Director of the non-partisan election watchdog group, VotersUnite.org. She created it along with the cooperation of people with dexterity and visual impairments.

It may well be the solution that exasperated Elections officials across the country have been praying for.

Vote-PAD is little more than a plastic sleeve which is fitted to an existing paper ballot, allowing voters with disabilities a number of ways to mark and verify their ballots without additional assistance. It is used along with an audio prompt and an electronic "verification wand" to further assist blind voters.

The paper ballots that the voter marks with the assistance of Vote-PAD can then be either optically-scanned or hand-counted. The device, Theisen says, requires no Federal HAVA certification since it doesn't contain any software (secret or otherwise) or electronic parts that would require such approval from Federal authorities, according to HAVA guidelines.

And apparently both disabled voters and Election Officials from around the country who have been given demonstrations of the device seem to love it!

Last week it was announced that Yolo County, California has agreed to purchase Vote-PAD to assist persons with disabilities in marking a paper ballot. Yolo is the very first such jurisdication in the country to come aboard, but, in interviews with The BRAD BLOG, Theisen suggests that more counties and even whole states may be on the verge of signing on to Vote-PAD, as well.

Freddie Oakley, the Clerk-Recorder of Yolo County, is quoted in Vote-PAD's press release about the first contract, as singing the praises of the new system:

"After an enormous amount of research, we in Yolo County feel lucky to have found this assistive device. My skepticism about computer-controlled voting is well-known, and so is my concern for poll workers. The Vote-PAD is so well thought out, it keeps control of the elections with the people's servants rather than surrendering it to big corporations. And at the same time it provides the most useful features for persons with a wide variety of disabilities of any assistive device we've seen."

While the cost of the system varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on a number of elements, Theisen pointed out to us that Oakley had informed her that the cost for their county to use Vote-PAD for five years would roughly be "the same amount of money Yolo County had been planning to allocate for storage of electronic machines alone."

There are "no maintenance fees, no licensing fees," Theisen explained, "All you have to do after you buy the original package is replace the consumables," like the plastic sleeves when they eventually run out.

The Vote-PAD website quotes a number of citizens with disabilities who also sing the praises of the device. "The Vote-PAD keeps my marks inside the circle, and the pages are easier to flip," says one tester with quadriplegia.

"For me, this 2005 election on the difficult-to-use DRE machines was just another real reminder that we definitely need your Vote-PAD," said another voter who is blind.

While evidence continues to mount about the many failures of computerized voting systems, the exhorbitant costs associated with them, and the lack of accessibility that many disabled voters have complained about while using DRE machines, Vote-PAD just may save democracy after all.

Theisen is struggling to arrange for the manufacturing of the device quickly and in large enough numbers to meet the sudden demand for the product. But, as she told us recently, she's determined to make it all happen since witnessing first hand, in her role with VotersUnite, just how needed and necessary a device such as Vote-PAD now is for this country.

The BRAD BLOG fervently endorses the much-needed device, and recommends strongly that readers who give a damn about democracy make sure their local and state election officials are aware of the Vote-PAD!

The mega-corporations such as ES&S and Diebold are spending millions to promote their flawed devices and to ensure potential customers won't hear about Vote-PAD. So, once again, it will be a matter of the citizenry making sure that word about Vote-PAD gets to the folks that need to know about it!

The Vote-PAD was recently featured in an article by WIRED NEWS which includes a few instructive graphics showing how the device basically works.

Much more information, explanation, testimonials, graphic explanations and downloadable brochures are available via the Vote-PAD website at www.Vote-PAD.us.

Vote-PAD can be contacted via email by clicking here.

Let's make some noise about it!

UPDATE: Thanks to BuzzFlash for cross-posting this article in it's entirety! It's important enough that we're happy to have others do same. Just please let us know ifyou do so. Thanks!