The electronic voting system, the Accuvote TS(x) by Diebold, was used in a demonstration at ACT on January 27, 2006. This demonstration is another attempt by the four Minnesota counties that are currently using Diebold machines (Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey and Washington) to find an alternative from using the AutoMark in order to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
The Accuvote TS(x), or simply referred to as the TS(x), is similar to the AutoMark in the sense that it is an electronic voting machine with touch screen and audio capability. It comes with standard features such as large print, a write-in option, and can be programmed in other languages. It also has a movable keypad that resembles the dials of a telephone. According to Rachel Smith from Anoka County, the TS(x) will also allow undervotes but not overvotes.
The controversy with this machine is that it is considered a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE). The TS(x) does not create a ballot for the voter to verify. Instead, it prints out a receipt with a summary of the votes that the voter can look over to make sure the machine recorded every choice correctly. The machine can also audibly read back this summary. Once votes have been verified based on this paper, the voter can confirm on the machine that everything is correct, thus “casting” the ballot, or return back to a specific race(s) to make changes. This element is seen as positive to Rachel and other election officials from the Diebold counties since the voter will never have to physically take a ballot to a precinct counter, which is a criticism of the AutoMark.
Minnesota is known as one of the few states that will not allow DRE machines to be used in polling places, and because the TS(x) falls under this category, it will be a struggle for the counties to get approval for its use. It is not certified by the Secretary of State and there is little chance that it will be. However, Rachel stated that the TS(x) is ideal for the counties that are currently using Diebold tabulators. The main reason for this is because it would be more compatible with the programming of the existing Diebold tabulators they own. Using the AutoMark would cause election officials to put in time that they do not have on tight election schedules to make sure the equipment works properly together.
“Programming ballots and voting systems is a highly technical and detail-oriented task and we are concerned about the increased level of making major mistakes with double programming,” Rachel said. The TS(x) would also be a less expensive purchase for the counties than the AutoMark. The TS(x) costs about $3,450, whereas the AutoMark has a price tag of about $5,000.
Because the Secretary of State will not approve the TS(x), Washington County plans to submit an application to the State Auditor in order to waive the requirements of accessible voting equipment that have been set forth by the Minnesota legislature. Specifically, the application would waive the following provisions from MN § 206.80 subpart b:
b) An electronic voting system purchased on or after June 4, 2005, may not be employed unless it:
(1) accepts and tabulates, in the polling place or at a counting center, a marked optical scan ballot;
(2) creates a marked optical scan ballot that can be tabulated in the polling place or at a counting center by automatic tabulating equipment certified for use in this state; or
(3) securely transmits a ballot electronically to automatic tabulating equipment in the polling place while creating an individual, discrete, permanent paper record of each vote on the ballot.
The waiver, which would expire in 2007, would allow Washington County (and possibly any other county that may follow suit) to use the TS(x) temporarily until a permanent solution can be found. In the meantime, Washington County expects to persuade the legislature and the Secretary of State to approve this equipment. According to Kevin Corbid, Director of Assessment, Taxpayer Services and Elections Department, the decision to waive the current requirements in statute is made by the State Auditor’s Office and would not need approval from the Secretary of State.