Friday, August 04, 2006

Bysiewicz Unveils Optical-Scan Voting System

The Secretary of the State's office has decided to replace the old lever voting machines, which may no longer be used under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). From the press release:
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced today that her office has entered into a contract with LHS Associates of Massachusetts to provide optical scan technology to replace lever voting machines across the state.

“As our office considered possible new voting technologies, the principles of security, accessibility and reliability guided our decision-making. We heard from thousands of citizens, academics, and advocacy groups concerned about the pitfalls of touch-screen voting technology. Touch-screen technology, in its current state of development, is simply is not ready for ‘prime time’ herein Connecticut.” Secretary Bysiewicz said.

Optical scan machines will allow us to mark a paper ballot, which will then be scanned by a machine. Persons with disabilities will be allowed to use special voting machines, where they can cast their ballot privately and independently using a telephone.

This is the future, folks. Say goodbye to the lever voting machines while you can. I know I'm going to miss them. But I'm glad that we're using optical scan instead of electronic voting machines, which have real security concerns.


Chris MC said...

Congratulations to Rich Sivel, George Barnet, and all the grass roots activists who created public awareness, held public forums, educated Democratic Town Committee and State Central Committee people, lobbied the Legislature, testified before Committees, and put the pressure on Susan to abandon her terrible initial plan and pursue the right course.

Citizen action and grassroots activism at its finest.

Congratulations guys!

Genghis Conn said...

Yes, I'm breathing a sigh of relief. Optical scan is a much, much better route to go.

Anonymous said...

Chris MC -

And tell me why we should re-elect this woman please?

I think I missed it through all her aspirations to move into the governor's mansion, her misguided initial decision on the voting machines and favors for fellow democrats who don;t that a deadline is a deadline.

Chris MC said...

A2:29 -
Uh, I gotta go now. ;-)

GMR said...

Can someone please tell me why optical scan machines are better than lever machines?

With lever machines, there are no stray marks, so there can't be any ambiguity about whom you voted for. Optical cards can have stray marks.

Lever machines are not difficult to use. You flip switches and then pull a lever.

How can someone cheat at a lever machine that couldn't be done with an optical scanning system? I know that someone could somehow rig the machine, but if they could rig the machine, couldn't they do something to the optical scanner as well?

Seriously, I imagine the answer is obvious, but I can't figure out why. There can't be voter error with optical scanners.

turfgrrl said...

Touch screen voting without paper audit trails should never have been in play in the first place. But really, polling places are just so 20th century. We should be investigating voting by mail, like Oregon.

Genghis Conn said...


You're absolutely, 100% correct. But for whatever reason they don't comply with HAVA (federal law). I wish we could keep the lever machines, myself.

Janet said...

It seems to be that optical scanning can cause even more of a problem.

Sure you've got stray marks, but you've also got the fact that people are voting with a simple number 2 pencil. Couldn't someone just erase the votes for numerous people and switch them?

Why can't we do computerized voting that also has a paper print-out? The computer tallies the votes, and as each person votes it also prints out who they voted for. This way if the computer crashes, you have a paper trail...

disgruntled_republican said...

GC & GMR -

We had this discussion when I was a Councilman. I preface this with the fact that I too prefer the current machines.

The main problem is that they are old. Most over 50 years and parts are not readily available for them and are quite expensive. Virtually every town has to fix them every year and it can potentially cost thousands of dollars anually for towns to fix these machines.

As for inclusion in HAVA, remember that it was Sen. Dodd who authored the law...just saying.

Anonymous said...

I see the state just settled a lawsuit that extends absentee voting military personel. The state actually had to be sued before before we engaged in this practice? What a shame!

Bysiewicz has been awful. I think many Democrats have to agree that her handling of this voting machine thing has been a total disaster.

Anonymous said...

We either re-elect Susan or we get to have the GOP Candidate who was Registar of VOters iN Cheshire and works at Home Depot.

It is the lesser of the two evils in this scenario.

Actually this type of voting method works for me.

John Nussbaum was pushing for this and everyone didnt take him too seriously(but thats understandable) when he was running for Secy of the State.

Optical scan will be a better way once we all adjust to it.

Anonymous said...

GMR, the two big reasons for replacing them are (a) upkeep/maintenance and (b) accessibility. As disgruntled correctly pointed out, upkeep of the lever machines is getting nearly impossible, as parts are more and more difficult to find.

As far as accesssibility, the new machines are supposed to allow not only those who are physically disabled but also those who are blind and deaf to actually go to the polls, not just vote absentee.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 3:02 indicates that experience is needed for the Secretary of State Job. Must be a Lieberman supporter!!!

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Hey, if the guy works at Home Depot maybe he can get CFIS up on some cinder blocks, under a shady tree, and beat on the damn thing with a socket wrench until it actually works.

Derby Conservative said...

A3:02- What is wrong with a Home Depot employee running for public office? The fact that you are calling into question his qualifications for the job of SOTS just because he’s a blue collar worker reeks of the typical intellectual elitism that seeps from the pores of some Northeast Liberals. I suspect that you would never show this true opinion of blue collar workers if you were seeking the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.

The fact is, most towns’ Registrars of Voters are part time positions. You need to work another job to make a decent living. Mr. Abbate is very good at what he does and is as knowledgeable of state election laws and procedures as anyone…probably even more so than Ms. Bysiewicz. This is why the GOP nominated him. You can say what you want about GOP candidates (and you Lefties on this Blog say the darndest things), but you can’t honestly question their qualifications.

bluecoat said...

I hear the Educational Testing Service out of Princeton is going to eliminate the use of optical scan forms after all these years and set up lever machines in each testing center for the SAT's.

GMR said...

OK, so the lever machines are old and parts are hard to come by.

There are no new lever machines? I just find it difficult to believe that optical scanning is the best way to vote. Lever machines or touch screen kiosks seem to be much less prone to voter error. I mean, you can see whom you've selected, and then that's it. Optical scanning brings in stray marks, pencils, etc.

I imagine that touch screen systems are very expensive, certainly much more than a lever system would cost. I'm not an engineer, but it seems crazy that we settled on optical scans instead of lever or touchscreen.

And no, I don't work at a company that makes these machines and I don't own stocks in them, and to all you Lieberman supporters, I don't own investments in hedge funds that have investments in voting machines. This is purely an observation on my part.

bluecoat said...

and DG: with regard to As for inclusion in HAVA, remember that it was Sen. Dodd who authored the law...just saying. and Bush signed it into law.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

Derby Conservative said...
Mr. Abbate is very good at what he does and is as knowledgeable of state election laws and procedures as anyone…probably even more so than Ms. Bysiewicz.

Damning him with faint praise?

He's also a former race car driver (has to be able to think quickly or he'd probably be dead) and a member of the craft.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...
Hey, if the guy works at Home Depot

You might check out the benefit package at HD.

I know a slew of semi-retired white collar people that work there part time soley for the insurance package.

IOW's it's not the money they make there that matters, it's the insurance premium they save that motivates them.

Anonymous said...

I would never work at Home Depot or Walmart ever again. Because they are slave drivers: they own you, you dont get any holidays off and the conditions are deplorable.

You cant have a life working in those places that is why I like my overnight job in Security No one to bother me I see my boss perhaps in the morning If he arrives before I leave and no one looking over my shoulder.

GMR said...

I would never work at Home Depot or Walmart ever again. Because they are slave drivers: they own you, you dont get any holidays off and the conditions are deplorable.

Well, lucky for you, you live in a country where one's place of work isn't compulsory. And like you did, if the other Walmart workers find something better, they can also leave.

Anonymous said...

Back to the topic of the thread......

Lever machines are indeed what we're all "comfortable" with. And yes, they are out-dated and parts are hard to come by. But that's not the reason they need to go. The problem with lever machines is that they can be rigged and there would be no way to recreate the vote and determine the true winner. There is no backup with a lever machine.

ATM-style machines suffer from similar problems. It is far too easy to crack into most of the systems on the market and tamper with the electronic results. Without verified paper trails, these machines are far too insecure.

The optical scan machines are much less easy to crack and tamper. They also produce a verified paper trail by definition. Of all the options, optical scan provides the most tamper-resistent solution.

PS - Abbate is a good guy who wouldn't be a great SOTS, but he probably wouldn't screw things up too badly in the end. Guess that's something he and Susan have in common!

PPS - I ignored the disabled / accessibility aspect of all of this. That's important, but I think ensuring the integrity of the vote is more so.

Anonymous said...

correct me if I'm wrong, but can;t optical scan ballots have the same problem as punch cards i.e. difficulty ascertaining voter inentions i.e. partially filled on boxes, double voting, stray marks cancelling votes et al ?

Let's just call her "Katherine" Bysiewicz from now on

Anonymous said...

I was wrong. The debacle optical scan ballots were involved in was Washington 2004, not Florida 2000

"The suit, which names Washington's Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed and King County Elections Director Dean Logan, alleges that when optical scan machines won't accept ballots, workers have filled in ovals on ballots or created duplicate ballots after determining the intent of the voter"

Yeah, an improvement on the lever machines. NOT

Thanks "Katherine"

Gabe said...


And no, I don't work at a company that makes these machines and I don't own stocks in them, and to all you Lieberman supporters, I don't own investments in hedge funds that have investments in voting machines.

From what I understand, you can't work in those companies because they don't exist anymore. Thats what makes the repairs prohibitively expensive. Also, that may be why they weren't included in HAVA.

I also remember hearing (when I lived in NY) that there was speculation that the machines could be preset with votes. I imagine any machine could be, but what I had heard about the lever machines was that it was very easy to do and very difficult to be caught.

For what it is worth.

MikeCT said...

Bysiewicz only came to this decision after a couple years of being dragged, kicking and screaming, towards it. Tried to run roughshod over registrars, voting maching experts, etc, etc. Same with voter verified paper ballots - she opposed it until her position was doomed to failure. And then there was her silence on campaign finance reform. She has been an abysmal failure.

As Chris MC suggests, any good that has been accomplished in democracy reforms in this state has been the result of the relentless pressure of citizen activists.

Richard Winger said...

Does anyone know WHEN the new voting system will be in place in Connecticut? I assume 2007, right? Or will the new machines be ready for Nov. 2006?

Anonymous said...

I run a small to medium health care agency. We survey all our residents with an opitcal scan satisfaction questionaire. Aprox $3,000 for scanner, aprox $2,500 in for software (one CPU); and 5-10% of our surveys are not accepted and must be hand recorded. Is this really happening?

Gabe said...

They are aiming for Nov 2006 - but that seems like a tight schedule to me!

Anonymous said...

"(AP) Rockville, CT; November 10, 2006.

Supporters of Congressman Rob Simmons and challenger Joe Courtney have both pointed the finger at Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz for her role in the too close to call Second District congressional election fiasco.

Simmons has charged that election officials in Norwich "enhanced" dozens of ballots counted for Courtney. Courtney and Simmons both charge that hundreds of votes were not properly counted when machines procured by Bysiewicz malfunctioned in Enfield and Ledyard."

"Simmons has also filed suit to recuse Bysiewicz, a prominent Democrat and possible 2010 gubernatorial candidate, from taking a role in the recount, which at present shows Simmons clinging to a 53 vote lead. "

Anonymous said...

To confirm Gabe's Comments I heard on Fox 61 News last night The Optical scan Machines will be used starting with November 2006 election.

bluecoat said...

Absentee ballots in many CT cities and towns have been optical scan for years. and so have SAT tests!!

Anonymous said...

our new system will be like the SAT tests, ...that's the best Katherine Bysiewicz could do?

Troubles by the Score
The SAT results are in—and thousands were reported incorrectly. Our bad, the College Board says. But do we know how bad?

"As if the college admissions process weren't stressful enough, last week about 4,000 students learned they had been given the wrong score on the October SAT"

Richard J. Abbate said...

OK, so I'm a little late to this thread, I've been busy building a statewide campaign. I've never run for 'high public office' before so this part is new to me. In any event I am not nearly as late as Bysiewicz has been in making a decision about voting machines, and she has made a bad one at that.
First of all lets get a few personal issues out of the way. Yes I worked at Home Depot. I didn't find them to be "slave drivers" or in any way oppressive to me. Like any job it had its issues, but for nearly two years I received a decent pay check for part-time work. (I didn't take the benefits package as it was not that great for part-timers and my wife changed jobs which gave us a better deal. Just wanted to clear that up since it came up it the thread.) With regard to the pay check, it was fair pay for the hours worked, which is more than I can say for the Town of Cheshire with regard to its Registrars of Voters. The ROV job in most towns is part-time, with no benefits, and little if any respect. I made a commitment to do what needed to be done, as I saw fit, as a concerned and involved citizen, and I'm glad and proud that I did. That said it was not a very pleasant place to work given the attitude of the Town Manager and the Town Council, who basically wished that they didn't have to spend money on elections at all. When I become Secretary of the State it is my intention to investigate the possibility of compensating the Registrars (who really should be renamed Local Administrators of Elections) the same way we do our State Legislators. Elect them locally and have them paid by the State, on a sliding scale based on a matrix of responsibilities in their towns.
As to my former occupation as a racing driver. I began as an eighteen year old with an interest in cars and racing. I had no money, no connections, and frankly not much knowledge of what I was getting into. I worked hard, drove well, created innovative ways to acquire sponsorship, and over a period of twenty + years, working mostly partime, built it up into a nationally competitive racing team called 'American Spirit Racing'! After having accomplished virtually everything I had set out to accomplish twenty years before, I closed down my team in 1986. I drove for other teams for several more years and continue to instruct at high performance driving schools held at Connecticut's Lime Rock Park racetrack. It was truly a love of my life, but I have moved on to other things!
The new 'love of my live' is elections administration. Nothing could be more fundamental to our form of government than elections. I have become passionate about it! When I came to the Registrars of Voters office in Cheshire, ten years ago, to serve as 'temporary' Assistant Registrar of Voters I had no idea that I would some day be running for Secretary of the State. I expected to work there for a few months while I was between jobs. Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you and so here I am today. I never had any stong aspirations to run for public office, I just felt an obligation to do the job and do it well. I have spent the past four years as President of the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut. I was elected to two terms by my Republican and Democratic colleagues. They are the ones who inspired me to take on this challenge. They know that I am knowledgeable in the area of State Elections Law, that I have worked with both sides of the aisle in Hartford at the Legislature and that I have a totally unbiased approach to the job of elections administration. I have been fighting with Bysiewicz on behalf of Connecticut's voters for the past eight years. Her mishandling of the new voter machine acquisition is, in my opinion, almost criminal! She has completely ignored the advice of elections administators and citizens across the state, and from both parties, since at least 2002. Her selection of the IVS system for our disabled voters does NOT meet the requirements of the Help America Vote Act, and will continue to leave many handicapped voters disenfranchised.
I have challenged her to debate me on this and other issues related to the duties of the Secretary of the State, but as yet I have had no response from her or her campaign.
I have made the following promises since announcing my candidacy. If elected I will do everything possible to name an experienced elections administrator, who is a member of the Democratic Party, as my Deputy Secretary of the State. Non-partisanship must begin at the top! I will not use the office of Secretary of the State to seek any other elected position in government. I will be a full time SOTS and not waste the peoples time and money running around campaigning for my next job! I have NO interest in running for any other elected office other than this one, the one I am most qualified to fulfill! Finally I will, if so elected, limit myself to two (2) terms of office. If I can't get the job done in eight years then I never will!! When was the last time you heard a candidate make statements like that?
I could go on at even greater length about this subject, but I will leave it at that for now. I will be happy to address any questions that anyone may have regarding the position of SOTS and my desire to serve in it.
Richard J. Abbate
Candidate for Secretary of the State