Every year when I vote I use the Automark machines, which are designed for voters needing assistive voting technology at the polls. At my polling place I seem to be the only person who ever uses them, so this is some way to do my bit of public service.
The last few times I have gone through this there have been problems. The first time, I gave up and voted on a regular machine; the second time, I figured things out in time to vote with it. This time I'm going to get it right (I hope).
A recap of problems from previous times:
from May 2008, Automark voting issues:
I got to the polling place a little bit earlier this time and tried it again. It misbehaved the same way, but this time there was time to figure it out, so the poll workers called in their expert who drove over to help figure it out. The solution ended up to be very simple: the detachable stub on the ballot must be detached before putting the ballot into the machine, despite the very clear instructions on that stub not to detach it, and with no visible instructions to detach it anywhere on the AutoMARK machine.
I was able to find with some digging an AutoMARK Troubleshooting Guide, which mentions two possible solutions: either remove the stub before putting the ballot into the machine, or program the machine to recognize the stub. I don't know whether this stub length programming is possible with the ballots we are using.
If the ballot has a stub, the stub length may not have been entered into the election setup information.
Note that the system did work with the sample ballot tested by the poll workers - but the sample ballot did not have a stub at the top!
Listing municipalties that are new to using AutoMARK is a huge catalog - this is just this season's clipping report.
Joyce McKinley, director of elections for Centre County, said voters shouldn't have any problems with the optical scan machines unless they overvote or undervote.
Overvoting happens if the voter has chosen more candidates than allowed, and undervoting is when voters choose fewer candidates than allowed. In those instances, voters can choose to have the ballot returned to them or accept the ballot as it is, McKinley said.
"We don't know for sure that those votes are counted," said Indiana University-South Bend Political Science Professor Dr. Elizabeth Bennion. "And, in the case of a close race, it would be very difficult to do any kind of a recount. So, I think there is real reason for concern."
That "touch screen" technology is used to "automark" specialized ballots filled out by those with special needs in St. Joseph County. But the actual ballots aren't tallied or counted until the paper ballot marked by the machine is fed into the same optical scanner used by all other voters, said St. Joseph County Clerk Rita Glenn.
Saugus, MA (The Daily Item, Lynn MA)
SAUGUS-This November, the town will once again set out AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals at each polling place and, this time, Town Clerk Joanne Rappa hopes someone other than the poll workers will use them.
AutoMARK terminals allow voters with just about any kind of handicap to cast their vote unaided in the polling locations just like every other voter. The problem, Rappa said, is while the town has had the machines since 2007 no one uses them. She said she suspects they go unused for one of two reasons, people aren’t aware the machines are available or don’t know how to use them.
YANKTON, S.D. (AP) Secretary of State Chris Nelson says a problem that cropped up with touch-screen voting machines in the 2006 election won't recur this year.
States must have at least one touch-screen machine in each polling place so people with visual or other disabilities can cast their own ballot in secret.
South Dakota's AutoMARK machines merely mark a paper ballot that people review after they vote to ensure its accuracy.
Nelson says there was a problem with the 17-inch-long ballots that were used in 2006.
This year, the ballots are 14 inches long, and Nelson says the problem won't happen again.
As always, vote early, and vote often.