Training Module 4 - Legal Voting Equipment


Module 4: What equipment is legal to vote on?

(NOTE: for more complete learning, take the time to click the links in the text below, and review the official websites)

HAVA: After the Bush-Gore "hanging chad" voting fiasco in Florida in 2000, the "Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed in 2002, setting minimum requirements for voting laws and equipment in the states, and providing some federal funding for equipment. 

Since 2002, the KY State Board of Elections has certified voting equipment able to be used in the Commonwealth. 

Every County has the responsibility to procure and maintain their own voting equipment, so there a number of variations of equipment out there - with many counties having multiple types of machines, and  various ages of equipment: County Voting Equipment List   There is value in identifying what equipment your County has, and any plans to upgrade it before 2022.  Observers should become technically familiar with the workings of the equipment. 

New Equipment: Under the newly passed voting law, HB 574, any new voting equipment purchased must use or produce a human-readable paper ballot that can be verified by the voter and hand audited or recounted later.  About 20% of the old machines in the state are not up to date with this rule, but every County has the ability to use paper ballots on at least some of their machines.  [NOTE: AFIEKY recommends that you ALWAYS request a paper ballot, and encourage your friends to do so.  Votes recorded on an electronic "DRE" voting machine can never be audited or re-counted if there is a dispute.]

Voter Check-In: Many counties now use an iPad based system to verify and check in voters and issue them a ballot.  These iPads are connected electronically to the County voter rolls, and can scan codes on state IDs to look up a voter.  They are helpful, but not infallible - human oversight is still required. The new law HB 574 requires procedures to detect if a voter is attempting to vote more than once, for instance absentee and in-person, or to vote twice in person.  If a voter is identified with an ID as being on the voter rolls, they are issued a ballot. 

Ballot Marking: the simplest and most secure way to vote is with a paper ballot, hand marked by the voter.  ("it's hard to hack a pencil").  Some locations will use a machine that allows on-screen selections and prints out a durable paper ballot for the voter to verify and scan - these machines are legal in KY, but most voters feel more comfortable with old-fashioned hand-marked paper.  These type of "Voter Verified Paper (VVP)" machines reduce the need for pre-printed paper ballots and may be convenient for the election operation, but any electronic system is potentially vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. 

Legislation has been proposed for 2022 to make it illegal for any of these machines to be connected to the internet on election day.

ADA Ballot Marking: One of the HAVA requirements is that equipment must be available to assist elderly and disabled voters (under ADA) who have limited ability to read or mark their ballot choices.  Each polling place must have an assistive voting machine for these special needs.  The machine allows the voter to make selections electronically, and records the votes either electronically or on a printed-out ballot.  Other voters are allowed to use the ADA-compliant machine, but few do. Many of these machines are older, and are challenging for the poll workers to set up and keep operational. 

Ballot Scanning/Tabulation: paper ballots are taken by the voter to another machine that scans and tabulates the ballots, and checks for errors, double marks, etc.  The scanner will indicate if the ballot is scanned successfully, and the paper ballot is to be securely stored for audit and recount use if needed.  

  • Many counties use a USB "thumb drive" to transfer vote tallies from the scanner to the central county tabulation computer. The correct procedure is to use only a brand new thumb drive, and discard it after one use to avoid potential malware being transferred back to the scanner, but this procedure is not 100% enforced.  There is no legal reason for anyone to be inserting or removing thumb drives from these machines while the polls are still open. 
  • Legislation has been proposed for 2022 to make it illegal for any of these machines to be connected to the internet on election day.  The concern is that a hacker or malign actor could alter vote totals at the scanner source, making it hard to detect.  The new law HB 574 requires that machine audit logs be made available as a public record.
  • The "register tape" output of the scanner is a certified permanent record of vote totals at the end of election day.  This total can be easily verified by hand counting the paper ballots stored with that scanner if needed.

Action Steps:

  1. Become familiar with the current and planned voting equipment for your county in 2022, and learn how it works.
  2. Be sure to express your preference for hand-marked paper ballots when voting.
  3. If you are working the polls on election day, be alert for any signs of a vote marking or ballot scanning machine being connected to the internet or a USB drive during the election day, and report any findings to the proper authorities.  Document any irregularities.  Encourage your legislator to make it illegal to connect voting equipment to the internet.
  4. Contact your AFEIKY coordinator with any unusual findings, or any additional information that should be in this training.

End of Module.  Thanks for learning and being engaged!


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  • John Hodgson
    published this page in Training Modules 2021-07-10 12:25:47 -0400