Monday, March 13, 2006

Hart Intercivic eSlate with paper trail is certified

Last Friday, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson issued this news release announcing that he has certified Hart InterCivic's eSlate voting system. The upgraded machine, which previously has been used in Orange County, now comes with a printer that produces a voter-verified paper audit trail as required by state law.

The news release did not provide much detail about the Hart certification, but it does only mention the eSlate, Hart's electronic voting machine. Another system Hart had up for certification in California is a new version of its paper-based optical scan voting system, called eScan. The Secretary of State's staff reported it did not do well in testing and did not recommend it for certification.

I took a look at Tarrant County, Texas' election web site and found this page which says that the county did in fact just switch to the eScan system for paper balloting in the most recent election where the final vote count was initially off by a reported 100,000 votes (more details are in the blog entry below). The folks in Texas trying to figure out what went wrong might benefit from reading the California Secretary of State's staff report on the Hart system, which summarizes the problems encountered during the volume test on the eScan, which is an in-precinct ballot scanner. The report states that of the 50 eScans tested, "42 percent of the machines experienced an error condition at least once that could not be handled by the operating system and required the eScan to be rebooted."

For those keeping track, this brings to three the number of vendors with California-certified voting systems that meet both the federal accessibility and state voter-verified paper audit trail requirement: Diebold (the TSx was recently granted conditional certification); ES&S (manufacturer of the Automark, an accessible paper-ballot marking device); and Hart. Sequoia's application for full certification is still pending (their equipment is currently conditionally-certified and cannot yet be legally used in a California primary election).

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