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Buncombe County Board of Elections


Contact your Board of Elections Members - they work for YOU 



For Further Information Contact  250-4200

Chairman (D): Mr. Jones P. Byrd
89 Edgelawn Road
Asheville, N.C., 28804
Home Phone: 828-253-5728
Office Phone: 828-258-2991


Member (R): Mr. Robert H. VanWagner
24 Forest Knoll Drive
Weaverville, N.C., 28787
Home Phone: 828-658-3394

Secretary (D): Ms. Lucy Smith
9 Pearl Street, Unit #A
Black Mountain, N.C., 28711
Home Phone: 828-669-4783
Office Phone: 828-280-2149

Suggested message:

Dear Board of Elections Member

I am calling upon you to reconsider your support for purchasing touchscreen voting machines for Buncombe County.

Elections ought to be fair and accurate, meaning that every single eligible voter's vote ought to be counted, and be seen to be counted, as the voter intended. Toward that end, I urge you to oppose any use of direct recording electronic systems (DREs) in Buncombe County. We are concerned that the DRE touchscreen voting machines could jam up and eat the paper ballots, and cause big problems with both a lack of a paper trail and longer lines for Early Voting when the machines go down.

In fact, I haven't yet met anyone who really loves DRE touchscreen machines or even wants them in Buncombe County for any reason whatsoever

DRE touchscreen voting with a thermal paper trail is experimental at best and at worst is a nightmare waiting to happen!

1. This is experimental technology from one vendor - ES&S - that has never been fully tested before being dumped on the public. Where the touchscreens of other vendors have been used - from Diebold - their touchscreens with thermal printers have eaten between 1.37% and 2.00% of the thermal paper votes which can never be recounted! Diebold was federally certified at the time of this failure. Does this sound like a good idea? Read more about the printer failure on page 6 of the CA SOS report on the volume testing of the Diebold TSX:

2. Even Wake Board of Election's own paid expert - Mr. Glenn Newkirk - opposes touch screens fitted with printers - deeming it as experimental technology, likely to jam up the machines and cause confusion and longer lines in polling places.  

Read the letter to Congress he signed

3. Just because the machines have been certified for use in North Carolina doesn't mean that they will work! The machines that failed to count votes in Carteret County were certified by the State of North Carolina. Just because a machine is certified, doesn't mean that it can't or won't fail at some time. This is especially true now since the State Board of Elections didn't fully test the new machines before certifying them - they claimed that Federal certification was good enough! There has never been a full volume test of the new ES&S touchscreen DREs with paper trail.

4. There is a slick from ES&S that on page two claims that:  
"The Real Time Audit Log (that is the printer) is easy for election workers and voters alike to use. Its 5-inch by 3-inch window and sliding magnifier can enlarge font size and clearly display voter selections...For the election worker, the Real Time Audit Log requires less paper than a printed voter receipt, resulting in fewer paper jams and malfunctions."  

That product slick can be linked here -

Advantages of Optical Scan Voting

1. Op-scan voting equipment is less-expensive than DRE touchscreen voting machines with a thermal paper trail. Wake County, an optical scan county - spent about $ 1 Million less than Mecklenburg, and Wake only has about 10,000 less voters.  Durham county even makes money recycling their optical scan ballots.  and also

2. The AutoMark works with OpScan ballots and is preferred by blind and disabled voters.

Touchscreen machines only help the blind. The Automark is the only machine that allows a wide catagory of physically disabled to vote more like everyone else in the precinct. The blind are a small percentage of the disabled voters. You can use the AutoMARK if you are blind, deaf, paraplegic, etc. It not only has the same buttons for the blind that a DRE has, it also has the sip-puff tube and foot pedals that the DRE does not have. Why on Earth buy a more expensive system that can be used by fewer voters than the AutoMARK combined with the M-100? If you look at the slick from ES&S, there is a comparison list at the end of the document. You cannot read the top row, but you can see that the AutoMARK does have more features than the iVotronic. Why wouldn't we want to buy machines that do more for more voters?

3. Durable paper ballot. Even if the op-scan machine jams or stops working, you still have a ballot that you can mark by hand or count by machine or by hand at a later time. One option is to duplicate crumpled or torn ballots (with a good chain of custody and careful recordkeeping) so they can be machine counted.

Disadvantages of Touchscreen/DREs for Buncombe County:

1. DREs would cost far more to purchase and operate than would keeping optically scanned paper ballots with Automark ballot markers for disabled voters. For early voting, about six to ten DREs would be need at each site, compared with one optical scanner and one Automark.

2. With DREs, there never are enough - even with six to ten machines, allowing only up to ten voters to vote at a time, each voter taking a few minutes, long lines could occur at rush hours.

3. A "Paper Trail" is extremely difficult to audit. In the event of recounts, which will be of entire precincts even when the count is only of "a percentage," the paper roll that ES&S has chosen for printing a "voter-verified" paper trail will be enormously difficult to handle. This difficulty may be so great that it will engender resistance to doing any recounts to assure the accuracy of election results. Any aggregation of votes on the roll would not help to satisfy the legislative requirement of a "hand-to-eye" recount. In the only case in which a manual audit of paper rolls has been tried, in Nevada for the November, 2004, election, 60,000 votes were supposed to counted from randomly selected Sequoia DREs, but only 1268 actually were counted.

4. "Touchscreen voting - Failure by Design"  VVSG Reliability standard for e-voting systems, expressed as a Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) of only 163 hours, is woefully inadequate...This standard allows 9.2% of all e-voting systems to fail in any 15-hour Election Day, and a much higher failure rate during the extended “Early Voting” periods now being implemented in many states.

Past and Current Failures of Voting with DREs

1. Most experts qualified to understand the problems, i.e. computer professionals, have expressed strong doubts about the security and reliability of DREs. See, for example

2. In 2002, 436 votes were lost by the previous model of ES&S iVotronic DREs in Wake and Jackson counties.,2645,62206,00.html Human error was involved, but with highly complex systems human error is always likely.

3. In December, 2005, a leading advocate of DREs, Prof. Michael Shamos of Carnegie Mellon University stated
"I have good reason to believe that 10 percent of systems are failing on Election Day. That's an unbelievable number. . . Why are we not in an uproar about the failure of (touch-screen voting) systems?"

4. The paper roll used on DRE machines is experimental. In an actual test of Diebold DRE machines last July, which are federally certified, there was a 1.37% failure of the paper trail. That means the paper record of the vote was destroyed or otherwise made unreadable by printer jams or malfunctions.

Follow the example of Durham County, a long time optical scan county the size of Buncombe.  Durham County's BOE has chosen optical scan and auto mark machines for early and precinct voting, and no touch screen machines. Durham, who has just 4, 318 more registered voters than Buncombe will treat this as the administrative task that it is.

The tally by precincts can be made up to 60 days after the election. This is not so different from sorting done in the past, and the cost of hiring people to do it could be paid from the interest on the savings of not buying DREs.  If Durham and much larger Wake County are going to be doing it, the there is no reason why we cannot do it as well. Therefore, I am asking you to please change your vote to purchase 100% optical scan for Absentee, Early and Precinct voting, and to recommend that the Buncombe County Commissioners approve your proposal