Voters in three small cities in New Hampshire will put their ballots by means of a brand new type of counting machine on Tuesday — one which runs on open-source software program quite than company-controlled software program — in a pilot challenge to see if digital transparency can enhance confidence within the reliability of elections.
“In 2018, 2019, it was not an important matter. Nobody talked concerning the supply code of the voting machine. Then 2020 got here and all of the sudden lots of people have been speaking concerning the supply code of the voting machine stated Ben Adida, co-founder of VotingWorks.
The nonprofit is making the ballot-scanning machines that might be used within the northern cities of Ashland and Woodstock and the coastal city of Newington on Nov. 8. They’re already in use in a number of counties in Mississippi.
“The hope is that it will give some confidence to voters who’ve questions and doubts now,” Secretary of State Dave Scanlan stated. “To the extent that some elements of the method usually are not clear, it permits folks to make use of their imaginations… about what is occurring.”
The VotingWorks units will digitally scan and tally the outcomes of the identical hand-marked paper ballots used for the state’s AccuVote machines. After Tuesday’s election, these ballots might be taken to Harmony for a guide recount by the Secretary of State’s workplace to confirm the accuracy of the gadget.
The cities have been chosen as a result of they’re among the many smallest within the state that already use poll counting machines. Their mixed inhabitants is lower than 3,000. Cities’ AccuVote machines might be out there for backup in case one thing goes fallacious.
New Hampshire has been searching for years to buy spare elements for AccuVote machines which were in use for 3 a long time. They run on the lengthy unsupported Home windows XP working system, and no elements are made for them anymore. Repairs can solely be made by cannibalizing different machines, together with many purchased in different states which have stopped utilizing them.
Adida argues that the transfer to machines working on the open-source software program often called Linux, which will be examined by anybody, makes it tougher for conspiracy theories to thrive concerning the reliability of the machines.
“Election officers are very open and clear about every part else they do. Then you have got this gear that they use which is about as secret because it will get,” he stated. “It is a good suggestion to make the entire voting system clear.”
Any choices about altering the units cities and cities can use for elections might be made by the Poll Regulation Fee, a 10-person physique whose members are appointed by the legislature and the governor. Scanlan stated there was no particular timeline for changing the AccuVote machines, though a consultant from LHS Associates, which providers the machines, warned throughout a presentation to election officers in 2019 that repairs and software program patches might develop into untenable in a number of extra elections.
The three-city VotingWorks pilot challenge is free in New Hampshire. Adida estimated that the units, that are assembled in California, would price round $6,000 every.
The principle distinction for voters between the VotingWorks machines and the AccuVote machines is that the brand new machines have a display screen that shows details about the poll after it’s inserted. This contains warnings about errors on the poll, reminiscent of overvoting or voting for too many candidates in a given race. This provides the voter the choice to retrieve the poll and place it in a separate bag the place will probably be manually counted after the polls shut.
Election screens have warned of organized efforts to intentionally overvote in some races to sluggish the rely on election evening and forged doubt on the voting course of.
As a result of it digitally scans the poll and saves a full picture, VotingWorks machines “are capable of analyze checkmarks a bit extra exactly,” Adida stated. It additionally saves a picture of all written inscriptions permitting election officers to see them on a display screen. “The on-screen choice course of is considerably extra handy and quicker for clerks and moderators.”
Adida stated the software program on a VotingWorks machine is roughly just like the Chromebook laptop made by Google, with the notable distinction that it can’t be linked to the web. Any software program modifications or updates should be executed in individual, loaded into every machine from a handheld gadget.
VotingWorks, which has 15 staff throughout the nation, is supported by a mix of donations, grants and revenue from authorities contracts performing election audits. Adida stated the plan is to develop the enterprise primarily based on gross sales of vote counting machines. It additionally makes a tool that enables voters to mark paper ballots from a touchscreen as an alternative of utilizing a pencil as is completed in New Hampshire.
Adida stated whereas it’s distressing to see the Republican Get together’s continued efforts to discredit US elections and undermine democracy, it has the impact of focusing folks’s consideration.
“The silver lining is that over time folks develop into extra educated about how the electoral system works,” he stated.
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