Memorandum

To:                   Bryan Tippie
                       
Director, Department of Finance

From:               Alexander A. Ables
                       
General Registrar

Date:                3 September 2003

Subj:                Voting Equipment Upgrades

The County of Fauquier is presently using AccuVote voting machines that read and record votes based on markings made by the voter on a paper ballot.  These machines were purchased 1995 without the technology that would enable the machines to read marks made by any marking devise other than the prescribed black felt-tip ink pen.

The Office of the General Registrar would like to upgrade its current voting equipment by changing the optical recognition device on each machine with “light readers.”  Simply put, this upgrade will enable voting equipment to read and recognize marks on a ballot from any marking device, such as any color/style ink pen or pencil.  At present, the County only has three voting machines containing this upgraded equipment.  In 1997 machines of this type were no longer produced without this enhanced technology as standard equipment.

Voting machines without this upgrade will not recognize voted races appearing on a ballot unless the prescribed black felt-tip ink pen is used.  It is highly probable, and this office firmly believes, that some voters in certain circumstances are inadvertently marking their ballots with a regular pen/pencil they have with them other than the one provided.  The result is those races voted are not being counted and the General Assembly will not allow voting machines to be programmed to reject a ballot marked in this manner.  Therefore, any ballot marked in this manner is accepted by the machine and the voter mistakenly believes his vote has been properly cast and recorded.  For example, in the May 2002 Town of Warrenton general election, the incorrect marking pens were inadvertently used in one town precinct resulting in no votes being recorded.  This problem was not identified until the voting machine statement of results was generated indicating no votes having been counted.  This resulted in ballots having to be counted by hand in the polling place.

In light of the May 2002 town general election and the extremely narrow margins for two races in the June 2003 Republican primary election, the need for such an upgrade is apparent.  As long as these non-upgraded voting machines are in use, the likelihood for a recount in a close race is an attractive option for an unsuccessful candidate.  More to the point, this upgrade will improve the integrity and accuracy of elections for this County and remove any question of whether all votes were indeed counted.  To proceed without this upgrade for the next General Election or any other future election is a gamble.  It is a gamble that margins of victory will be wide and unsuccessful candidates will again listen objectively to the costs and risks outlined by this office in proceeding with a recount.  It is a gamble that voters will not inadvertently use the wrong making pen when voting their ballot or that the wrong type of pens will be sent to a precinct.  All these instances either individually or taken as a whole serve to create suspicion and apathy of the election process and this office.

This office is also requesting the upgrade of the memory card for each machine.  Memory cards are electronic storage devices that are programmed to contain a ballot style used in a precinct.  This ballot style is unique to the precinct that it is used.  The memory card is also the data storage device that records all the votes cast in each race.

Currently, the vast majority of memory cards used in County voting machines is 32K in memory capacity.  New upgraded memory cards are 128K in size and capable of storing more information.  The need for new larger capacity memory cards arise from the corruption of a memory card thus not allowing the voting machine to read or record information to that memory card.

To correct this problem either the existing memory card or new memory card has to be programmed in this office using the central absentee precinct (CAP) memory card as a template.  The CAP memory card is used because it contains all precinct ballot styles used for that election.  A CAP uses a 128K memory card due to the large size of information contained therein.  Unfortunately, a 128K memory card cannot program a 32K memory card because a 32K memory card does not have necessary storage capacity of a 128K memory card.  Because of this, this office cannot reprogram a corrupted 32K memory card.

This past June illustrated the need for new 128K memory cards as several 32K memory cards were corrupted and replaced with a back-up 128K memory cards.  The County currently has three 128K memory cards.  This past June the County had an additional 128K memory card on loan from our election equipment supplier.  All four 128K memory cards had to be used due to corrupted 32K memory cards.  It was only by chance this office had the extra 128K memory card it could press into service at the last minute diverting an otherwise major election crisis.

Diebold Election Systems, the County election equipment supplier, has been contacted regarding prices and timeframe for performing the requested upgrades.  To have the upgrades complete and back to the County in time for the November General Election, the voting machines need to be shipped to Texas by 15 September 2003 .  The prices for the light reader and memory card upgrades are listed below.

Quantity     Upgrade Description                                Unit Price                Total

19             AccuVote-OS Visible Light Reader Upgrade    $1,800.00      $34,200.00

23            128K Memory Cards                                           $250.00        $5,750.00

                                                                                       Grand Total:      $39,950.00

NOTE:   Diebold Election Systems is offering a $65.00 trade-in for each of the County’s 32K memory cards.