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How to Choose the Best Voting System

To our Commissioners and election officials who are part of the decision process for purchasing our new voting system:

It is extremely important that you search out current, accurate, and reliable information when making this crucial, expensive decision that will affect Bucks County elections for years to come. Election security and integrity experts offer that type of information, and have evidence to back up their positions.

Vendors should not be considered primary sources on which to base your decisions. Healthy skepticism and a strong dose of critical thinking should be used. Get countering facts and consider what you're being told from all angles. Using this information should help make your decision process easier.  Knowing what factors to be aware of to get the best system is important.

To Bucks County citizens

The commissioners making this decision will be accountable. Input from election integrity experts is a vital part of the decision-making process. All we want to do is make sure they will be making a fact-based decision. Our current voting system was chosen behind closed doors, after many months of election integrity group efforts to educate and public outcry were ignored. We can't let that happen again.

What the best voting system looks like

We believe, along with cybersecurity experts, that the best precinct voting system allows each citizen the choice to vote by hand-marking a paper ballot within a privacy booth or, if unable to hand-mark, with the aid of an accessible ballot marking device (BMD). Each ballot is then scanned, tabulated and retained by a digital scanner, to use in a mandatory post-election audit to ensure the election results are accurate and can be certified.

Equipment needed: One BMD, one digital scanner, some privacy booths

While all potential vendors offer voter-marked, paper ballot (VMPB) systems that may fit the above description, most vendors are pushing configurations (how equipment is purchased and used) that are very problematic or have some equipment with questionable security risks.

What to consider for the ideal system -- Features and Concerns

Hand-Marked Paper Ballots

  • Intuitive and easy to use

  • Available for any disabled and other voters who have difficulty using touchscreens.

  • Put as little technology as possible between voter and his vote.

  • There is no source of calibration errors, malfunction, or hacking.

  • Reliable--if machines malfunction, voters can still vote.

  • Selections are verified by the voter as they are made without requiring extra steps.

  • Allow many voters to fill out their ballots at the same time using inexpensive privacy booths, then cast votes into one precinct scanner. Shorter lines for all voters.

  • Provide a paper record that can be audited to detect problems and recounted in close elections.

Universal Accessibility: One Optical Scanner and One Ballot Marker Per Precinct


  To provide universal accessibility and options for voters, counties should:

     1) purchase one optical scanner and one accessible ballot marking device per precinct,

     2) ensure that all voters can vote privately and independently,

     3) ensure equal training of poll workers on both voting methods, and

     4) ensure that voters are given the option to vote on whichever system is more accessible          for their needs.

Optical Scanners

  • Are useful tools for counting hand-marked and BMD paper ballots

  • Retain digital images of the ballot to facilitate recounts, audits, and adjudication.

  • Alert voters to ballot problems prior to casting vote, such as over-votes

  • Can scan and count absentee ballots

  • Only need one per precinct, which means less time and money spent on callibration, testing, delivery, maintenance and storage of machines

Important information to keep in mind

Durability, Security, and Resilience

  • Machines need to be durable and physically secure, more like a rugged ATM machine and less like a delicate flat screen TV.

  • All access panels and data ports should have locks and include tamper-evident features.

  • There is no such thing as perfect security so we need systems which are resilient.

  • The system needs to be able to detect, monitor, respond, and recover from problems and security threats should they occur.

Plan for Post-Election Audits

  • Election results can be verified by recounting paper ballots. In close elections, every ballot can be recounted, but in most elections, Risk Limiting Audits (RLAs) can be used to validate results using a much smaller statistical sample, sometimes less than 1%. 

  • RLAs should be performed routinely after every election.

  • Ask what features each system has to support post-election audits. Review their audit software. Some vendors have easier ways to locate the paper ballots to compare to the statistically chosen ballot images or information, for instance.

Keep in Mind Hidden Costs

  • Possibly avoid systems which use basic supplies that are difficult to obtain, expensive, or proprietary (thermal paper, printer ink, batteries, etc.).

  • At least one vendor uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, which may be less expensive to purchase, replace, upgrade and be more resilient in the future.

  • Ask about warranties, service contracts, and the details of training, service, and repairs.

Information about the voting systems

that will be available, and how each fares

when comparing features and concerns,

can be found on "The Solution" page.

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