The Solution

(Voting system vendors and their products at middle of page)

Voter-Marked, Paper Ballot (VMPB) Voting System

To understand why we, along with a consensus of experts in cybersecurity and election integrity, are convinced that this voting system is what we need, here’s a simple explanation of how it works:

  1. Sign in to your polling place and receive a paper ballot.

  2. Proceed to one of several privacy booths or screens.

  3. Mark your choice of candidates and ballot issues by filling in ovals next to your selections, similar to marking a lottery ticket.

  4. There is an accessible ballot marker device (BMD) for any disabled or other voters that need it.

  5. When finished, go to the one scanner in your precinct and insert your ballot.

  6. If there’s a problem, like you overvoted (chose more selections than allowed) or made an invalid mark, the scanner will return your ballot so a pollworker can get you a new one to fill out. Some systems will return ballots with undervotes (you missed voting in a race). If you intended to undervote, just re-insert right away, scanner will accept it. Otherwise, fix your ballot in a privacy booth and then re-insert in scanner once you’re satisfied. The scanning process itself just take seconds so lines there are very rare.

  7. The digital scanner will read and record your ballot.

  8. The ballot then drops down into a locked box and is retained for post-election audits and recounts, if needed. If for some reason the voting machine breaks down, malfunctions or is compromised, your vote is not lost and can still be counted. The audit assures us we're getting the best results with both the convenience of the computer and the security of the paper.

Pretty simple!  A voter hand-marked, paper-ballot (VMPB) voting system, in conjunction with a properly conducted risk-limiting audit, can do what we need it to do—give citizens the assurance that our elections are valid and reflect the true intent of the voters.

Do you have questions about what to expect when using a voter-hand-marked system? Find answers to many common ones here. Contact us if you have any other questions--we're glad to help!


So how do we get a new VMPB voting system in Pennsylvania?

The federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) oversees the testing and certification of voting systems to make sure they pass certain guidelines mandated by HAVA. Pennsylvania then re-tests and certifies systems that are submitted by vendors to the State Department to make sure they meet requirements mandated in the PA Election Code. Counties have only those to choose from when looking for a voting system.

What are our choices and how do we get what's best for Bucks County?

The PA Dept. of State mandated that all counties must purchase new VMPB voting systems by the end of 2019; DRE systems will no longer be allowed. While this is great news, we still need to push for implementation as soon as possible and to make sure we get the best one for Bucks voters. The commissioners plan to choose in November/December 2019, right at the deadline. Read Important Updates page for details.

All new systems are required to pass the latest EAC security standards to be certified, then pass the PA certification requirements before purchase by counties.  There are five vendors that have systems available now, listed below.


Members of SAVE Bucks Votes have had 7 opportunities to see and try the voting system equipment. A blind person who accompanied us also gave us her reviews of the ballot marking devices (BMDs).


Cybersecurity and election integrity experts have serious concerns that we share about some of the voting systems. The biggest concern is that most vendors are pushing for ALL voters to use BMDs to mark their ballots, and also use barcodes that allegedly contain voters' choices that are then read by the scanners. These are terrible ideas and highly discouraged. We explain those concerns, as well as why experts say voter-hand-marked ballot systems meet the "best system" criteria on the How to Choose the Best System page. We note below how each vendor's equipment fares. You can click on vendor names and products for their website info.

VENDORS AND THEIR PRODUCTS  (good features in blue, concerns in red)

 (Reminder: BMD = ballot marking device)

Clear Ballot ClearVote System


  • BMD-produced ballots are the same size, shape and type of paper as hand-marked paper ballots, and do not use barcodes.

  • BMD got high marks from a voter who is blind.

  • Uses high tech commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, which may be less expensive to purchase, replace, upgrade and be more resilient in the future. As the newest vendor, seems to have designed system from ground up with security and resiliency in mind.

  • Has impressive tabulating and auditing programs that may make conducting post-election, risk-limiting audits easier and faster.  Audit software can statistically choose ballot images to compare to the easily-located corresponding paper ballots and would ensure election results are as accurate  as possible.

  • Scanner, BMD and ballot-collecting bag are compact, very portable and seem rugged.

  • ONLY VENDOR NOT PROMOTING "BMDs-for-All" voting system configuration.

Hart Intercivic Verity System


  • BMD-produced ballots are the same size, shape and type of paper as hand-marked paper ballots.

  • BMD got high marks from a voter who is blind.

  • Scanner and BMD are very compact, easily portable and are stackable, taking up minimum transport and warehouse space.

  • Ballot box has separate compartment for unscanned ballots, and folds flat for convenient storage.

  • Equipment seems sturdy and secure.

  • Has software for post-election audits, as per website information. We did not see demonstrated at exhibitions.

  • While not specifically marketed as a BMD, the Verity Touch Duo is a new machine being marketed for vote centers and early voting, which PA does not have. It was shown at Bucks County Expo as a possible "BMDs-for-All" contender to compete with other vendors pushing that type of voting system.

  • NEW:   BMD runs on outdated Windows 7 software; will need to be upgraded and possibly re-certified with Windows 10 which may take more time and more expense.

Dominion Democracy Suite


  • BMD-produced ballots appear from vendor brochure information to be same size, shape and type of paper as hand-marked ballots.

  • Ballot box sturdy, and is larger "trashcan" style.

  • BMD-produced ballots use barcodes, which the voter cannot verify.

Unisyn OpenElect System 


  • The ballot box was secure and has a separate compartment for unscanned ballots if the scanner were to fail.

  • The lower ballot box unit (trashcan-size) is nesting-stackable for storage.

  • BMD prints differently sized ballots--narrow strips of paper--than the hand-marked ballots.

  • BMD -produced ballots use barcodes which the voter cannot verify.

ES & S

  • Precinct scanner is the DS200.

  • BMDs are the ExpressVote (hybrid or non-hybrid) and ExpressVote XL (hybrid only).   Hybrid versions have built-in scanners.    


  • Scanner has been in use for past 8 years.

  • Ballot box sturdy, and is larger "trashcan" style.

  • BMD prints differently sized ballots--narrow strips of paper--than the hand-marked ballots, and utilizes barcodes which the voter cannot verify.

  • BMD voting procedures and touchscreen were confusing even for non-disabled members of our group to navigate.

  • BMDs (hybrid models) have serious ability to change the paper ballot after being allegedly verified by a voter ("opportunity-to-mark feature") as well as a "permission-to-cheat" feature which must be disabled to be PA certified; explanations by renowned computer scientists.

  • The scanners in the hybrid BMDs cannot scan hand-marked absentee or provisional ballots, only their 4.5" wide ballot summaries.

  • NEW:   BMDs run on outdated Windows 7 software; will need to be upgraded and possibly re-certified with Windows 10 which may take more time and expense.

  • NEW:   Hybrid BMDs have now been challenged by cybersecurity and election integrity experts for new recertification tests due to alleged security vulnerabilities and not meeting some PA Election Code requirements. Actual petition here.

  • NEW: We have an entire page devoted to explaining all the problems with the hybrid ExpressVote BMDs and other concerns about ES&S as a company.

More terms to know that are the same as a VMPB system:

  • PBOS (paper-based, optical scan) system

  • VVPB (voter-verified, paper-based) system

  • Optical scan/digital scan system

A VVPAT (voter-verified, paper audit trail) may NOT mean the same thing, though, so to be more precise we use one of the other terms. This usually describes an add-on printer attached to a DRE (touchscreen/pushbutton) machine. They have been proven to be highly ineffective, and are not allowed in Pennsylvania, forbidden by our PA Election Code.

Some criticisms of a VVPAT can also apply to the ES&S ExpessVote XL (see above).


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