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New Ballot Marking Device from ES&S, AutoMARK Makes Optical Scan Voting Accessible to Voters with Disabilities; Breakthrough Technology Increases Participation in Democratic Process

OMAHA, Neb. & CHICAGO(BUSINESS WIRE)March 31, 2004Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and AutoMARK Technical Systems (ATS), LLC, formerly Vogue Election Systems, today announced the two companies have teamed up to offer the ES&S AutoMARK(TM), breakthrough ballot-marking technology that allows voters with disabilities to mark a ballot privately and independently when using an optical scan voting system. Importantly, this innovation allows jurisdictions that use optical scan systems to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which requires all polling locations to be equipped with at least one disability-accessible voting machine.


"At ES&S, we recognize the incredible responsibility we have in supporting the democratic process and ensuring it is open and accessible to all voters," said Aldo Tesi, ES&S president and CEO. "Over the years, we have taken steps to meet the industry's needs, and the ES&S AutoMARK addresses two very critical challenges. First, this technology will improve the act of voting for individuals who may have been disenfranchised in the past. Secondly, the ES&S AutoMARK allows jurisdictions with legacy optical scan systems to be fully HAVA compliant and maintain a paper audit trail."

The ES&S AutoMARK voter assist terminal does not tally or store votes; rather, it is a ballot marking system designed to provide privacy and accessibility to voters who are blind, vision-impaired, or have a disability or condition that would make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot in the usual way. In addition, the technology provides language assistance to voters who are more comfortable speaking an alternative language or who have reading difficulties.

The ES&S AutoMARK will be the only product in the marketplace that will enable a greater number of voters to mark a vote privately and independently using an optical scan voting system. Once certified, ES&S plans to market the unique product to all jurisdictions in the United States that currently use or plan to upgrade to optical scan equipment.

"The origin of the AutoMARK concept is based on an understanding that voters and election administrators require a high level of confidence and security in the voting process from beginning to end," said Eugene M. Cummings, president of ATS and inventor of the technology. "The AutoMARK is a truly unique solution to the challenges posed by the new law. It is offering an option where one is truly needed. After a lot of thought and contemplation, I just felt it was not necessary for jurisdictions to eliminate the paper ballot in order to be HAVA compliant, and it seems that others agree. It is important to provide the confidence and security that is required by all. The AutoMark is a simple and straightforward solution to a seemingly difficult issue."

"One of the great features of this technology is that it does not require a special ballot," said Joseph M. Vanek, vice president of ATS. "The AutoMARK simply marks a conventional paper ballot, which is then cast by the voter. And, the paper ballot can be audited in the same manner as hand-marked ballots."

Other features include:

Elimination of over-voting. The AutoMARK software has been developed to ensure that no more than the proper number of candidates can be chosen for each race.

Minimizing under-voting by providing voters with a summary page of their ions. Voters will be able to notice any skipped races and are free to change their ions prior to printing.

The ability to support write-in candidates.

An audio function, which allows blind voters or those with severely impaired vision to listen to the choices through headphones.

The ability to protect legacy systems by allowing jurisdictions to use existing optical scanner hardware/software solutions. Simply adding an ES&S AutoMARK device to a polling location ensures compliance with HAVA and eliminates the need to reinvest in a new ballot style or tabulation system.

A sip/puff tube for voters who are not able to use the touch screen or touch pad.

A zoom feature which enables the voter to increase the font size of each race listed on the optical scan ballot. This may be especially helpful for voters who are sighted but have vision limitations.

Multiple language capability. Assuring that all citizens in a diverse population can exercise their privilege to vote, visual and audible ballots in multiple languages can be stored on a single machine.

The AutoMARK technology has been under development for more than a year, based on input from individuals with disabilities. "I can't believe that anyone who has optical scan right now would think of doing anything else but going with AutoMARK," said Cathy Pearsall-Stipek, a former member of the National Commission on Election Standards and Reform and former president of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks.

Earlier this month, production units were presented for certification under the Federal Election Commission's 2002 voting standards, and hardware and software components currently are being evaluated by independent testing laboratories. ES&S and ATS expect to begin implementing the technology in the fourth quarter of 2004.

According to ATS, the decision to offer a co-branded product with ES&S was an easy one. "Very simply, ES&S is the market leader in providing quality voting systems and customer service," Vanek said.

"Additionally, it seemed logical to match our technology, which is based on the need for a tangible and verifiable process, with a company that has a solid track record of successfully assisting jurisdictions with the task of elections. Collectively, we all felt it was a good fit," said Cummings.

The arrangement with ATS enables ES&S to offer a paper-based optical scan voting system that is HAVA compliant, and provides ATS the opportunity to leverage the muscle of ES&S's sales and distribution channels. This year, more than 34,000 ES&S optical scan tabulating devices will be used in 2,300 jurisdictions in the United States and Canada, a number that represents approximately 50 percent of the company's client base.

"I am very proud of our company's leadership in this area. We believe offering this technology jointly presents a winning situation for everyone - our companies, election administrators, and most importantly, voters," Tesi said.

About Election Systems & Software (ES&S)

Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) is the world's largest and most experienced provider of total election management solutions. For more than three decades, ES&S - as an election-only company and the industry leader - has grown to support a customer base of more than 2,100 jurisdictions in the United States. Based on the primary voting tabulation system installed within the United States, ES&S customers represent approximately 50 percent of the precincts and registered voters in the U.S. ES&S systems have counted approximately 56 percent of the U.S. national vote in each of the last four presidential and congressional elections, amounting to more than 100 million ballots cast in each election. For more information on ES&S election solutions, please visit the Web site at www.essvote.com or call 1-800-247-8683.

About AutoMARK Technical Systems, LLC (formerly Vogue Election Systems)

AutoMARK Technical Systems, LLC is a developer of innovative election products, including the AutoMARK(TM) Voter Assist Terminal. The AutoMARK provides voters with physical disabilities or language issues the ability to mark an optical scan paper ballot privately and independently. Not only does the AutoMARK(TM) open the election process as never before, the addition of this technology to an existing optical scan system brings the system into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). For more information, please visit www.vogueelection.com or call 1-888-761-9266.

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