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AccuPoll Poised To Bring Back Confidence In The Vote

Myra Per-Lee
THE Lonestar ICONOCLAST    26 April 2005

TUSTIN, Calif. ? There?s a new voting machine company on the block. And it?s out there competing with the well-entrenched likes of Diebold and ES&S for the nods of your secretaries of state and local voter registrars.
The newbie is AccuPoll Holdings Corporation, and it has just become the first electronic voting system with a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to meet the stringent qualifications of the 2002 Federal Election Commission Standards, the most recent hurdle the company jumped in its goal to qualify its voting system in all 50 states.
Since November of 2000, AccuPoll?s Dennis Vadura, CEO, and Frank Wiebe, President, have been building a voting system from the ground up. Having worked together as systems consultants for several years, the pair have the complementary skills and perspectives needed for this project: Vadura, the technology solutions and Wiebe, the delivery.
?After the 2000 election,? recalls Wiebe, ?Dennis and I were discussing how a voting system could address all of the problems that occurred in Florida. We quickly concluded that the best system would include several audit mechanisms, most important of which is the voter paper audit.?
Wiebe and Vadura created a vision of their concept and sent it off to the National Association of State Secretaries of State (NASS). When they were asked to present at the NASS meeting in February of 2001, the pair gathered a team of specialists and assembled their first voting station prototype in just three weeks. The positive reception they received from both Republican and Democratic members of NASS was the catalyst that moved their focus into what was to become AccuPoll.
Since the NASS event, AccuPoll has been building, testing, and refining its model, first to meet the standards of the 1990 Federal Elections Committee, achieved in March, 2004, and then to conform to the 2002 Committee standards prescribed by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, standards that must be put in place by every state by January 2006.
HAVA grants $3.9 million to the states for new equipment, training, and other voting related activities. While HAVA specifies certain changes in voting procedures, such as replacement of lever and punch card voting systems with electronic voting systems, some requirements, such as accommodations for foreign language speakers and disabled persons, are subject to interpretation and implementation by the states. This is especially true in the area of voter verification.
AccuPoll?s philosophy is evidenced in its design: the more audits, the better.
?How can the public trust the results of an election if officials do not have a clear way to verify the voter?s intent?? Wiebe posits. ?In the event of a recount, election officials must have a record that can be counted that has also been verified by the voter.?
Some members of Congress, however, are sponsoring bills to overturn the VVPAT legislation, claiming that a voting roster printed at the precinct after the polls close would be acceptable voter verification, even though the voter never sees it. (For more information on which states require what, visit <www.verifiedvoting.org>.)
AccuPoll has, in fact, six means of verification before the tally even leaves the precinct.  Each station keeps two permanent records of every entry made into the system as well as an image of the entire ballot cast, totaling three electronic checks in the voting unit alone.  At the same time, the ballot is recorded in a separate unit that monitors all of the voting stations at the polling area.  The VVPAT is reviewed and placed into a locked box by the voter for potential later recount.  Upon closing the polls, the entire precinct?s results are tabulated on a paper printout and on CD. These records are then sent to a central data gathering center in the county to be combined with the election results from other precincts.
The system can also detect tampering. The company has chosen open source software instead of proprietary software that might create security concerns. AccuPoll?s data base uses a structured query language that requires individual barcode passwords. (The ?smart cards? automatically reset every 20 minutes!)
Not only is the AccuPoll voting system completely verifiable, it has created every practicable way of accommodating elderly, foreign and disabled persons. Conceptualize what is involved in making that possible.
On the accessible AccuPoll voting station, required by HAVA at each voter precinct, verbal instructions can be provided in almost any language through headphones, for foreign or vision impaired persons. The languages are set up for individual precinct depending on its demographics. To make the station mobility- accessible, the voting table is set high so that the legs of a wheelchair can fit under it. Special screens are available for persons who are color blind, and color screens may be adjusted to change the contrast. Hand-held voter punch buttons of different shapes, colors, and Braille lettering can be ed instead of the touch-screen, and puff-sip devices can be used to vote by spinal injured persons. And these are just some of the accommodations.
AccuPoll?s customary voting station has some distinctive features, too. The touch-screen, for example, can detect a ion made by a finger, pencil or other instrument, so those with minimal dexterity can use the machine. The paper receipt for voter verification is an inkjet printout that can be read or scanned by machine? nice touch if there has to be a paper recount. Thermal printouts, the kind you might get at the grocery store, are being used by some of the competing systems. (How would the San Diego mayor?s race, for example, have been decided based on reading thermal printouts? The ink fades from my grocery receipts before I get home from the store!)
AccuPoll is now eminently poised for the market place. The company has clearly taken advantage of hindsight in the development of its voting system. It?s user-friendly, verifiable, recognized technologically?.
It has stayed far away from politics. The company has no vested interest in who wins or loses an election; indeed its president and CEO are Canadian. No one on its Board of Directors holds a public office nor actively endorses candidates for political office.
It doesn?t bestow gifts on its prospective customers or fly them around in corporate jets.
It just manufactures a state-of-the-art product that works and makes a giant leap towards regaining public confidence in the vote.
Refreshing, isn?t it?

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