HJR 681/SJR 363

Joint Subcommittee to Study Virginia's Election Process and Voting Technologies

July 27, 2001, Richmond

Task Force #1: Technology and Voting Equipment

This task force heard a panel presentation covering three reports on the reliability of various types of voting equipment. The panel participants were Fred G. Berghoefer, Secretary, Arlington Board of Elections; Stephen K. Medvic, Old Dominion University; and Matthew M. Mehalik, Systems Engineering, University of Virginia. They outlined the findings of the July 2001 Report of the CALTECH/MIT Voting Technology Project, Professor Medvic's study "Does Every Vote Count: An Analysis of Voting Systems and Rejected Votes in the 2000 Virginia Presidential Election," and Mr. Mehalik's "Analysis of Charlottesville's Voting System."

The panel and task force discussion pointed to the need to be cautious in drawing conclusions from initial investigations into the reliability of individual types of voting equipment because of numerous factors to be weighed. Such factors include questions about the measures of reliability, including overvotes and undervotes (both intentional and unintentional votes), residual votes, demographic characteristics of precincts, and the familiarity of election officials and voters with the voting equipment.

The State Board reported that it is in the process of evaluating applications from five vendors for certification and anticipates more applications as vendors bring more new equipment to the market.

The board is in the process of reversing its past policy that prohibited the programming of optical scan and punch card equipment to reject overvotes. That policy was adopted to avoid embarrassing voters by having the ballot counter return an overvoted ballot (with an audible signal) and to protect ballot secrecy. However, almost all states do require programming to return an overvoted ballot so that the voter has the option to correct his ballot if it was marked in error. This issue generated discussion. Of the four types of equipment now in use that allow overvotes, three types can be programmed to give the voter a second chance. There were concerns that the process be designed to minimize embarrassment for the voter, and the State Board will report further on this process, which is to be implemented for the August 21 primary.

The task force is meeting July 31 to receive a report on the State Board's pilot programs testing the use of a merged registered voter list and pollbook on election day and will be scheduling additional meetings.

The joint subcommittee is also meeting July 31 at the Sheraton Richmond West to discuss voter accessibility issues, hear vendor presentations, and receive comments from elections officials.

The Honorable Kevin G. Miller, Task Force Chairman

The Honorable James K. O'Brien, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Mary Spain


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