Monday, September 20, 2010

NYC OMR Voting Implementation Proves Disastrous

Long-time readers of DIR  know that I've been a proponent of OMR-based voting ever since the 2000 presidential election controversy involving punchcards, hanging chads, and a future Nobel Prize winner. Knowing the great forms processing technology that was out there, I was somewhat shocked to realize that this old-style data capture method was still in use.

Of course, the 2000 election was followed by a wave of transition to touchscreen voting machines, which have their own issues associated with them. Can you say "black box voting?"

Gradually, after many conversations on this topic, I came to believe that some sort of image-based OMR scanner would be the best solution. You'd get a system that was mark-based, for simplicity, and you'd have an image of the ballot for archiving purposes. Well, for this month's primary, it seems the New York City area went with some sort of analog OMR-system, with disastrous results.

The primaries took place the week of Harvey Spencer Associates recent document capture conference and Spener was scathing in his commentary about the implementation. He said something to the effect that this is a black-eye for the industry caused by much less than state-of-the-art technology being used.

The vendor for the system was Election Systems and Software (ES&S) - clearly not one of the leaders in the document imaging market. At Harvey's event, we did catch up with Todd Radtke of Scantron, which is the leader in OMR-based test scanning in North America. He confirmed something we'd heard before-that the barrier to entry of having a system approved for use in federal elections is so high - like over $1 million per system to apply for the testing, that Scantron has chosen not to participate in the election market.

Oh yeah, apparently the awarding of the NYC contract to ES&S is under investigation.

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