Optical scanners in the polling place ("precinct-count optical scanners") are often proposed as a faster way to count ballot papers, but they are not at all a proper solution.
Optical scanners can check paper ballots for correct marking. If a ballot is marked correctly, the optical scanner can count the votes and then drop the ballot into a sealed ballot box. Proper security at the end of the election day means that a tally sheet printout from the optical scanner must be signed by the poll workers and posted publicly. Also each poll worker and observer must receive a duplicate signed printout. For each optical scanner, all ballots and another signed tally sheet printout must be stored together in a sealed bag so that recounts can be done scanner by scanner. The sealed bag of ballots and other records must be observed (guarded) at all times until the election is certified. The contents of each bag should not be mixed with the contents of any other bag.
Beware: PCOS hardware & software can be hacked as well!It already happened as you can read in Optical scan machines hacked in Florida
To ensure there are no mistakes/fraud we absolutely need that:
- scanners are not connected to any other equipment to avoid any chanceof their "remote control". They should act just like the banknote counters usually used by bank cashers
- after the end of the electronic counting are done a large number of manual count verifications
- electronic (and manual) results of each precints are soon made public
- independent bodies compute general results to verify those given by the electoral service (ususally the Government)
Obviously manual recount of the ballot papers of a precint takes time, the same time it would normally take their manual count,thus the manual recount zeroes any time gained by the electronic counting.
Furthermore, not to be fooled, the sampling precints which are to be manually recounted must be choosen after the electronic results are made public and their choice must be absolutely unpredictable.This constraint adds a further overhead thus Any trustworthy PCOS electronic counting takes longer than the manual count
what about costs?We need a PCOS apparatus in each precint, that is at least a PC and a scanner plus a skilled technician which takes care of them.In five years time (or four according to period of office of the legislature) things we'll be so much changedthat the PCOS will surely be obsolete since there will be new security problems, newdisk technologies, new kind of memories and, of course, new operating systems and network protocols.We'll need to buy new PCOS apparatus (hardware and software) at each election!
Hardware and software vendors will be very pleased, but what about tax payers? Do we all agree on spending our moneyto solve an unexisting problem?
PCOS are a trojan horse to introduce electronic voting!
It will probably happen that any PCOS system working properly for a couple of elections will be used as a pretext topersuade people to vote electronically. In this way the people will loose any democratic monitoring over elections.