Washington: Letter to State Legislators about Diebold's Proprietary Barcode
By John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA
October 29, 2005
This letter was recently sent to some members of the Washington
state legislature. It is included here for two reasons. First, it
reports a problem that everyone who lives in Diebold DRE counties where
a VVPAT printer is necessary. It is also included as an example of the
type of letter/email that can be sent to any state legislators. I have
sent numerous emails to the Washington state legislature about
different voting issues. The mailing list depends upon the subject of
the email and whether it is targeted to a committee, county
representation or the whole legislature.
As I am sure you are aware, the votes in King County are counted by
Diebold optical scanners. Last legislative session you made it clear
that the counting of votes should be a transparent process. You did
this, in part, by requiring that all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE)
voting machines would have a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
The Office of the Secretary of State will soon be examining a Diebold
DRE voting system for certification and use in King County. Last week,
I attended a public hearing to discuss proposed Secretary of State
agency rules for the handling of the VVPAT ballots during the
legislated audits and during required hand recounts.
It is apparent, after talking to Diebold representatives last July and
after reviewing and discussing the new agency rules, that Diebold will
be providing a proprietary bar code reader to be used for reading the
proprietary barcodes on the VVPAT during audits and recounts. The issue
is not necessarily that a bar code reader will be used. The issue is
that the bar code software will be proprietary and thus a trade secret
When I was told by the Diebold representative that their bar code
software was proprietary, my first reaction was to ask, “Why?” He told
me that it was for security reasons. They did not want anyone to be
able to use a commercial off the shelf (COTS) bar code reader to read
how other voters voted. That does not make sense since all of the
ballots on the Diebold printer are hidden from view and the bar code
sits beside the plain-language ballot that the voter verifies. I
mentioned this to the representative and he immediately said, “You’re
right; it’s not for security reasons.” He would say no more on the
So why is the bar code software proprietary? There can only be two
reasons. The most logical is that Diebold wants to force counties to
buy more equipment, and they can charge a lot of money for a bar code
reader that no one would otherwise need. The second potential reason is
that Diebold does not intend to have the bar code represent the voter’s
printed and verified ballot;, but that it would represent what the
machine records. So, if the readable printout differed from the machine
record, this would help to ensure there were no differences between the
machine tally and the audited tally.
The use of proprietary bar-code removes a level of transparency and
confidence in election results that the voters gained when you voted to
require a voter verified paper audit trail and an audit of DRE voting
machines. Your help is needed to legislate against the use of any
proprietary bar code on the VVPAT. This is a King County issue this
year, but other voting machine companies will surely join in if they
see there is another avenue to make money.
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