Smartmatic was honored to attend the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Disability, Accessibility, and Security Forum on February 20. The overwhelming consensus at the conference is that security and accessibility are not at all mutually exclusive. We know this is true because we ensure our technology is both. As was underscored at the conference, if something is not usable and accessible, it is also not secure.
Several speakers noted that the number of U.S. voters with disabilities is growing significantly as Americans live longer, further increasing the need for innovative solutions for usability and accessibility.
Those who encourage a “security only” mindset, promoting only the use of hand-marked paper ballots, are not taking into account the needs of the large voting population for whom accessible voting technology is a must. Conference speakers repeatedly highlighted the many problems with hand-marked paper ballots. They also stressed that hand-marked paper ballots are falsely being touted as secure. Both panelists and audience members contended that paper ballots are anything but secure.
Not only are hand-marked paper ballots prone to errors and fraud, they disenfranchise voters with disabilities, preventing them from casting and verifying their ballot privately and independently as required by federal law.
Sixteen years ago, Smartmatic introduced the first voting machine with voter verified paper backup, making electronic voting accessible and secure.
Many positive references were made about Los Angeles County’s new Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP). Smartmatic is proud to have been selected by LA County to develop and manufacture the VSAP Ballot Marking Device (BMD), which is debuting during the 2020 California primary.
The VSAP is widely considered the pinnacle of usability and accessibility. It provides the ballot in 13 languages, audio and visual assistive technologies, easy access for wheelchair users, and a paper ballot for every voter. The voter may choose to handle, or if unable, to review and cast their ballot without handling their paper ballot.
Of particular interest to the forum’s audience was VSAP’s Interactive Sample Ballot, which allows voters to make their selections on their home computer, tablet or smartphone and bring the ballot (paper or electronic) to the voting center for casting. Not only does it give voters more time to consider their selections and reduce congestion at voting centers, it is of particularly helpful to people with disabilities, who can use their own assistive technologies.
All Smartmatic voting systems, including the VSAP, are fully auditable at every step of the election process. BMD technology that produces paper ballots, like the VSAP does, allows jurisdictions to conduct Risk Limiting Audits (RLA), which were a hot topic throughout the day. There was also a great deal of interest expressed in mobile voting and in enhancing and securing vote by mail. Smartmatic conducts secure mobile voting for overseas clients.
Attendees at the EAC Forum made it clear: they want technology that is both secure and accessible, and they are unwilling to compromise one for the other. Smartmatic agrees and we will continue to prioritize secure, accessible and transparent technology that makes it easier for all voters to participate in the election process.