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Optical Scan Systems

Optical scanners
Optical scanners have been around a long, long time. They are used not only in election systems, but in many different situations where automated reading of printed or hand written material is required. Essentially, an optical scanner is a computerized reader.

Optical scanners have been used in election systems for many years, where they have proven to have a high degree of reliability. While they are computers, and require legislative safeguards to ensure that our votes are accurately counted, they offer many advantages over electronic touch screen voting machines of all types.

Optically scanned ballots
Optically scanned ballots, also known as “marksense” or “bubble” ballots, offer a method for automating the counting of paper ballots. The form of the optically scanned ballot is familiar to anyone who has taken a standardized test.

The voter is given a paper ballot that lists the names of the candidates and the options for referenda, and next to each choice is small circle. To vote, the voter darkens in the bubble next to the preferred option for each office or referendum.

Counting Methods for Optical Scan Systems
There are two methods of counting ballots when using optical scan systems: precinct-count, and central-count.

Precinct count systems count the votes at each local precinct before results are sent to a central location. At the close of the polls, the optical scanner produces a printout of all of the vote totals, the totals are sent to election central, and the locked ballot box is transported to election central in case the ballots are needed for any subsequent recount or audit.

With central count systems, the marked ballots are transported to a central location for counting on high capacity optical scanners. In such a system, ballots are not counted at each local precinct, only at the central location.

Precinct count

  • Voter marks ballot and inserts it in the optical scan machine at the polling place.
  • Machine rejects overvoted and undervoted ballots, providing voter with an opportunity to correct errors before the ballot is cast.
  • Local precinct results are counted, printed, and posted locally as part of the public record before results are transmitted to a central tallying location.

Central count

  • Marked ballots are transported to a central location for counting. They are not counted at the local precinct.
  • No opportunity for correction of overvotes/undervotes.
  • No check against local precinct results possible to audit for possible errors.

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