Elections New Brunswick, Canada

Technology


How accurate are these machines?
How do you vote when the machines are used?
How secure are these machines? Can people tamper with them?
What is an audio vote tabulation machine?
Why are you using vote tabulation machines?
Could the machines be hacked into through the internet?
Do tabulation machines increase line-ups given all the voter had to do before was put a ballot in the box?
What if the power goes out?
Will the vote(s) be lost?
Will the machine still work?
Will these machines benefit voters from the disability community?
Will these machines be at every polling station?
What is the name of the company supplying the tabulation machines?

Q.  How accurate are these machines?

A.  In 2005 and 2012, there have been recounts each involving some 7,000 ballots. The machines proved to be more reliable and accurate than the hand-counting officials.

Other recounts and audits performed by Elections NB over the years have all shown the tabulation machines count the vote accurately and consistently.

They have been used in elections across Canada in other provinces with great success.



Q.  How do you vote when the machines are used?

A.  Electors will receive a paper ballot with circles next to each candidate’s name or plebiscite question. The ballot is placed in a secrecy sleeve so that they can carry the ballot in the polling location without showing their choices.

Using a regular marker, electors simply have to fill in the circles as appropriate, and replace the ballot into the secrecy sleeve. Electors then carry the ballot and sleeve to the tabulation machine officer, who will make sure the ballot is fed through the machine properly, so the votes can be read and recorded by the machine, and the ballot will drop into the sealed ballot box under the machine.



Q.  How secure are these machines? Can people tamper with them?

A.  Elections NB is confident in the security and reliability of the voting system being used in New Brunswick.

Voters still mark individual paper ballots that are available for a hand recount if necessary, which was one of the conditions Elections NB set for the system chosen. The only thing the machines do is count the ballots, using an optical scanning system, and record the results, but if there were any doubts about the accuracy of that count the ballots would be available for a hand recount. Manual recounts have been done in a couple of jurisdictions using the same system, and the results came out exactly the same as with the machine count.

It is conceivable that the memory cards used to program the vote tabulators and record the results could be mis-programmed, either deliberately or by mistake, though any honest mistakes would normally be caught by the accuracy testing that occurs prior to the tabulation machines being sent from Fredericton. Deliberate, fraudulent, mis-programming would have to involve an employee of the company that does the programming engaging in deliberate sabotage of the company’s work, or a conspiracy of company employees and candidates or election officials to rig the results. Because of the multiple witnessed steps with accuracy testing that is performed, it is highly unlikely that this will occur.

Polling Officials do not have access to technology that can reprogram the memory cards or tamper with the machines, and physical access to them is limited to polling day only. It is conceivable that additional ballots could be filled out and tabulated by a malicious Polling Official, but this could occur at any type of election. Because Polling Officials are always witnessed when working with ballots, the tabulation machine, or the ballot box, it is highly unlikely that this will occur.



Q.  What is an audio vote tabulation machine?

A.  There is an audio vote tabulation machine located at each returning office. It assists visually impaired voters, those who have difficulty reading, those who are physically unable to mark a ballot independently, or any other voters who request to vote this way. They are not available at the polling stations.

The voter will wear a headset, and hear the choices of candidates. Using a Braille controller, a sip and puff device, or a paddle device, the voter will make his or her choice and a ballot will be printed with the voter's choice indicated. The machine can also perform an audio review of the ballot for the voter to ensure that the marks were printed correctly prior to the ballot being deposited into the ballot box.



Q.  Why are you using vote tabulation machines?

A.  One of the mandates given to Elections NB by the government was to modernize the elections process.

Quadrennial elections are very complex and we needed to consider ways to modernize and streamline the process. Manual counting of ballots takes a long time, in some cases over 5 hours. After working a long day, having polling officials count ballots by hand often results in errors.

Along with changes to the processes used at the polling locations, these machines reduce line-ups, speed up the voting process, and improve the speed and accuracy of the counting and reporting process.

Changes to the processes used at the polls allow simplified training of polling officials where job functions are clearly defined. In addition, these changes make it easier to provide service to voters in their language of choice.



Q.  Could the machines be hacked into through the internet?

A.  No, the tabulation machines are not connected to the internet at any point. After nominations close, memory cards are programmed in Fredericton by a computer with a specialized program to read the various ballots in a particular area of the province. On Election Night, the cards are read at the Returning Office using a specialized computer program and the results are sent to Fredericton using the secure Government of New Brunswick intranet. The results are consolidated and copied to the internet for public viewing.



Q.  Do tabulation machines increase line-ups given all the voter had to do before was put a ballot in the box?

A.  No. Line ups occur at the poll while voters are being looked up, added or corrected on the List of Electors, or while having the ballot explained to them. Because of changes to the processes in the polling locations, electors are be able to take their time marking their ballots, without making other electors wait. The time required to insert a ballot into the tabulation machine is less than 15 seconds.



Q.  What if the power goes out?
Will the vote(s) be lost?
Will the machine still work?


A.  Should the power be interrupted while voting is happening, the memory card's flash memory will save all votes cast to that point. The machine will not tabulate any more ballots however. In this case, the ballot box’s auxiliary slot will be opened, and electors will continue to place their ballot through this slot into a second independent compartment in the ballot box.

Once power is restored, the slot is sealed until the end of election day. When the polls close, the Poll Supervisor witnesses the tabulation machine officer open the auxiliary compartment, remove the ballots, and feed them through the tabulation machine. Once all the ballots are tabulated, the machine can be instructed to produce a results tape.



Q.  Will these machines benefit voters from the disability community?

A.  Yes. There is an audio vote capability and this will benefit visually impaired voters, those who have difficulty reading, and others who request to vote this way. For this round of elections the audio-vote system is only available at returning offices.



Q.  Will these machines be at every polling station?

A.  Generally yes, although there may be some more isolated rural areas of the province where voters will deposit their ballots in a traditional ballot box which will be brought to the Returning Office after the polls close and those ballots will be counted on a tabulation machine there.



Q.  What is the name of the company supplying the tabulation machines?

A.  Dominion Voting Systems Corporation, from Toronto, Ontario is the company that was selected through an RFP process. They are able to provide us with the best-overall system province wide. The company makes and services only election-related equipment and technology.