States Continue to Debate Merits of Paper Trail For E-Voting Machines

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Sat Sep 4 13:52:19 EDT 2004


The Wall Street Journal

 September 2, 2004


States Continue to Debate
 Merits of Paper Trail
 For E-Voting Machines
September 2, 2004; Page B4

Paper or Plastic?

In the race to use electronic-voting machines that produce a paper copy of
the ballots cast, Nevada has become the front-runner in this presidential
election year. For the past two weeks, new touch-screen machines with
printers attached have been used by more then 50,000 Nevadans in early
voting for the state's Sept. 7 primary for in-state offices. Come November,
the state will be the first to roll out such a system for a presidential
election. "A lot of people didn't think we could pull it off in time," says
Steve George, spokesman for Secretary of State Dean Heller, who in December
mandated the new systems from Sequoia Voting Systems, a unit of De La Rue
PLC. "It certainly seems like a very wise choice when you look at some of
the problems the electronic systems have had."

Those problems -- faulty software, security glitches and human errors --
are certain to get even more scrutiny as the latest presidential contest
goes down to the wire. Several swing states, including Pennsylvania,
Florida, New Mexico and Tennessee, will use electronic systems with no
paper trail. But Ohio's secretary of state has barred the purchase of new
electronic-voting machines beyond the five counties where they are already
installed. New regulations in California mandate that every voter have an
option to use a paper ballot, providing the so-called paper-or-plastic

Such moves have hampered the adoption of touch-screen voting machines.
After the 2000 presidential election imbroglio, experts predicted 50% of
voters would use this year. Now it appears less than 30% will do so. "We've
slowed the train down," says Kim Alexander, president of the California
Voter Foundation, an election watchdog.

The existence of a paper trail raises as many questions as it answers. In
Nevada, many voters in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, will cast
ballots on older electronic machines without printers, meaning there won't
be a complete paper record of the state's votes. And the paper read-outs
don't yet conform to the state's legal format, meaning they can't be used
in an official recount without court approval. Mr. George says that won't
be a problem if a dispute arises over Nevada's five electoral votes.

"If it's a choice between hitting the button again for the electronic total
and the paper record, it stands to reason the court would choose to go with
the paper record," he says.

Vintage 6.0

No wine is fine before its time. And the same could be true for Wine.com1,
an online wine site that certainly has had a long shelf life.

Since its launch in the late 1990s, the online retailer has morphed from an
earlier version of the site, as well as from start-up enterprises
called WineShopper and eVineyard. Together the start-ups have raised about
$150 million in venture capital, according to President and Chief Executive
George Garrick. This week the company is announcing it has raised more: Its
sixth, "Series F" financing to the tune of $20 million. The money comes
from a syndicate led by Baker Capital in New York. The company said it will
use it to retire debt, to upgrade the Web site and for marketing.

So what's new this time? The latest vintage basically is the eVineyard
enterprise that was restarted in 2002, after the company bought the name and customer list. But, says Mr. Garrick, "We've taken a very
by-the-numbers, conservative approach" -- much more sensible and lean. He
adds that the company go to great effort to comply with the complex,
interstate laws that regulate the shipping of alcohol. The San
Francisco-based retailer can legally ship to 26 states. Those states
"account for 75% of wine consumption," Mr. Garrick says.

Tech Tracker?

If the Webby Awards are a barometer for the tech industry, the bust may
officially be over.

The Webbys, which honor outstanding Web sites run by reviewers, cultural
institutions and schools, among others, is more than doubling the number of
its prize categories, to 65 from 30. The reason: to include categories for
new online phenomena such as blogs and social networking. Other new prize
categories include sites devoted to getting a job or finding real estate
and those run by nonprofits.

The expansion of the award categories parallels the growth of the Internet,
says Tiffany Shlain, founder of the online awards. "The Web has changed
dramatically since we started it," she says.

The Webbys, usually held in San Francisco, were dubbed the Oscars of the
Internet industry when they started in 1996. But during the past two years,
organizers opted against holding a live awards show, in response to the
weak economy, the Iraq war and the SARS outbreak of last summer.

Now, the mood has changed, Ms. Shlain says, pointing to the recent Google
IPO and the heavy use of the Internet in this year's presidential campaign.
The Webbys will again be presented live next year, with a ramped-up
marketing and advertising effort, along with the addition of the categories.

Grand Old Phone

Talk about wired.

For this week's Republican National Convention in New York City, Verizon
Communications supplied 40,000 miles of cabling, two central offices,
12,000 phone lines and 300 high-speed data connections -- not to mention
300 technicians. Verizon, the incumbent phone company in New York, also
installed 140 TV circuits for the event, providing video transmission from
several spots around the convention to national and international TV
networks including al-Jazeera -- making it the largest video transmission
project the company has ever set up.

The data network is capable of downloading the entire content of
Encyclopedia Britannica in roughly one minute and eight seconds, according
to Verizon. The company also handled much of the Democratic National
Convention's communications in Boston, though it installed far fewer video
transmission lines there.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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