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Election Assistance Commission Best Practices Election Assistance Commission Best Practices
Election Assistance Commission Best Practices Main Provisional Voting: Challenges & Solutions Checklist for HAVA Implementation Resource List Acknowledgements EAC

Direct Recording Equipment (DRE)



Voter Interaction with Voting System / Voter education

Improving usability:
Consider hiring a usability expert (see Resources) to review your system and make recommendations. In addition to the on-screen instructions and layout, other factors affecting usability include appropriate lighting and placement of machines.


Arlington County, Virginia, dispatches demo units in each polling place. Make sure pollworkers learn procedures for activating demo smart cards so they don’t accidentally use “live” smart cards.

Review FEC publications on usability (see Resources).

Develop a web-accessible sample ballot that shows each screen, including the instruction and ending screen.


Arlington County, Virginia, includes a presentation on voting machines and the voting process on its website.

Track over-vote and “under-votes.” Develop Election Day procedures to help determine the nature and cause of under-votes and blank votes to determine whether they are genuine under-votes or the result of voter confusion.

Ask minority language organizations to review ballot translations.

If you find a higher percentage of voter error in certain communities, work with pertinent community groups to educate voters in those communities.

Establish procedures for how to handle a scenario in which a voter exits before casting a vote.

Develop procedures that allow you to determine after the election which machine the voter used; ensure these procedures also protect the secrecy of the ballot.


Montgomery County, Maryland, requires the pollworkers to conduct a written tally for each unit.

Pollworker Training and Polling Place Procedures

Pollworker recruiting: Recruit local government employees, particularly those with IT background.


The Washington, DC, Board of Elections created a “precinct technician” position to provide technical support in the polling place; the technician receives hands-on training on start up and troubleshooting machine problems.

Pollworker training:

Create a pollworker position that is dedicated to machine set up, shut down and troubleshooting. Provide supplemental training on equipment; supplement pay for extra training.

Require pollworkers to keep a log of Election Day events and problems, including voter complaints, that will help you to recreate the events of that day.

Polling Place Setup
Use USB’s as machine power source; connect each machine to a USB. Daisy-chaining machines may become a single point of failure. Have a back-up plan and train pollworkers on how to troubleshoot and report alleged “power failure” problems.
See Resources.

Angle the machines to protect voter privacy.

Survey polling places with tech support to check outlets and modem phone line access for modems.

Pollworker Accountability. Establish checklists to track pollworker performance on key steps of DRE voting processes.


Montgomery County, MD, has a Precinct Performance Report which tracks such factors as completion of election logs, provisional ballot accounting forms and compliance with check-in procedures.

Testing/System Integrity

Calibration Issues - too much wear and tear can impact sensitivity.

Rely as little on the vendor as possible; look for outside IT expertise if it is not available in house. Have either election staff or independent consultants design and run tests.

Ensure systematic and consistent testing of each machine.

Conduct, at a minimum, both acceptance testing and logic and accuracy testing on each system. Logic and accuracy test should include “incremental testing.”

Conduct system diagnostics on every machine for every election before you conduct Logic and Accuracy.

Use separate machines for training and outreach.

Pre-Election Day Management and Security

Establish a deadline for patches or modifications to prevent unnecessary confusion.

Create a timeline for election preparation. If you are introducing DREs, expect to quadruple the amount of time necessary for preparing precinct-specific units. Preparation, testing and staging all require more time.

Conduct a risk analysis - where are you most vulnerable to problems? At what points are the system - both the administrative system and the machines - most likely to break-down. For example, is there an indispensable person? If so, develop a plan for dealing with his/her absence. Develop contingency plans, such as off-site storage of all software and data.

Cross-train election staff to perform multiple tasks.

Ensure all software, including patches, is certified.


New York uses bar codes to track delivery of lever machines in anticipation of transitioning to DREs.

Develop sound documentation of all election administration procedures that will allow you to identify the cause of problems after an election. Keep a log of receipt of equipment and software, who performed the programming and testing, and delivery to staging area or polling place. all paperwork that may be relevant in recreating how a failure might have occurred.

If the state is the contract holder, develop Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with state election office on authority over the system maintenance and modifications, including appropriate liens of communication.

Develop rules for access to any sensitive equipment.

Keep a maintenance log for all voting system equipment. This log should track who has had access to the machine(s).

Computers used for ballot definition should be stand-alone PCs unconnected to servers or the Internet.

Machine delivery:
Conduct risk analysis of the delivery system.

Develop agreements with each polling place delineating the responsible election office and the facility.

Establish chain of custody.

Develop checklist for delivery.

Use bar-coding to ensure proper delivery of all machines to polling places.

Election Day / Election Night Management and Security

Control access to the voter “smart cards.” Educate pollworkers and voters to know that the “smart card” is not the ballot and the voter’s choices are not recorded on the “smart card.” The card merely directs the voting unit to bring forward the voter’s correct voting screens.


Montgomery County, MD directs the pollworker to insert the Smart Card in to the unit on behalf of the voter to ensure that the voter correctly accesses the system.

Develop a plan to provide Election Day technical support for pollworkers, including a troubleshooting checklist, a call center, and rovers.

Establish written procedures for handling Election Day equipment failure.

Provide for redundant records of results, including paper printouts.

Ensure transparency in all aspects of the tabulation process, especially in the transport or transmission of results to the central election office.

Develop chain of custody for memory cards and machines.

Post-Election Management and Security

Conduct post-election logic and accuracy testing of machines.

Modem unofficial results over phone line using encryption to protect data during transmission.

Conduct a post-election audit to reconcile all records, especially the number of voters and the number of votes cast.

Conduct a public post-election “debriefing” to address any concerns related to the voting system.

5 Considerations for Making DRE Voting Systems Accessible

Solicit the help of disability organizations in training poll workers to assist voters using accessible equipment.

Place machines in a location where polling place noise won’t overwhelm the audio ballot.

Recruit voters with disabilities and minority language voters to serve as pollworkers.