A Ballot Marking Device ("BMD") is a touchscreen computer that generates a computer-marked paper ballot or printout, which is then tallied on a computerized optical scanner. (Those computer-marked ballots can also, in theory, be counted by hand, but generally are not, as most election officials rely on optical scanners instead.)
BMDs were initially designed for people who are unable to hand-mark paper ballots due to disability, old age, etc. But the state of Georgia and Los Angeles County, California are now at the forefront of an unfortunate new trend, which is to consider buying these expensive hackable "electronic pencils" for use by all voters at the polls, regardless of need.
The Georgia legislature is quickly working to adopt a bill to fund such new systems to replace their similarly 100% unverifiable, 15-year old Diebold touchscreen systems used across the entire state. L.A. County is in the late process of a years-long development program to deploy these systems in time for the 2020 Presidential election.
Should Georgia and Los Angeles proceed on their current course, it would introduce a second unnecessary and insecure computer system in the polling place above and beyond already insecure optical scanners, creating twice as many opportunities for electronic programming errors, paper jams, and hacking. For example, some BMD systems have already had problems with:
- Vote flipping (when election integrity advocate and journalist Brad Friedman used such a device in Los Angeles in a 2008 election, the device flipped 4 out of 12 of his selections on the computer-marked paper ballot);
- Inability to display all candidates on one screen (a problem reported by the state of Maryland, which had acquired such systems for all voters, but changed its mind even though the screen problem was eventually fixed); and
- Vendor breach of certification requirements (as occurred with vendor Election Systems & Software, "ES&S", the nation's largest voting system vendor).
Meanwhile, two of the most popular BMD's --- the ES&S ExpressVote and the Dominion ImageCast --- produce bar-coded (or QR-coded) printouts, which cannot be read by human beings, in lieu of traditional, hand-marked paper ballots.
This is alarming, according to experts --- including some who describe BMDs as "Son of DREs" --- for a number reasons...