Systems and Software (ES&S) has a marketing agreement with AutoMARK
Technical Services (ATS) to be the sole purveyor of the AutoMARK voting
machine. ATS can market the system, but pricing and contracts are all
handled by ES&S. In March of 2004, when ES&S announced the agreement, Aldo
Tesi, ES&S president and CEO said, "we recognize the incredible
responsibility we have in supporting the democratic process and ensuring it
is open and accessible to all voters." 
A few months later, when ES&S representative
Mike Devereaux praised the AutoMARK over touch screens, it appeared that
ES&S had partnered with ATS in order to take advantage of the growing demand
for paper ballots.  The company's subsequent business
decisions seem to say otherwise.
ATS describes their AutoMARK voting system as “a ballot marking system
designed to provide privacy and accessibility to voters who are blind,
vision-impaired, or have a disability or condition that would make it
difficult or impossible to mark a ballot in the usual way. In addition, it
provides language assistance to voters who are more comfortable speaking an
alternative language or who have reading difficulties. The AutoMark voter
assist terminal has been developed with input from election authorities and
disability organizations, and meets all of the requirements of “The Help
America Vote Act of 2002.”” The system marks a ballot that is inserted into
the machine. That ballot is then either read by a precinct based optical
scan machine or is put into a ballot box and read, later, by a central count
optical scan machine; or by hand.
In February of 2005, Bo Lipari of New York Verified Voting asked ATS to
bring a complete voting system (AutoMARK touch screen and an ES&S precinct
based optical scan machine) to New York so the state legislators could look
at the system in an informal setting and see how it operates. ATS brought
the system and set it up for the legislators in Albany.
Unfortunately, a lobbyist for ES&S happened to walk by the demonstration and
almost immediately told the ATS representatives to remove the equipment.
According to a source close to the issue, a protracted discussion between
ES&S representatives and ATS ensued in which ES&S refused to allow the
system to be shown. Finally a compromise was reached. ATS was allowed to
show the AutoMARK in New York State but without any optical scan machine to
complete the system.
Following this incident one state assemblywoman, Sandra R. Galef, (D,I,WF-Ossining,
NY), was interviewed by The Legislative Gazette, which reported,
“Galef believes that corporate interests were fueling previous support for
DRE machines. Lobbyists and the president of ES&S, a voting machine
manufacturer, told her that New York State was a touch-screen machine state.
She responded by saying, “When was that decision made? We’ve [Legislature]
never voted on it, New York doesn’t have a voting system yet.”
The New York Daily News also reported this story:
All the major companies offer both types of
equipment (optical scan and DRE), and they deny promoting one technology
over another. But they mysteriously avoid making the cheaper equipment
available for inspection. At the Capitol recently, a lobbyist managed to
shut down a demonstration of optical scanning by getting his client to pull
its machine from the display.
Assemblywoman Sandra Galef of Westchester called the company to object and
was told that New York is “a touch-screen state.”
“I said, 'We are?'” Galef recalled. “I'm a legislator. I don't think I've
voted on anything.”
“Why are the vendors deciding what type of state New York State should be?”
asks Bo Lipari of Ithaca, a retired software engineer who founded New
Yorkers for Verified Voting. “We ought to be able to look at all our
alternatives and make a rational choice.” 
Why would ES&S not want to sell the system
that everyone has been waiting for? Why would they not want to provide the
state of New York with a choice of voting systems? Is this evidence that
ES&S is trying to control the market and make decisions for its customers?
A source has told this reporter that ES&S sales representatives are being
paid a much higher commission rate for selling their DRE system than they
are for the AutoMARK system. ES&S is clearly controlling the marketing of
their systems by offering a far less lucrative reward for selling ATS
systems than for products produced by ES&S. Is this more evidence that ES&S
is attempting to keep the sales of the AutoMARK system to a minimum?
On May 6, 2005 the AutoMARK voting system completed the last testing with an
Independent Test Authority enabling the system to be qualified to the
federal standards within days. This opens the doors to all of the states
that require federal qualification before a voting system can be certified
and sold in the state. This success should have been big news for AutoMARK
and for their partner in sales, ES&S.
I called AutoMARK to ask if they were going to be sending out a Press
Release to announce their successful ITA testing. I was told that a press
release would be sent out the following Monday. On Monday I searched the
wires and found no Press Release. I then called AutoMARK and asked about the
promised release. I was told that ES&S wanted to review the release before
it was sent out. In fact, as I found out a few days later, a release was
written by ES&S but it only appeared on their website not in the news.
AutoMARK also issued a Press Release but it, too, went only on their
website. Nothing was sent to the business-wires as normally happens with
corporate news. Essentially, ES&S controlled the news and kept this
announcement as secret as they could. Is this even more evidence that ES&S
is attempting to keep the sales of the AutoMARK system to a minimum?
There is no doubt that many elections officials and voters have been looking
forward to the qualification of the AutoMARK voting system. South Dakota
didn’t wait for federal qualification. They bought AutoMARK's system for
$5,400 per machine, according to a state election official.
Bowie County, Texas was quoted an average price of $5,500 for only 36 of the
machines.  A Texarkana newspaper reported that the cost
per machine to them was $5,400.  These seem to be fair
prices though sources say $4950.00 was quoted in many locations last year.
“Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections” provides the following
information, collected before the ATS and ES&S agreement: “According to
AutoMARK Technical Systems (formerly Vogue Elections Systems), which
manufactures a ballot-marking device, the cost for the device would be
comparable to the cost of a DRE with a printer attached.” 
Why then did ES&S, quote a price of $6,500 per machine to Cook County,
Illinois, a potential customer with 2650 precincts? Is there any better way
to minimize the sales of a product than by inflating the price quoted to its
Refusing to demo its product to the largest market in the United States,
reducing the commission paid to salespeople who sell the product, minimizing
publicity about the product's successes, increasing the product price as the
size of the contract increases are these marketing techniques designed to
take advantage of a business bonanza or are they evidence that ES&S is
trying to decide where and whether Americans will be voting on paper?
is the Information Manager for
VotersUnite! is a national non-partisan organization dedicated to fair and
accurate elections. It focuses on distributing well-researched information
to elections officials, elected officials, the media, and the public; as
well as providing activists with information they need to work toward
transparent elections in their communities. John can be reached at:
Other Articles by John Gideon
Rulemakers Poised to Violate Their Public Interest Mandate
 New Ballot Marking Device from ES&S, AutoMARK Makes Optical Scan Voting
Accessible to Voters with Disabilities; Breakthrough Technology Increases
Participation in Democratic Process. March 31, 2004 ES&S Press Release.
commission hears last pitch on vote machines,” by Richard Duke,
Benton Courier, June 25, 2004.
vote scan machines cheaper, more accurate, group says,” by Jarrett
Carroll, The Legislative Gazette, April 20, 2005.
polling machines to a vote,” New York Daily News, March 09, 2005.
decides e-voting method,” by Greg Bischof, Texarkana Gazette,
April 26, 2005
voting machines would help disabled,” by Barry Halvorson,
Victoria Advocate, April 28, 2005.
 “Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections,” by Ellen Theisen,
VotersUnite.Org, pg. 52.