Vote Trust USA

County Officials Praise the UniLect Patriot: A Comparison of Words with Facts
By Ellen Theisen*

Many election officials defend and praise their electronic voting machines. UniLect, maker of the recently decertified Patriot electronic voting system, still proudly displays Customer Comments provided by the officials in counties where the machines have malfunctioned badly.

The following table compares these commentaries to the facts.

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County Officials Praise the UniLect Patriot: A Comparison of Words with Facts

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Customer Comments Customer Experience

Mercer County, Pennsylvania

2001. Election Director Praises UniLect Patriot

"The May Primary was our first Election with the Patriot Voting System throughout the County, and yes I was a little worried about our Voters and Poll Workers having problems on Election Day. Only a few minor problems were reported and were handled very quickly, mostly by phone. We replaced our "Lever Voting Machines" with the Patriot System with very few problems throughout the County."

"As you know we had some very last minute ballot changes come in from the State and were able to reload our ballots for all 100 precincts within an hour. I hate to think of having all the printing redone and the "Lever Machines" changed at the last minute, it would have been nearly impossible and very costly. Thanks to Patriot it was a piece of cake. Election night results and reports were available to the Media and to us at least 2 hours earlier than ever before. The response from our "Senior" Voters was very favorable, they "liked it"."

Jim Bennington, Director of Elections
Mercer County, Pennsylvania
(letter: October 10, 2001)
(724) 662-3800

2005. Election Director Resigns in Disgrace

Amid other malfunctions, one DRE recorded 83% blank presidential votes in the 2004 election.

One machine recorded 51 votes for president out of 289 ballots cast. The county's Web site reports that 51,818 people cast ballots but 47,768 ballots were recorded in the presidential race, including 61 write-ins. About 4,000 votes could not be accounted for.

County election director resigns

Amid allegations of mismanagement and incompetence in the Nov. 2 general election, Mercer County's director of voter registration and elections will quit at the end of the year.

James Bennington, who has held the position for six years, submitted his resignation Nov. 19.

...At its first formal meeting on Monday, the election review committee asked to speak to Bennington, who spent about 90 minutes answering questions.

He admitted programming some of the computers incorrectly, Coulter said, and failing to adequately test the machines.


Beaver County, Pennsylvania

1998. Election Board Chairman and Election Director Praise UniLect Patriot

"This past General Election proved to be a huge success with the initial use of our recently purchased UniLect Patriot Electronic Voting System. The Patriot system replaced our archaic optical-read paper ballot system and the transition went much smoother than we anticipated. Needless to say, we were very pleased."

"Thanks to the support we received from UniLect, the public education program was a huge success and helped allay anxiety some people experience when faced with change. Voters at the polls were enthusiastic about the new system."

"This went way beyond my expectations . . . And you know they were high. Can't thank you enough for a great election. Everyone is still raving about the system."

Nancy Loxley, Chairman
Board of Elections
Beaver County, Pennsylvania
(letter: November 18, 1998)
(724) 728-3934
Dorene Mandity, Director

2005. Election Director Blames Undervote Increase on Voter Confusion, Ambivalence, and Apathy

The county reports that since they began using DREs 8 years ago their undervote count has increased to nearly 6 times what it was when they used paper ballots.

There were 820 presidential undervotes in 1996. In 1998, they began using the Unilect Patriot. Undervotes increased to 5,313 in 2000 and 4,551 in 2004, in spite of the fact that the DRE warns voters when they have not voted for a particular contest.

The undervote figures could take on added significance next month, when the state re-examines the UniLect Patriot electronic voting system, which is used in Beaver County as well as Mercer and Greene counties.

Dorene Mandity, director of Beaver County's elections bureau, attributed the latest undervote figures to voter confusion with touch screens, and ambivalence in many races, especially those featuring only one candidate.

...Mandity said the undervote for other races in the last election indicates widespread voter apathy. The undervote was 8,000 for the attorney general's race and nearly 13,000 for the state Senate's 47th District race in which state Sen. Gerald LaValle, D-47, Rochester Township, ran unopposed.


Burke County, North Carolina

2000. Election Board Chairman Praises UniLect's Training Program and Patriot

"On February 2, 2000, we gave you an order for the UniLect Patriot voting system and asked to have this equipment for use in the May 2, 2000 primary election. We realized that this was going to be a very tight schedule. However, you accomplished this with no problems and all equipment was received in good condition in a timely manner."

"Your training for software and hardware, was conducted in a very professional and proficient manner which made learning easy and enjoyable."

"The equipment worked beautifully and was well received by the precinct workers and the voters."

"We look forward to the November 7, 2000 general election with the assurance that we have an excellent voting system and can rely on your continued support."

Vester Clontz, Chairman Board of Elections
Burke County, North Carolina
(letter: June 8, 2000)
(828) 437-1780

2005. Election Officials Blame Undervote Increase on Ballot Design and Poor Training

Electronic voting machines registered 11% blank presidential votes.

State lawmakers Friday questioned whether Burke County's voting machines, the same kind that lost more than 4,400 votes in Carteret County, failed to record hundreds of presidential votes.

State elections officials, however, visited Burke in December and said the problems were a poorly designed ballot and insufficient voter education.

Burke County voters cast 34,604 ballots, but only 30,762 votes for president were recorded. Less than 89 percent of the voters recorded a presidential preference. Election experts say any time 2 percent or more of ballots cast in a major race fail to record a vote, those numbers should be investigated.

...More than 10 percent of Burke's voters did not cast a ballot for president, a rate three to four times higher than the statewide average, state elections officials said.

... the undervote among provisional voters was about half of what it was on the machines.


Greene County, Pennsylvania

1999. Election Director Praises UniLect Patriot

"Replacing our paper ballot voting system with a touch-screen electronic system was an enormous step for Greene County. We looked closely at the systems available and decided that the Patriot was a quality product and would best suit our needs. We were not disappointed. The General Election proved to be very successful."

"We received many favorable comments from the voters on the ease of the system. The district election boards were most appreciative of the Patriot System; to be home at a reasonable hour was an unusual experience for them."

Frances Pratt, Director of Elections
Greene County, Pennsylvania
(letter: January 19,1999)
(724) 852-5304

2004. County's Undervote Rate Hits 4.5%

Pennsylvania decertifies the UniLect Patriot.

On October 1, 2004, the Department of State examined the system and found it to be operational and in proper working order.

During a reexamination on Feb. 15, however, the System failed to sense screen touches multiple times and did not register nor record votes. The screen also "froze" and stopped accepting touches during the reexamination. The Department believes these malfunctions help explain why there were more than 10,000 instances where a vote was not counted in the three counties during the 2004 general election.

According to a study released by Grove City College, the undercount percentages in each county were: Mercer - 7.29 percent; Greene - 4.5 percent; and Beaver - 5.25 percent.


Lexington County, South Carolina

1999. Municipal Clerk Praises UniLect Patriot

"A lot of our Town citizens commented on how easy the machine was to use. We did not hear any negative complaints from our citizens about the voting equipment, only positive comments."

"In my opinion, the money that Council spent on the electronic voting machines was worth every penny."

"On behalf of the Mayor, Town Administrator, and myself, we highly recommend the touch-screen voting system from UniLect. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have."

Julia Kight, Municipal Clerk
Lexington, South Carolina
(letter to County Board: February 10, 1999)
(803) 951-4635

2004. County Buys New, Different Voting Machines

South Carolina Election Commission Website shows Lexington County as one of the many counties that purchased new electronic voting machines for the 2004 general election.


*Ellen Theisen is the Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org and Director of Information Resources for Vote Trust USA.


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