By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA
June 11, 2006
Vendor Failures and Lax Security Procedures Call Election Results Into Question In States Across The Country
Election Officials in Pottawattamie County, Iowa dodged a bullet in last week’s primary. Had Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake not acted on anomalous early results from the counties ES&S optical scanners and called for a hand count of the paper ballots, the losing candidates would have been elected. The problem? A “glitch” in ES&S’ ballot programming. How many other elections nationwide will be affected by such errors?
In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, it was revealed that it’s possible to produce a “zero count” from an ES&S iVotronic (touchscreen) voting machine at any stage in the election process. Most, if not all, states require that elections officials run a "zero tape" before any votes are tallied on DRE or optical-scan voting machines. This "zero tape" ensures that there are no votes in the machines memory. With these machines, and thanks to Secretary of State Pedro Cortes determination to block all attempts to require a voter verified paper record and mandatory audits as a safeguard, there is no way to recover from the sort of problem that occurred in Iowa. Since there is no way to assure voters that the “electronic ballot boxes” on those machines were not stuffed, why should those voters have faith in elections in which they were used?
Emergency paper ballots were used in many Arkansas counties in their primaries last month because the vendor failed to deliver ballot programming in time. Earlier this Spring, uncertified software was delivered to counties in Indiana. In West Virginia machines were not delivered and many of those that were had faulty ballot programming. Uncertified machines were delivered for use in several counties in Florida’s for the state's upcoming primaries. On what basis should the results of those elections be trusted?
In the most closely-watched election in the nation last week – the special election to fill Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunnigham’s vacant US House seat representing California’s 50th District – volunteer pollworkers were allowed to take Diebold voting machines home as much as two weeks before the election. That’s right – in spite of new "security procedures" issued by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson when he “conditionally” re-certified Diebold’s equipment for use in the state, these machines had “sleepovers” in pollworkers’ garages. Given this egregious violation of chain-of-custody precautions, its no wonder that the accuracy of the election has been called into question.
The fact that the official results are “plausible” in California’s special election is beside the point. In fact, if the corrupted results had been “plausible” in Pottawattamie County, there would have been no scrutiny and losing candidates would have been elected. After a publicly observed hand count of the ballots, voters can be reasonably confident in the results of elections in Pottawattmie County. Without a similar hand count of the California special election, voters have no reason to believe the official results are accurate.
Election officials should be held accountable for the voting technology they have advocated. It is often difficult to distinguish some election officials from voting industry representatives as they zealously promote electronic voting. They have ignored dozens of studies that have detailed the vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems. They have dismissed hundreds of election meltdowns in which votes were lost or voters turned away from the polls as “glitches” that somehow don’t matter.
Having used millions in taxpayer dollars to buy unverifiable, error-prone equipment to count the votes in our elections from their friends at ES&S, Diebold, Sequoia, and Hart Intercivic, the burden is on the election officials to prove that those votes were counted correctly.
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