November 11th, 2003

Vote count marred by computer woe

From Boone County, Indiana:
Lebanon -- Boone County officials are searching for an answer to the computer glitch that spewed out impossible numbers and interrupted an otherwise uneventful election process Tuesday.

"I about had a heart attack," County Clerk Lisa Garofolo said of the breakdown that came as an eager crowd watched computer-generated vote totals being projected onto a wall of the County Courthouse rotunda.

"I'm assuming the glitch was in the software."

A lengthy collaboration between the county's information technology director and advisers from the MicroVote software producer fixed the problem. But before that, computer readings of stored voting machine data showed far more votes than registered voters.

"It was like 144,000 votes cast," said Garofolo, whose corrected accounting showed just 5,352 ballots from a pool of fewer than 19,000 registered voters.

"Believe me, there was nobody more shook up than I was."

Source: The Indianapolis Star. [Thanks to Dan Margolis for the pointer.]

Note that MicroVote calls themselves, "The leader in Direct Recording Electronic Voting Technology". (Google also reveals that the hidden page description meta-information on this page calls MicroVote, "the most reliable DRE voting system". Heaven help us!) The states and counties using MicroVote machines are disclosed here and here: Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. They make both Voting Hardware and Election Management Software; no indication from the Star story which was at fault. If we're lucky it's the Election Management Software, because remember the first principle of these Direct Recording Electronic Voting machines is: THERE IS NO BACKUP! Nothing you can go to for a recount. So it's hard to imagine how they could resurrect any sort of credible vote tabulation (read, declare a winner) if the MACHINES were at fault.

Diebold in Alameda

More details on Diebold's California certification troubles: Wired New's Kim Zetter reports that officials are now forcing the company to pay for an audit of all the company's voting machines used in the state and
Kyle said the state would inventory the systems of other vendors and other counties once the Diebold investigation was complete. The state will also begin requiring all counties to maintain and submit logs of the hardware, firmware and software versions they use.

Starting in 2004, the state will also conduct random audits of voting systems to ensure that all software and hardware is certified. And in the future, the state will require CEOs of vendors to affirm under penalty of perjury that the company will not change systems without obtaining written approval from the secretary of state. Failure to do so may result in de-certification and possible criminal charges, Kyle said.

A company found violating election laws or regulations, he said, could be disbarred from certifying new equipment with the state for one year.

Kyle said the secretary of state would be announcing further proposals regarding e-voting in the near future.

It's widely believed by voting machine makers that Secretary of State Shelley, who has previously stated his preference for electronic voting machines to offer a voter-verifiable receipt with their machines, may announce plans within a week or so to require this on voting machines used in the state.

A voter receipt would allow voters to verify that their ballot has been cast correctly before depositing the receipt into a secure ballot box to be used in case of a recount.

This is all very good news! [Not good that these insecure manipulatable systems were installed and used in the first place, but good that the situation is now being addressed, at least.]

Joseph Holder writes more about the serious security problems found with the Diebold Alameda installation. He also speculates that we might be seeing the true explanation for the -16,022 Gore votes in the 2000 Presidential election, originally speculated to be due to an unauthorized "second memory card".