Dr. C. Scott Ananian (cananian) wrote,
Dr. C. Scott Ananian

"An Electronic Florida"

Fairfax County (whose voting problems I wrote about twice previously) seems to be taking their problems seriously:
"We've just done an electronic Florida. That's what it looks like to me at first blush," said Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), referring to the balloting problems in the 2000 presidential election. He added that he was "shocked" when he heard that Thompson lost and blamed the machines for taking votes from her.

"I don't think this is going to be a partisan issue. Anyone who is running as a candidate is concerned about the integrity of the process," he said.

Thompson has asked that electoral board staff members test every machine to determine the extent of such problems, and she said she is considering filing a lawsuit to force them to do so.
...but note that the pernicious thing about DRE voting machines is that you can't reconstruct the "correct" tally even if problems were found. The only recourse would be to hold the entire election all over again. And the "testing" methods traditionally used for DRE machines don't exactly inspire confidence in their thoroughness --- although in this case even the "punch some buttons and see if things seem to work" testing method was sufficient to disclose severe deficiencies.

Ed Felton sums it up best:

And how do we know the cause was a bug, rather than fraud? Because the error was visible to voters. If this had been fraud, the "X" on the screen would never have disappeared -- but the vote would have been given, silently, to the wrong candidate.

You could hardly construct a better textbook illustration of the importance of having a voter-verifiable paper trail. The paper trail would have helped voters notice the disappearance of their votes, and it would have provided a reliable record to consult in a later recount. As it is, we'll never know who really won the election.

(in other news, Boulder County, CO also seems to have had some election troubles this Nov 4th. They seem to be doing a responsible job of auditing their results, until the very end of the article, where they say, "Many election systems vendors are telling us that minor software changes are pretty much routine and don't need certification.")

Tags: dre, elections

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