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Voting Machine Maker Blames Popular Anti-Virus Program for Glitches

August 13, 2008

Four counties recently joined the Ohio Secretary of State in a suit against voter machine vendor Premier Election Solutions Inc. formerly known as Diebold Election Systems. A spokesman for the  embattled government contractor says the problem isn't the fault of the machines and blames a popular virus protection program installed on county computers.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner first called for the machines to be replaced statewide in January after a state study found a number of critical security failures in Premier machines including calibration problems and failure to properly tabulate votes.

Brunner was elected as Secretary of State in 2006 running on a platform that promised election reform and a data protection plan that promised to end outsourcing of confidential information to private contractors and return the responsibility of protecting Ohio voter's private information to Secretary of State employees. See Don't Let Identity Theft Rob Your Election.

The first term Democrat’s $64 million proposal to scrap touch-screen voting machines statewide in favor of optically scanned paper ballots has met with heavy resistance from Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature.

In June, the Ohio Senate conference committee killed efforts by Brunner to allow Cuyahoga and two other counties to continue to count their paper ballots at headquarters --a less expensive process and one Brunner views as more secure by reducing the use of credit card-sized memory cards.

Cuyahoga County, where Brunner has the authority to force the change, was the first county to scrap the touch-screen voting machines. Premier responded with a lawsuit against the county. Brunner, in turn, filed a counterclaim against Premier with the Franklin County Common Pleas Court according to an article in the Dayton Daily News published August 7.

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"If one purchases a $6 million voting system one would expect it to count accurately," said Butler County Board of Elections Director Betty McGary, who first alerted Brunner and Premier to the problem with the March primary count.

Butler is one of 11 counties that Brunner said experienced voting machine equipment malfunctions that could impact election accuracy. For legal reasons Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Butler counties and the other counties are defendants along with Premier in the counterclaim.

Brunner's lawsuit seeks damages only against Premier, formerly known as Diebold Election Systems. The company is accused of breach of warranty, breach of contract and fraud.  Brunner notes that her predecessor, Kenneth Blackwell, certified the machines and accuses Premier of making false claims in order to win certification.

At least four of the counties involved in the lawsuit found Premier's tabulation software failed to upload votes from memory cards, while equipment indicated the votes had been counted. Officials blamed human error until Butler County notified Brunner.

Last week, Brunner's office tested Butler County's equipment to determine what is causing the software glitch. Premier spokesman Chris Riggall told the Dayton Daily News he not seen the counterclaim and declined comment on it. But he blamed the vote tabulation problems on McAfee anti-virus software on computer servers.

Ellis Jacobs, lead attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, which identified Montgomery County's calibration problems and mechanical issues such as paper jams said "It's a shame that this incredibly important equipment has all of these problems.”


Where have all the Voting Machines gone?

Ever wonder where voting machines end up once scrapped? Click Here for the surprising answer.

 

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