News for Public Officials and the People They Serve

Voting Machine Glitches Plague Counties

April 8th, 2006

News for Public Officials

Vendors said they were miracles of modern technology. The Feds said you had to have them.  Commissioners studied, reviewed and selected the best the taxpayers could afford. So what went wrong?

Problems using voting machines in the Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and North Carolina primaries last month have reinforced fears that the 2006 elections may be beset with glitches.

"There's a lot of evidence that some of those fears are coming to pass," says Doug Chapin, president of, a non-partisan group that studies elections. "The theory that new technology results in error seems to be borne out early in the process."

According to John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org and VoteTrustUSA.Org, "While we have been involved in issues about Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or "touch-screen") voting machines or paper ballots the electronic voting machine vendors have been wreaking complete havoc across the country".

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith  believes that the final tally does not include legal votes cast for Smith in Armstrong, Cass, Childress, Dimmit, Kent, Limestone and Lynn counties. It also says that the final tally includes illegal votes for Willett in Galveston, Gregg, Tarrant and Winkler counties and does not include legal votes for Smith in Gregg, Tarrant and Winkler counties.

In Tarrant County, a computer programming error counted some votes cast in the March 7 primary multiple times and boosted the final tally in both party primaries by as much as 100,000 votes. Hart InterCivic, the company that made the equipment and wrote the software, said that a procedural error led to inflated counts when merging totals from early voting, absentee-by-mail voting and election-day voting into one report on election night.

On orders from the Texas Secretary of State’s office, the recount for the Tom Green County Court-at-Law No. 2 race was suspended midway through its second day.  Republican Chairman Dennis McKerley stopped the recount after workers found discrepancies of as much as 20 percent between what was counted Monday and what was reported Election Night.

 "Apparently,  new electronic voting machines provided by vendor Hart InterCivic are not printing ballots for every vote cast on the machines.", McKerley said.

Problems have been reported nationwide.

In Arizona, activists are gearing up for a fight because exceptions will now be made for touch screens required for disabled voters. They say paper ballots are safer and can be easily recounted in case of problems.

Ohio and North Carolina have had problems with failed memory cards The problems in Summit County, Ohio concerned a 30% failure rate found in pre-election testing for those cards. That problem alerted folks in North Carolina to test those same cards on their own ES&S machines where they discovered last week that more than 1000 of them failed to work!

The problem is there just is no good way to verify what only the computers can see. Dan Wallach, an associate professor at Rice University who specializes in computer security and electronic voting said, "If all the numbers add up, then it might have worked and it might not have worked. When you have a system where the inner workings of the system are a secret, like with electronic machines, you don't know."


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