Poor records organization at root of Palm Beach County recount woes
Optical scan system ruled out; better record-keeping recommended
Computerworld - Officials in Palm Beach County, Fla., say they've found the answer to the recent ballot recount discrepancies that have made headlines since the county's Aug. 26 primary election.
The problem isn't with the county's new optical scan e-voting system, said Brad Merriman, an assistant county administrator who is helping to investigate what happened.
Instead, he said, the reason the 102,523 paper ballots cast on election night have never been completely accounted for in subsequent recounts is that the hundreds of boxes of ballots were so disorganized in a warehouse that workers couldn't properly account for them as they were retallied.
Some 3,700 ballots were inadvertently excluded from earlier recounts because of the poor filing and organization, he said.
So far, "we have been able to somewhat definitively reconcile the entire vote count to within about 80 ballots," Merriman said of a 25-person team under his direction that pored over the ballots since last week.
A state circuit court judge has halted the process for now so he can review the case.
Once the investigation is permitted to continue, Merriman said he thinks the number of recounted ballots will be off by 12, but even that number may still be reconciled to zero as the process continues.
The problem turned up after the state's Aug. 26 primary election, when an apparent 17-vote difference between two candidates for a judicial seat triggered an automatic recount of the 102,523 ballots cast.
The dispute unfolded as county elections officials found that subsequent ballot recounts tallied between 98,775 to 101,000 paper ballots, leaving up to 3,700 ballots unaccounted for.
Last week, a county elections office spokesman said the problem appeared to be that elections workers had simply missed boxes of ballots as they conducted the recounts.
Merriman said the latest recount has reconciled most of the discrepancy, but he noted that his team can't finish the work until Judge Charles A. Francis of the 2nd Judicial Circuit lifts his order that halted the process.
"The bottom line is that we weren't able to go in and complete our forensic analysis of absolutely what happened because the judge ordered us to stop," he said. "If he lifts his order, we think we can finish and get the number [of extra ballots] to 12."
"They just didn't have an accurate, systematic way of counting everything in the building" on election night, Merriman said of the election workers. "There's been nothing that indicates there was any kind of machine error at all."
One problem that was discovered was a "read error" with a data cartridge used in one of the optical scanners that tally the paper ballots and their votes in each precinct, he said. The precinct staff improperly tried to manually override the read error and could have caused part of the ballot total discrepancy.
Voting tech 2008
- Election Day: Live blog
- E-voting '08: Problems, yes, but it could have been worse
- E-voting problems reported early in battleground states
- Election Day: What could possibly go wrong?
- Top 20 Election Day sites, tools
- E-voting groups keeping tabs on a handful of states
- Opinion: Will your vote count?
- Q&A: Felten on e-voting and what can go wrong
- Are design issues to blame for vote 'flipping' in touch-screen machines?
- Enable secure remote access to 3D data without sacrificing visual perfomance Design and manufacturing companies must adapt quickly to the demands of an increasingly global and competitive economy. To speed time to market for...
- Virtually Delivered High Performance 3D Graphics "A picture is worth a thousand words." That old phrase is as true today as it ever was. Pictures (i.e., those with heavy...
- Best Practices for Securing Hadoop Historically, Apache Hadoop has provided limited security capabilities. To protect sensitive data being stored and analyzed in Hadoop, security architects should use a...
- Top Tips for Securing Big Data Environments: Why Big Data Doesn't Have to Mean Big Security Challenges Organizations must come to terms with the security challenges they introduce. As big data environments ingest more data, organizations will face significant risks...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!