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E-vote technology at center stage amid election hype, hysteria

There have been only isolated reports of machine malfunctions

By Dan Verton
November 2, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- As expected, unsubstantiated reports of electronic voting system malfunctions trickled into various independent monitoring organizations today, but officials acknowledge that it could be days before an accurate picture emerges of how well or poorly the e-voting systems performed.
As many as 50 million Americans across 27 states were expected to use some form of electronic voting system to cast their ballot for president before polls close later tonight. And while there have already been hundreds of reported problems associated with the systems since early voting started in some states on Oct. 18, most remain unsubstantiated.
As of 4:15 p.m. (EST), the online Election Incident Reporting System, a tracking system sponsored by grass-roots voter organizations such as the Verified Voting Foundation, was reporting 635 alleged incidents nationwide related to e-voting machine problems.
New York and Pennsylania accounted for the most incidents, with at least 242 reported by late afternoon. In Philadelphia, which has Pennsylvania's largest concentration of voters, 86 incidents were reported, all of which involved voting systems that were allegedly not working properly. However, none of the reports has been independently verified.
Earlier today in Philadelphia, rumors spread quickly that e-voting machines were showing vote totals before the start of counting, prompting state Republican party officials to cry foul and threaten litigation. Those reports were false because observers misinterpreted an odometer-style vote counter that records all votes cast on each machine and is not reset for each election, said Kenneth Rapp, deputy secretary for regulatory programs for Pennsylvania.
However, at least four polling places in the city reported malfunctioning of older voting machines from Danaher Controls Inc., Doherty said.
In one precinct in Virginia, where the line of voters waiting to vote surpassed 100, only one of the eight Advanced Voting Solutions Inc. WinVote touch-screen systems was in operation, due to unidentified problems.
But most election officials in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Michigan said they had not received any reports of problems with any electronic or other voting systems in use today. And that was on a day when state elections officials around the nation reported extremely heavy turnout.
Princeton computer science professor Edward Felton, a spokesman for, an independent group of computer science and IT security experts, acknowledged that the reports being posted on his organization's Web site are based on press reports and have not been independently verified.
"We disclose our sources so that readers can make up their own minds," said Felton. "Of course, the big picture will only emerge over the coming days and weeks."
At least one of the reports, however, is

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