E-voting stories rounded up (and palindromes)

It's IT Blogwatch, in which we examine Tuesday's e-voting sagas. Not to mention a veritable palindromefest...

The Songini-Weiss-Hamblen-Rosencrance-Mingis quinumvirate wrote:

U.S. citizens went to the polls [Tuesday] amid scattered reports of e-voting problems in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Indiana that caused long lines to form at some polling places and delayed voting in a handful of areas. In other places such as Maryland and North Carolina, where past e-voting snafus had occurred, voting seemed to be going more smoothly, according to elections officials.


[Maryland] runs Diebold Election Systems' TS machines, as well as electronic polling books from Diebold that contain a database of eligible voters. Elections officials in Montgomery County, Md., and elsewhere complained of problems with the polling books during the September primary. Diebold said it had remedied the problem.


In neighboring Pennsylvania, however, problems cropped up early in the day. In Lancaster County, Pa., 67 out of 232 Hart InterCivic Inc. eScan voting machines did not work properly when the scanning devices on the machines would not scan paper ballots as they were fed in ... The ballot stub is a receipt given to the voter to show that he has voted. If the stub isn't removed before the ballot is fed in to the scanner, it can disable the machine.

Todd R. Weiss later added:

Reports emerged from across the nation about a problem called "vote-flipping," where a voter selected a candidate on e-voting hardware -- and the machine counted the vote for an opposing candidate. The problem has been reported in U.S. elections since 2004 as more states move to e-voting machines that are supposed to make the vote counting process more accurate. Instead, for many Americans, the process has led to more questions than answers, and suspicions that their votes aren't being counted correctly.


Stanford University computer science professor David L. Dill, who founded the nonprofit Verified Voting Foundation and VerifiedVoting.org, ... said he's not convinced of one theory -- that the problem is a conspiracy to defraud voters of their votes and give the election to the opposition. Once a voter makes his or her selections on a machine, a review screen shows them for whom their votes will be tallied, which the voter can confirm or at least review. That ability to review the vote before it is ultimately cast, he said, makes it less likely that fraud is involved.

Robert L. Mitchell asks if the bell tolls for Diebold:

With its reputation battered, Diebold may be ready to throw in the towel in the election machine business ... company CEO and president Thomas Swidarski ... is already trying to distance the Diebold name from its voting machine business to protect its brand ... If things go badly today, November 7th might just be remembered as Diebold Election Systems' Waterloo.

Bob Morrissey has a downer:

Interesting news as the Election Day coverage heats up this morning. Already there are major issues with the electronic voting machines just about everywhere that the press exists, including issues serious enough to have to go back to paper votes. Diebold's security record is not the greatest (even for all the claims of being secure, numerous hacks have been shown to work on the system) as well as the other electronic voting machines that are manufactured in the country.


the application can be vulnerable both from the memory card through the entire process of developoing the code to register votes. While electronic voting machines are a good idea, the question of standards and quality control, as well as 3rd party certifying partners for the code are just as important for voting machines as they are for web based code sets, or the applications that we run on our computing systems.

Gaius Arbo:

There have been a lot of small problems reported so far today, but all in all they are not sounding really bad so far. There may be a few places where polling hours are going to be extended due to problems with equipment and a rash of smaller issues, but really not a huge mess anywhere being reported right now. The biggest problem is that any problem becomes an opportunity for partisan screaming. Which we really don't need.


In one of the weirdest incidents so far today, a poll worker in Kentucky has been arrested for choking a voter ... Man, are they strict in Kentucky.

Pamela Leavey reports from Denver, CO:

Voter nightmare ... due to massive computer problems which have kept many from casting their vote.

Ben Adler has more:

Luckily, Colorado does not have any key Senate races this year. But this is still a travesty for democracy. The fact that there are no races here that are particularly high-profile or valuable to steal also goes to prove one of my long-standing suspicions -- that the biggest reason so many people are disenfranchised remains incompetence and under-funding in the election administration bureaucracy. [The Denver Post's comment system is running overtime, with hundreds of posts from frustrated voters]

T. Christopher Kelly reminds us it's not just Diebold:

Diebold ... isn't the only company that screws up our elections. Election Systems & Software claims to be "the world's most experienced election management company." If that's true, the company's performance has become a compelling argument against the privatization of election management ... The [Imboden, Arkansas] county clerk says she's "very dissatisfied" with ES&S. She certainly should be, given the company's poor performance during the county's primary and again today. And she isn't alone in her frustration. The list (pdf) of problems that ES&S or its voting machines have caused in other elections over the years is lengthy.
Brad "BradBlog" Friedman too:

I just got off the phone with Steve Young, the Democratic candidate in CA-48 (Orange County). He reports that his office is receiving calls from at least 8 precincts of voting machines down with no paper ballots available for voters. All, he says, in strongly Democratic areas of the otherwise conservative Orange County. I believe they use ES&S voting machines down there. By the time we were done with the call, a staffer came in with a report from machines down in a Republican area, but said the machines were fixed quickly, whereas one of the reports you'll see below (transcribed during our quick phone conversation) shows poll workers repeatedly trying to get help from the Registrar to no avail.

But Markos "Kos" Moulitsas says it's not a partisan issue:

Today is the end of the electronic voting machine ... Republicans are complaining about voting irregularities as loudly [as Democrats] ... Here's the bottom line -- no one trusts those machines anymore. And not only do they damage the integrity of our democracy, but they give losing campaigns an excuse to grandstand and further erode faith in our system.
Paul McNamara sighs:

You can count on reading these stories all day today ... [but then] news broke that Britney Spears is divorcing what’s-his-name. … Election? What election? We’ll soldier on figuring that a few of you still care.

Buffer overflow:

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And finally... Palindromes!

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richij.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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