Fwd: [CDC-chat] primary election error detected - ES&S

From: Arthur Keller <voting_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Sat Jun 10 2006 - 16:08:35 CDT

>----- Original Message -----
>From: "John Gideon" <jgideon@votersunite.org>
>Sent: Friday, June 09, 2006 2:14 PM
>Subject: Too Much, Too Fast, More Than They Can Chew
>Too Much, Too Fast, More Than They Can Chew
><i>By John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org and VoteTrustUSA.Org</i>
>Pottawattamie County, Iowa is a small, urban
>county in the southwest corner of the state, on
>the Nebraska border. I-29 nearly cuts the county
>in half. The county has only 60,536 registered
>voters who voted in 41 precincts in this year's
>primary election. They selected Election Systems
>and Software (ES&S) M-100 Precinct Optical Scan
>machines for their poll-site tabulators, and they
>use AutoMark machines as their accessible voting
>system at the polls. The county is a good example
>of a small county in the "Heartland" where people
>tend to know more about other people just because
>there are fewer people to know.
>So it is really no surprise that County Auditor
>Mary Jo Drake knew there was a problem with the
>vote counting machine at the county, and the
>poll-site optical scan machines as well. She saw
>that a 19 year-old college student, Oscar Duran,
>was taking the lead on absentee ballots in the
>race to be the Republican candidate for County
>Recorder, and an incumbent with 23 years in
>office, John Sciortino, was falling behind. She
>noticed this when there were only 178 absentee
>ballots counted, and she watched as the divide between the two grew larger.
>Once the totals were nearly complete, Drake had
>her workers do a hand count of the absentee
>ballots to see if there was a problem. The count
>on the tallying machine made and programmed by
>ES&S read Duran = 99 and Sciortino = 79. The hand
>count, however, told a different story - Duran =
>25 and Sciortino = 153. There was definitely a
>problem and Drake knew this problem was probably
>evident on all ballot positions.
>At this point Drake stopped the machine count,
>called the Secretary of State's office, and
>talked to her county Board of Supervisors
>requesting permission to hand-count all of the
>county's ballots. The state and county gave Drake
>permission to do the hand-count and it was carried out on Wednesday.
>While no statewide race results were changed by
>the new tallies at least one local race was
>changed. Machine results were indicating that
>Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors
>Chairman Loren Knauss was trailing in a field of
>ten candidates in the race for the county board.
>The hand-count revealed that, in fact, Knauss was
>the top vote getter, by a wide margin, in a race
>for three candidates on the Republican ticket to
>face three Democrats in November.
>Of course the county realized they had a problem
>somewhere and that it was probably with the
>ballot programming that was provided by their
>vendor, ES&S. The same ES&S that has failed in
>Texas, West Virginia, Indiana, Arkansas, and
>Pennsylvania in this year's primaries.
>Investigation found that, in fact, the ballot programming was the problem.
>It is normal practice, in races where there is
>more than one candidate, that the names be
>rotated on the ballots in different precincts.
>So, one candidate may be first on the ballot in
>one precinct but he may be second or tenth on the
>list in another precinct. The paper ballots are
>printed with a code that is supposed to tell the
>vote tally machines which precinct the ballot is
>from so it knows who is in the top spot and who
>is in the second or tenth spot, and the votes are
>then given to the correct person.
>ES&S failed to set up Pottawattamie County's
>software to manage the name rotation, so it
>counted every ballot as if they were all printed
>exactly alike. Hence, the incorrect totals that they were receiving.
>Kudos to Drake and the Secretary of State's
>office and the county supervisors for recognizing
>the problem and making the decision to cut the
>machines out of the vote tallying process and for
>allowing the hand-count of the ballots. But...
>Why did the Logic and Accuracy (L&A) test not
>find the software error? The L&A test is supposed
>to be done with a representative test deck that
>should have had the ballot positions rotated. If
>this had been done the error should have been
>apparent because the results of the tallying of
>the test deck would not be accurate. A call to
>Charles Krogmeier of the Secretary of State's
>staff found that they have the same question
>about why the L&A test did not find the error.
>Was it even accomplished? They are investigating.
>Who made the test deck? The deck was probably
>provided along with the ballot programming to the
>county. If so, then ES&S provided a test deck
>that was just as flawed as their software. If
>this was the case, and I suspect it is, then the
>county needs to use this as a 'Lesson Learned'
>and inspect their test deck from now on. This
>error should have been readily observable. The
>Krogmeier told me that they suggest that each
>county use two different test decks when they do
>their L&A testing. One deck from the ballot
>programmer and one made up by political party
>observers on the day of the testing. In fact
>state law gives any voter the right to add ten
>cards to their counties test deck. That probably did not happen.
>Iowa has 23 other counties using the same
>equipment as Pottawattamie County, and seven
>counties use the ES&S touch screen machines. Who
>at ES&S did the ballot programming for
>Pottawattamie, and for how many other counties
>did that person provide ballot programming? Is
>there any reason to believe that this is an
>isolated incident? Is there any reason to think
>that the results in other counties programmed by
>ES&S are correct? The state of Iowa should be
>asking ES&S these questions, and maybe Texas,
>Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana and Arkansas
>also. Remember that it was only because of an
>observant county auditor that this problem even
>came to light. Every ballot program done by that
>person should be brought into question and tested
>to ensure every voter's wishes were accurately counted.
>Krogmeier told me that they would be
>investigating who the programmer was and how many
>other counties may have been affected. But will
>they do hand-counts anywhere else in the state?
>And how would they check the accuracy of the
>touch screen machines? I suggested that Krogmeier
>call Arkansas and ask about the ballot
>programming errors that are keeping eight
>counties there from using their voting machines
>in their run-off election next week.
>Krogmeier also told me that there was a problem
>in Dallas Co., a suburban county just to the
>south of Des Moines, where a professor from Drake
>University asked to use the AutoMark machine when
>he voted. He went through the ballot, marking his
>choices, and when he was through he checked the
>ballot to find that one race had been swapped.
>His ballot was "wasted" and he voted again with
>the same results. He then agreed to allow a poll
>worker to sit and watch while he voted. The same
>thing happened and the machine was taken out of
>service at that point. The problem was the same
>as in Pottawattamie County except that we only
>know of one ballot that was affected. How many
>more were marked incorrectly on this and the
>AutoMark systems used in 20 other Iowa counties.
>Ballot programming errors are a new threat at
>every new election, and it is time election
>officials realized it. Problems are cropping up
>all over the country, and there is no indication
>that they will abate. Elections officials cannot
>just accept that what they get from ES&S,
>Diebold, or any other vendor is 'good to go'.
>They must test the software and they must be
>heard when there are problems with it. If it
>hadn't been for an observant county clerk in
>Pottawattamie County, the machines' choices for
>County Board of Supervisors- not the voters'
>choices - would have been declared the winners.
>[not true, Sciortino won by 2 votes]
>Either the vendor does the programming, or the
>county does it. The vendors want to do that work
>because they make a lot of money for the service.
>ES&S requires that they do the programming for
>the AutoMark machines in many of their contracts.
>Counties could do the work themselves but the
>cost of the programming software is so expensive
>that it is hard for some counties to justify the expense.
>This is just the primary season with primaries
>stretched from March until September. The vendors
>are failing to provide good service to counties
>now. What will happen when they have to provide
>service to every county in the country on the
>same day in November? We can't simply sit by and
>watch. Something needs to be done to prevent the
>train wreck that is a certainty otherwise.
>John Gideon
>Executive Director www.votersunite.org and
>Information Manager www.votetrustusa.org
>"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
>committed citizens can change the world. Indeed,
>it is the only thing that ever has."
> Margaret Mead
> US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978)
>VotersUnite! is a national non-partisan
>organization dedicated to fair and accurate
>elections. It focuses on distributing
>well-researched information to elections
>officials, elected officials, the media, and the
>public; as well as providing activists with
>information they need to work toward transparent
>elections in their communities.

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Fri Jun 30 23:17:03 2006

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