Monday, January 08, 2007

US 2006 evoting failures report

A report just released by VotersUnite.Org, VoteTrustUSA, Voter Action and Pollworkers for Democracy catalogues a worrying series of problems with the US mid term elections in November 2006. Take this from the executive summary:

"In all, we looked at 1022 reports of problems associated with electronic voting equipment from 314 counties in 36 states...

The mid-term election revealed that the promise of easier voting, more accurate tallies, and
faster results with electronic systems has not been fulfilled. Voters in some jurisdictions
waited in line for hours to cast their ballots. Others cast their ballots accidentally before
they were done because they pressed the wrong button or left without casting their ballots
because they didn’t press the right button. Many voters watched the machine highlight a
candidate they didn’t select or fail to indicate a vote for a candidate they did select and
were then blamed for not being able to use a computer correctly.

Many polling places couldn’t open on time because of machine failures, and complex
procedures often left pollworkers frustrated and reluctant to serve again. Election directors
were often forced to rely on voting equipment vendors to set up the election, administer it,
and tally the votes because it was too complicated for their personnel to handle. Others
blamed themselves for not following the poorly documented, non-intuitive procedures
required to collect and tally the votes.

After the polls closed, poll workers and election officials struggled with a myriad of
reporting problems. Many couldn’t retrieve data from memory cards or couldn’t get the
tally software to combine totals from different computerized systems, while others couldn’t
figure out why the software was subtracting votes instead of adding them, or adding them
two and three times instead of only once; couldn’t determine for sure whether the first set
of results was correct, or the second set, or the third; couldn’t explain why one out of every
six voters didn’t have an electronic vote recorded for a hotly contested race; or why the
machines recorded more ballots than the number of voters who signed in to vote.

Often hidden from public view, equipment malfunctions such as these have normally been
exposed only when they are severe enough to attract media coverage...

While our source material is neither a complete list of problems nor even a
representative sampling, the number of incidents and the broad range of problems reported
is indicative of the widespread failure of electronic voting systems across the country and
how this failure affected the experience of voters on November 7, 2006."

So we had:

  • Voters unable to get the machines to register their vote for their preferred candidates
  • vendor companies running the elections because officials can't understand the machines
  • and pollworkers not being able to work out final tallys or which of several final tallys to use.
I'd say that is yet another pretty clear indication that all is not well with electronic voting in the US.

Update: Federal officials in the US have temporarily suspended testing of electronic voting systems at the lab that has certified most of the evoting systems in the US.

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