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Kim Alexander's Weblog

CVF President and Founder Kim Alexander highlights voting technology developments around the state and nation and shares her views in her weblog. Contact Kim via email at kimalex at calvoter dot org. (XML Available)

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California voting machines decertified

Archives

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Wednesday, March 31

Official's Travel Gift Questioned 

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 03/31/04

Today the L.A. Times reports that Mischelle Townsend, Riverside County Registrar of Voters, is being accused of illegally accepting $1,080 in travel and lodging from Sequoia Voting Systems, the county's electronic voting equipment supplier. Riverside county's gift limit is $340. Community activist Art Cassel filed the complaint against Townsend, which also alleges that Towsend failed to file conflict-of-interest discosure reports from 1998-2002, as well as her husband's income.

Excerpt:

Townsend said her trip was for a Public Broadcasting Service series called "American Business Review" hosted by Morley Safer.

She said she may have improperly filled out the forms, but she believes that the show was for the public good.

"I filled it out rather hurriedly," she said. "If I put it on the wrong schedule, I'll look into that. I firmly believe it was worthwhile to provide information on our experience.... I didn't receive compensation for it. There was nothing personally gained from it. It was just my role to provide information about issues being debated about the voting system we use."

A Sequoia spokesman questioned whether the complaint was politically motivated.

"Mischelle has been a leader in electronic voting issues across the country, and there are a number of people politically opposed to electronic voting," said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for Sequoia.

"As someone who has worked with Mischelle for several years, I have always known her to be one of the most ethical officials in government, to the point of making sure when we go out to a meal together, the check is split so there's never any question of impropriety."

Riverside County was the first large jurisdiction in the nation to switch to electronic voting, and used it in the 2000 presidential election. Townsend has often been quoted about the system's accuracy.

The company's equipment is used in more than 35 states, with 48,000 of its electronic machines in use across the nation, according to Sequoia's website.

(# 8:05 AM)

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Monday, March 29

County should look at alternatives to Diebold 

Oakland Tribune editorial, 03/27/04

Excerpt:

It appears that Alameda County residents are destined to cast their ballots Nov. 2 on Diebold Election Systems' heretofore unreliable touchscreen voting system, but that shouldn't preclude officials from considering what else might be available.

For if the touchscreens, encoders, software, hardware and other gizmos it takes to operate Diebold's system aren't nigh-on flawless, it may be time for the county to opt out of its $12.7 million purchase.

If Diebold's electronic child is not trouble-free by Nov. 2, there are an abundance of reasons why Alameda County should not hesitate to sever its relationship with the firm. Among them are the fact that the malfunctioning system caused voting problems at 200 precincts during the March 2 primary, that none of its equipment had been adequately tested or certified prior to the past three elections, and Diebold has been less than candid in its dealings with Alameda County and the press.

(# 4:12 PM)

Diebold vows to fix e-vote problems 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, 03/25/04

Diebold executives and Alameda county election offiicals held a closed-door meeting to discuss the numerous problems the county experienced with Diebold's voting equipment on March 2.

Excerpt:

Diebold's voting system also inexplicably gave thousands of Democratic votes in the Oct. 7 recall election to a Southern California socialist. The firm has failed to obtain timely state approval of hardware and software.

For Super Tuesday, Diebold supplied scantily tested devices that failed in 200 Alameda County polling places and more than 560 in San Diego County.

The devices, a kind of voter-card encoder called the PCM-500, eventually were to revamp the polling place. Diebold and the counties planned as early as 2005 to program voter-registration lists into the PCM-500s, eliminating the need for paper pollbooks and making polling places virtually paperless.

On Wednesday, Diebold representatives said they didn't know they had to have such "peripheral devices" tested and certified for an election until late December.

State officials say that's not true.

"Elections officials were very clear in October in letting Diebold representatives know that anything related to their systems had to first be certified," said Doug Stone, spokesman for the California Secretary of State's Office.

(# 4:08 PM)

County calls out Diebold execs 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, 3/24/04

Alameda county election officials are the first in the state, and perhaps in the nation, to invoke the peformance clause of their voting equipment contract with Diebold.

Excerpt:

After his phone inquiries to Diebold went unanswered, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Bradley J. Clark wrote a letter Monday invoking the performance clause of the county's $12.7 million contract.

He demanded Diebold deliver within 10 days a written plan to correct multiple problems, foremost of which was forcing the county to use poorly tested, uncertified voter-card encoders that broke down in 200 polling places March 2.

Diebold executives agreed to a meeting today. The company did not respond to inquiries Tuesday.

Alameda County Counsel Richard Winnie shied from talk of legal action. "We're going to take this step by step," he said. "We're very serious about making sure we don't have problems like this in the future."

Clark's letter revealed a greater array of problems with Diebold equipment and ballot-printing services than the county previously has acknowledged.

The most serious and well-known -- the large-scale failure of electronic devices used to produce ballot-access cards for voters -- delayed Super Tuesday voting at 200 polling places in Alameda County and more than 560 in San Diego County. When paper ballots ran out, hundreds of voters were turned away.

Diebold officials have blamed the encoder failures on drained batteries. Yet poll workers have told the Oakland Tribune and Clark's office that they kept the encoders fully charged only to see them fail for varying periods of time on the morning of the election.

For the first time, Clark's letter suggests Alameda County also had unspecified "programming problems" in the Democratic and American Independent Party presidential primaries. The registrar did not respond immediately to inquiries Tuesday about those problems.

Clark also made note of "absentee ballot problems," a reference to a glitch in the Oct. 7 recall election that mysteriously awarded thousands of absentee votes for Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Southern California Socialist John Burton. A Diebold technician changed the votes based on examination of the paper ballots and scanned ballot images.

"I am sure that it was fixed because of the hand counts that we did," Clark said in a recent e-mail, "but I was not satisfied with the answers as to why it happened."

Diebold's explanations have ranged from a corrupted candidate database to a bad vote-counting server.

(# 4:02 PM)

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Sunday, March 21

Please note: I will be offline the week of March 22 and returning on March 29.

(# 9:35 PM)

CA Secretary of State Voting Systems Panel Meeting, March 30, 2004 

Meeting Agenda

On Tuesday, March 30 the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems and Procedures panel will meet at 1 p.m. in Sacramento. The agenda includes only two items -- ES&S' ranked choice voting system for San Francisco's instant-runoff balloting, and "Other Business". The meeting is open to the public.

(# 9:33 PM)

Movie clip of closed-door Texas certification meeting 

Texas Safe Voting clip

Verified voting activists in Texas have a new web site featuring a short movie clip of a closed-door meeting of state certification authorities and Diebold. The clip highlights several security issues that arose during the e-voting demonstration. The Texas Safe Voting coalition includes a wide range of organizations working toward transparent and safe voting systems and calling on the Texas Secretary of State to hold certification meetings in public.

(# 9:30 PM)

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Thursday, March 18

CA Secretary of State Kevin Shelley releases draft paper trail standards 

Secretary of State News Release, 03/18/04

Today California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley released draft standards that will be used to facilitate the development and certification of an "accessible voter verified paper audit trail (AVVPAT)".

In releasing the draft standards, Secretary of State Shelley said they "will be used by voting system manufacturers to help develop the next generation of California's electronic voting machine."

He invited the public to comment on these draft standards over the next thirty days, through April 19, 2004. Comments may be submitted:

In writing: Secretary of State Kevin Shelley
Attn: AVVPAT Draft Standards
1500 11th Street, 5th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Via email: AVVPAT@ss.ca.gov

Via fax: 916-653-3214

(# 7:37 PM)

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Wednesday, March 17

Official says state was forced to certify voting machines 

By Gig Conaughton, North County Times, 03/17/04

Yesterday San Diego County's Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the widespread March 2 voting problems. The supervisors heard testimony from dozens of citizens, both critical and supportive of the county's new paperless, electronic Diebold voting system. Assistant Secretary of State Marc Carrel and Diebold Election Systems' CEO Bob Urosevich.

Excerpts:

A state elections official said Tuesday that California's secretary of state was forced by insubordinate counties ---- including San Diego County ---- into blessing the electronic voting equipment that caused polls to open late and voters to be turned away March 2.

Assistant Secretary of State Marc Carrel told county supervisors the state initially refused to certify programming machines used in San Diego County's first electronic election March 2, but relented and gave its blessing when San Diego County Registrar Sally McPherson said she would use them "with or without certification." Counties cannot legally use voting systems until they are certified by the state.

Carrel's allegation prompted county Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob to accuse the secretary of state's office of "buck-passing." County managers, meanwhile, denied Carrel's accusation.

"I want to make it very clear," county Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard said. "These systems were certified by the secretary of state in this election. We could not have used them if they were not certified."

--------

Carrel said Diebold continually dragged its feet when told it needed federal testing done on the smart-card programming machines. He said state officials finally told Diebold on Feb. 13 that they would not certify the machines. Diebold Chief Executive Officer Bob Urosevich said the company made its equipment available for testing as soon as it was told it was needed, but left quickly after the meeting and dodged further questions.

Carrel said the state quickly tested and conditionally blessed the machines when San Diego and other counties that were also switching to Diebold electronic voting systems threatened to use the machines anyway when told they would not be certified.

"We got 'the sky is falling' from several counties," Carrel said after the meeting.

(# 7:26 AM)

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Tuesday, March 16

Johnson County Demands Answers From ES&S 

By Eric Halvorson and Loni Smith McKown, WISH-TV, 03/15/04

California is not the only state where uncertified voting equipment has been used in recent elections. And Diebold is not the only vendor being accused of bypassing state certification requirements. Reports from Indiana indicate that ES&S installed uncertified software into the electronic voting systems of three Indiana counties prior to last November's election.

Excerpt:

Compliance also means a test next week of software illegally used in the November election. “We'll run some votes, print some results. We'll verify that everything's correct,” said Robb McGinnis, ES&S.

But the clerk doesn't trust them. Neither do the members of the Indiana election commission.

“I just think I was absolutely lied to by your CEO and I'm more than on the slow burn about it. I think you guys sat in this room and you all lied to me,” said Brian Burdick, Indiana election commissioner, to ES&S at a meeting on Wednesday. Commissioner S. Anthony Long angrily told ES&S Vice President Ken Carbullido that he would fine ES&S if he could have done so.

(# 3:18 PM)

Vote-less ballots worry Broward Democrats 

Associated Press, 03/13/04

Excerpt:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - There weren't many choices to make in Broward County elections last week, but 169 ballots without votes in the Democratic presidential primary are causing some worries.

Nearly half of the ballots without primary votes were in precincts with large elderly populations. Democratic Party leaders are concerned it's a sign of trouble for November.

At the rate seen in Tuesday's primary, about 4,000 ballots would go without votes in the general election in a Democratic stronghold beset by election problems since the 2000 presidential election.

"That's a frightening statistic," Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the county's Democratic Party. "We have a large number of folks who are elderly and not comfortable with these machines."

Senior-only communities accounted for four of the top five polling locations with the heaviest undervoting, according to a representative sampling by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. While the countywide average undervote was about 1 percent, the rate in retirement community precincts ranged from 2.9 percent to 5.7 percent.

(# 3:08 PM)

County of San Diego Board of Supervisors Meeting Live 

View a live webcast of San Diego County Board of Supervisors' meeting to hear the board, citizens, and elections officials discuss the voting problems San Diego experienced on March 2 and what the county will do to prevent future problems. This meeting started at 9:30 a.m. March 16, 2004.

(# 9:51 AM)

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Saturday, March 13

Lost E-Votes Could Flip Napa Race 

By Kim Zetter, Wired News, 03/12/04

Excerpts:

Napa County in Northern California said on Friday that electronic voting machines used in the March presidential primary failed to record votes on some of its paper ballots, which will force the county to re-scan over 11,000 ballots and possibly change the outcome of some close local races.

--------

The problem occurred with optical scan machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, which failed to record voters' marks off of paper ballots. The county used the company's Optech system for processing paper absentee ballots.

Napa Registrar of Voters John Tuteur said they discovered the problem on Thursday while conducting a manual recount of 1 percent of precincts, to verify accuracy, a statewide practice. Tuteur said after counting a sample of 60 paper ballots from one precinct, officials discovered that the number of votes did not match the number of votes the machine recorded for that precinct. After re-scanning 10 of the ballots, they discovered that the machine wasn't recording certain votes.

Sequoia spokesman Alfie Charles said the problem wasn't with his company's machines. "It was a procedural error on the part of the people who were setting up the equipment," he said.

Specifically, the machine was calibrated to detect carbon-based ink, but not dye-based ink commonly used in gel pens, Charles said. Prior to the election, a Sequoia technician ran test ballots through the machine to calibrate its reading sensitivity, but failed to test for gel ink.

-------

At least one close race could be overturned. Incumbent county supervisor Mike Rippey narrowly lost his re-election bid by only 50 votes.

"At this point in time we have no confidence in the results coming out of these machines," said Rippey's campaign spokeswoman Linda Scott. "What concerns us the most is that the count is so close on the absentee ballots that it could sway the election results."

The primary was the third time the county had used the Sequoia machine, Tuteur said.

"We don't know if this problem has occurred before but we're not aware of any other problems," he said.

(# 6:22 PM)

Delays at poll sites blamed on batteries 

By Helen Gao, San Diego Union-Tribune, 03/11/04

San Diego county officials issued a preliminary report on their March 2 voting problems. Most significantly, nearly forty percent of the county's polling places -- 573 out of 1,611 -- failed to open on time because of problems with Diebold's smart card encoder. Here's the link for the county's report

Excerpt from the SDUT story:

More than a third of San Diego County's polling places opened late on March 2 because a key component of the county's new electronic voting system suffered an unexpected loss of battery power, according to an initial report released yesterday.

The in-house review by a team of county managers represented the first look at the widespread problems affecting last week's election. It's one in a series of reviews that county, state and federal agencies are conducting.

The 15-page report said that in future elections, the county should provide paper ballots as backups at all polling sites. During the March 2 election, voters could vote by paper ballots only at the Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa.

Other recommendations include better training and troubleshooting instructions for poll workers; earlier setups for polling places; and improved communications between polls and the registrar's office.

Tech support phone lines were jammed on election day when poll workers tried to get help to resolve computer glitches.

Registrar of Voters Sally McPherson, who has not granted media interviews since the election, said in a statement that she will put all the recommendations in place by the Nov. 2 election. County officials intend to continue using electronic voting machines.

(# 6:16 PM)

Electronic voting component wasn't fully tested 

By Helen Gao, San Diego Union-Tribune, 03/13/04

This article discusses how the smart card encoder used by San Diego and Alameda counties on March 2 was not fully tested by either the state or federal government. County officials seem to want to lay the blame for the widespread smart card encoder failure, which kept 36 percent of the county's 1,611 precincts from opening on time, on the Secretary of State. However, county election officials knew full well going into the March primary that their voting machine, the Diebold Accuvote TSx, was only conditionally certified by the state and not federally approved.

Excerpt:

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said the county relied on the state certification and did not know about the state consultant's letter.

"If we were in the secretary of state's position and had that information, I am not sure if this county would have made the same decision" to certify the device for use, she said.

"The secretary of state did the certification. Based on that, we are forced to trust his judgment."

The state did not do more testing because of the "urgent March deadline," said consultant Steven V. Freeman in his letter to the state's director of voting systems.

The testing focused only on whether the device could encode voter cards properly according to precinct and political party.

Freeman did not raise concerns about the battery in his letter, but he did point out that the device had not been fully tested according to the Federal Election Commission's Federal Voting Systems Standards.

The standards, which California adopted, contain technical specifications to ensure electronic voting systems are "accurate, reliable and secure."

Full testing would have required checking the performance of the equipment under normal and abnormal conditions. In addition, it would have required a series of evaluations of the software and hardware to ensure the equipment holds up during storage, operation and transportation.

Doug Stone, spokesman for Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, blamed Diebold for submitting the equipment late for testing. He said it wasn't until January that Diebold made the equipment available.

"From our standpoint, Diebold dragged its feet in this process and frankly, it was quite frustrating," Stone said.

(# 6:10 PM)

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Friday, March 12

California senators want decertification of e-vote systems 

By Anna Oberthur, Associated Press, 03/12/04

State senators Don Perata, a Democrat from Alameda county, and Ross Johnson, a Republican from Orange County, are urging California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to decertify electronic voting machines and prevent their use in November. Perata and Johnson, who are the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Elections Committee, respectively, said in a letter to Secretary Shelley that if electronic voting systems are not decertified by the Secretary of State they will introduce legislation to prohibit e-voting in November.

Wired News featured a story on the news conference yesterday, along with the San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times,
the Sacramento Bee, and many other news outlets.

I attended yesterday's news conference and spoke in favor of the move to decertify touchscreens. Here is the statement I made:

Putting 21st century voting equipment into a ninetheenth century voting system is a recipe for disaster. It’s like putting a fuel cell engine into a Model-T Ford -- if you step on the gas the thing will fall apart, or explode. That’s pretty much what happened in three of our largest counties last week.

Our polling places are located in garages, churches, community groups -- not exactly the kinds of places that are appropriate for high-tech voting. Our pollworkers are essentially volunteers who give their service with limited pay and training.

The California Voter Foundation is not opposed to touchscreen voting but if it’s to be used, it must be done safely, which means having a voter verified paper trail, strong regulatory oversight, and high tech voting centers.

It is the position of the California Voter Foundation that any voting system that does not require a voter to directly mark on the ballot must still create a verifiable audit trail of each ballot cast that can be viewed by the voter at the time the ballot is cast; given today's technology the only practical voter-verifiable audit trail is a paper ballot image.

One reason some county registrars oppose the paper trail is because they think if pollworkers have to manage one more duty in the polling place the whole system will fall apart. But it’s already falling apart.

No amount of pollworker training is going to overcome the problems we saw on Tuesday. The problems in Alameda and San Diego can be attributed to the vendor, not the pollworkers. And San Diego knowingly used a voting system that was not federally approved.

Fourteen counties, comprising over 40 percent of California’s electorate, used electronic voting systems on March 2. All of these counties also have low-tech, paper-based optical scan systems they use for absentee voting. These optical scan systems can also be used in polling places, without having to purchase any new polling place equipment. All the counties have to do is print more ballots.

The safest thing we can do right now is for counties with electronic voting systems to put them away until they are safe to use.

Not every e-voting county had problems on Tuesday. But even if everything appears to go fine we still can’t verify the results. We still don’t have a paper audit trail to ensure the computerized vote count is accurate. And we shouldn’t end every election praying for wide margins.

(# 4:33 PM)

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Tuesday, March 9

A Deafening Silence 

By Brian D. Barry, CommonDreams.org, 03/04/04

Excerpts:

I've always wondered what sound Democracy would make if it died.

Last night, I found out in Santa Clara, California. The sound it makes is a deafening silence, and it sent chills up and down my spine. This sound scared me more than anything I've ever heard in my life.

Last night, I experienced the illusion of casting my vote on a state of the art touch screen "DRE" (direct recording electronic) computer voting system. The poll workers were helpful and showed me how to vote. However, when I asked them a detailed question such as, who is the vendor that makes these voting machines, all I got was a blank stare. Do you have any information on these machines? No answer. I had to examine the machines myself to find out who made them. I didn't know that my most basic question was going to be a rhetorical one.

-------

After I completed making all my selections, the screen displayed this message: "Touch Here To Cast Your Ballot". So I did.

Then the machine displayed this message:

"Recording Vote. Please Wait."

A couple of moments went by, then the machine displayed this final message:

"Vote Recorded, Thank You"

I waited for the output. Nothing happened.

Ok, I guess I was done voting.

It would have been a wonderful experience except for one thing.

There was something missing. Something very important.

There was no human-readable, physical evidence that my vote had been captured and stored the way that I had intended. Sequoia claims that my vote was stored inside that machine, but there was no way to verify this. Since there was no physical voting document produced, there was also no way to recount my vote if the election was ever disputed.

Why wasn't the machine creating a punched card showing my vote selections? Why wasn't the machine printing a sheet of paper that could be optically scanned showing how I voted that I could read myself to verify that it recorded my choices correctly? Where was that physical output that would be used to actually count my vote and that would also be used during a recount if one was necessary. Without the physical output, how could anyone ever do an audit?

Human monitoring of the step between capturing of the votes and counting of the votes has been eliminated and instead has been placed under corporate control.

This is a brilliant strategy by Sequoia Voting Systems. All elections are now perfect by design. If you eliminate the ability to detect or prove fraud in an election, then you can claim that all elections are free of fraud.

(# 8:37 AM)

7,000 Orange County Voters Were Given Bad Ballots 

By Ray F. Herndon and Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 03/09/04

Excerpts:

Poll workers struggling with a new electronic voting system in last week's election gave thousands of Orange County voters the wrong ballots, according to a Times analysis of election records. In 21 precincts where the problem was most acute, there were more ballots cast than registered voters.

--------

Election officials acknowledged that poll workers provided some voters incorrect access codes that caused them to vote in the wrong legislative districts but said there was no evidence yet that any result was in jeopardy.

"From what we have seen so far, we do not believe any of these instances where people voted in precincts they shouldn't have voted in would have affected any of the races," said Steve Rodermund, Orange County's registrar of voters.

David Hart, chairman of Texas-based Hart InterCivic, which manufactured Orange County's voting system, said it would be impossible to identify which voters cast ballots in the wrong precincts because of steps the company had taken to ensure voter secrecy. For this reason, an exact account of miscast ballots is impossible.

The Times arrived at its estimate of 7,000 improper ballots by comparing precincts with unusually high voter turnout to the average turnout at polling places.

Orange County election officials have traced the problem to poll workers who were responsible for giving each voter a four-digit code to enter into the voting machines.

------

In Anaheim, one Orange County poll worker said he was so confused by the precinct numbers that he told voters issued the wrong ballot to simply write in candidates' names if they didn't see them on the ballot. It was a frustrating experience for Shirley Green, an Anaheim Republican who said a ballot for the wrong precinct appeared on her voting machine.

"I said, 'There's no sense in writing in someone in the 67th that's running on the 68th.' … I was very upset about it. It's not fair to the people that are running, and it's not fair to the people that are voting."

To successfully challenge the outcome of an election, losing candidates would have to prove in court that the problem was so widespread it probably changed the outcome of the election, said Fred Woocher, a Santa Monica election law attorney.

That doesn't appear to be the case in Orange County, where the only close race — the Democratic primary for the 69th Assembly seat — did not appear to be affected enough to change the result, according to the Times' analysis.

In the next few weeks, Orange County election officials will work on certifying the results from the March 2 election. They will look for evidence of questionable ballots. Unless officials find evidence that an outcome was changed because voters cast ballots in the wrong precincts, the results will be certified, Rodermund said.

(# 8:21 AM)

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Monday, March 8

E-voting not living up to campaign promises 

by Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, 03/07/04

Excerpts:

When Katherine Shao went to vote Tuesday morning in Emeryville, all she found was a row of powerless, blank touchscreen voting machines, soon joined by a single, harried poll worker. In a rush herself, Shao helped by signing herself in as a voter and booting up the machines.

The screens glowed in welcoming colors. Local elections officials had touted them as faster, more accurate and "as easy to use as an ATM." They paid for a video beckoning voters to "Touch the Future."

But no electronic votes could be cast that morning at Anna Yates Elementary School: To vote, Shao needed a digital ballot, and the code for her ballot was locked inside yet another machine. The device, a Precinct Control Module model 500, stubbornly resisted entreaties to come to life. No code, no ballot, no voting.

She never got a say on paying an extra dollar to cross the Bay's bridges, on forcing Sacramento to deliver balanced budgets, on paying the highest sales tax in California to rescue local public-health clinics, on shouldering $27 billion of state bond debt for the next decade or who besides George W. Bush should be leader of the free world.

-------

But it took Tuesday's voting snafu in Alameda and San Diego counties to expose the ramshackle nature of voting-system testing and approval as California and other states rush to embrace electronic voting.

"The whole certification process has become plastic in order to accommodate the fundamental necessity of holding elections. You would bring the state into constitutional crisis if you didn't," said computer scientist David Jefferson, a member of a state task force on touchscreen voting.

The PCM 500 happened to be the one device that, if it failed, could cripple electronic voting. The encoder's proper function was essential to the operation of more than 17,000 voting machines in California on Tuesday, most of them supplied to Alameda and San Diego counties for $38 million plus annual maintenance fees.

"In the long run, it says the certification process is not worthy of the confidence that has been given to it," Jefferson said. "The certification process is broken. It's not working and was not designed for the era of software-driven elections."

(# 4:37 PM)

Mishaps run deeper than new machines 

By Jeff McDonald and Luis Monteagudo, Jr., San Diego Union-Tribune, 03/07/04

Excerpts:

The registrar's office is still calculating the number of precincts that experienced problems and for how long, but by any measure it was high. The day after the vote, officials said at least 250 of the 1,611 precincts had not opened by 7:30 a.m. They have since declined to update those numbers.

--------

San Diego County investigators are not the only government officials reviewing the performance of the electronic voting system. State and federal regulators also are conducting independent reviews.

The state could move to decertify the machines, but it is more likely to order improvements in training and responses to glitches that might arise during the general election.

No matter what investigators find or recommend, many voters are still angry about the confusion. More than a few worry that their ballots may not have been properly registered.

"I've been voting 50 years, and I've never been denied the right to vote before," said William Fore, a retired clergyman from Escondido. "This is like a banana republic."

-------

John Pilch, a retired insurance agent who worked as a polling place inspector in San Carlos, said that when polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, the number of people who signed the voter log differed from the number of ballots counted by computers.

"We lost 10 votes, and the Diebold technician who was there had no explanation," said Pilch, who registered complaints with elections officials, his county supervisor and several others. "She kept looking at the tapes."

(# 12:00 PM)

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Thursday, March 4

Few problems reported at L.A. County polls 

By Lisa Mascaro, Long Beach Press-Telegram, 03/02/04

Excerpt:

Los Angeles County voters today were sailing through one of the more glitch-free election days, thanks to a new staff of roving trouble-shooters and other steps taken by the Registrar of Voters office to ward off problems, officials said.

But elsewhere around Southern California polling places were encountering trouble, primarily because of new voting systems, officials said.

San Diego County had early morning delays booting up its new system, while Orange County poll workers struggled to access computer ballots.

Officials in those counties could not immediately determine the extent of the problems.

Los Angeles County is using the new InkaVote marking pen system for the first time countywide, after it debuted at 1,000 precincts in November.

"Everything is really going very well," said Kristin Heffron, Los Angeles County's chief deputy Registrar-Recorder.

Heffron said the county has taken a number of steps over the past few elections to improve the system at its 4,571 precincts.

It's consolidated polling places into larger neighborhood voting centers to cut down on the number of smaller venues that need to be open and staffed.

Plus, it's hired roving trouble-shooters who check on precincts over the weekend to make sure they're ready to go and then hit the sites on Election Day morning to make sure they have the supplies and staff they need.

(# 11:50 AM)

Electronic voting devices lack federal OK and disrupt votes for thousands 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, 03/04/04

Excerpt:

None of the devices used Tuesday to generate digital ballots for millions of California voters have undergone federal testing and certification.

One such device, a precinct control module supplied by Diebold Election Systems, disrupted voting in the primary for thousands of voters, affecting as many as one in five precincts in Alameda County and one in 10 precincts in San Diego County.

A large number of voters were forced to fill out paper, provisional ballots, and some were sent away without casting ballots in two of the state's largest counties.

High volumes of provisional votes and late absentee ballots added uncertainty to Alameda County election results. On Wednesday, county Registrar of Voters Brad Clark reported to state officials an estimate of 30,000 uncounted absentee ballots, 8,000 provisional ballots and perhaps 2,000 ballots damaged in the mail or by voters or election officials.

Some of the provisional ballots may be ruled invalid as counting proceeds over the next few weeks. But the county's estimate suggests that as much as 13 percent of votes for Tuesday's election remain to be counted.

Clark said he was disturbed at the prospect that voters may have been turned away when poll workers were unable to get the voter-card encoders to work and, in some cases, ran out of provisional ballots.

``If people were turned away, that's awful,'' Clark said, adding that he has no first-hand reports of voters being unable to cast some form of ballot.

(# 11:23 AM)

Electronic S.J. ballot cards lost 

By David Siders, the Stockton Record (San Joaquin County), 03/04/04

Excerpt:

Hundreds of electronic ballot cards were lost Tuesday in San Joaquin County, left at a warehouse where elections' officials later discovered them, the registrar of voters acknowledged.

Election workers found eight metal cases containing ballots from eight precincts at the Stockton warehouse after precinct officials boxed the ballots instead of handing them to elections officials, Registrar of Voters Deborah Hench said.

Elections officials searched through trucks and boxes to get hold of the ballots, retrieved about two hours after first election returns alerted elections officials the ballots were missing, Hench said.

The scramble delayed San Joaquin County election reports, the last of which was submitted at 4:43 a.m., later than all but one other California county, according to the Office of the Secretary of State. Counties counting similar numbers of ballots submitted reports between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Precinct officials reported a "mile of cars" waiting to turn in ballots at the warehouse, one of four buildings to which ballots could be brought. At least one official said he took ballots home and returned later to deliver them.

"That's the biggest screw-up I've ever seen in my life," said Frank Rauzi, the official.

(# 9:52 AM)

E-voting problems drive voters away 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, 03/03/04

Excerpts:

Thousands of voters in two of California's largest, electronic-voting counties were forced to cast paper ballots and some were driven from the polls by a confluence of hardware problems, poor poll worker training and confusion over open-primary voting.

At about one in every six polling places in Alameda County, touchscreen voting ground to a temporary halt, and poll workers doled out paper provisional ballots to voters in dozens of precincts.

Voting technicians scrambled to get electronic voting running again, and troubleshooters hurried to keep precincts supplied in paper ballots. But paper ballots ran out in several precincts, and poll workers told voters to come back later.

Some did. Some didn't.

------

Poll workers use the encoders, which are technically known as precinct control modules, to activate the smart cards that voters insert into touchscreen voting machines. The encoders load a specific ballot onto the voter card, based on a voter's residence in certain political districts and their party registration.

The encoders had undergone testing by at least one laboratory but had never been federally certified. Based on its own consultant's testing of the devices, California's Secretary of State issued a one-time certification for the encoders, good only for Tuesday's primary.

Alameda County poll workers phoned in at least 200 voting problems in the first hours of voting, the majority of them with voter-card encoders.

"This happened all over the county," said assistant registrar of voters Elaine Ginnold.

(# 8:43 AM)

Election officials report some e-voting glitches 

By Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News, 03/04/04

Excerpts:

Significant delays in opening the polls in Alameda and San Diego counties were reported Tuesday morning. Then, as the hours ticked away on Election Night, San Bernardino reported trouble with its vote-counting software. Final results were not ready until 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The delay in San Bernardino contributed to the uncertainty Tuesday about the outcome of the statewide vote over Proposition 55. Ultimately, the school-bond measure passed by a margin of a little more than 1 percent.

-----

In Orange County, an electronic system made by Hart InterCivic functioned properly but poll workers confused by the complexity of the primary gave voters the wrong ballots, jeopardizing the outcome of several local races.

Scott Konopasek, the registrar of voters of San Bernardino, said an unanticipated problem with the memory capacity of the vote-counting computer marred an otherwise uneventful election.

``There was no problem with the hardware, there was no problem with the software, there was no problem with the polling-place operation,'' Konopasek said. But the last-minute creation of the 3.3 million-record tallying database, which tracked the 24,000 ballot permutations used in the county, caused the vote-counting computer to go into an endless processing loop.

Konopasek said it took him several hours to figure out what was wrong. ``I was very surprised and embarrassed,'' he said.

(# 8:36 AM)

ACLU calls for probe into election problems 

San Diego Union Tribune, 03/03/04

Excerpt:

The American Civil Liberties Union today called on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to convene a panel of experts to investigate problems with the new touch-screen voting machines. A D V E R T I S E M E N T

"The ACLU is very troubled by the numerous reports we have received of voters having been disenfranchised yesterday due to start-up problems with the touch screen voting machines," Nancy Sasaki, executive director, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties, said in a statement.

Sasaki said the ACLU wants the Board of Supervisors to assemble a panel of experts, community leaders and county staff to investigate the problems before the election in November.

(# 8:30 AM)

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Wednesday, March 3

Glitches Hinder Casting of Votes 

Los Angeles, Times, 03/03/04

The Los Angeles Times reports on various problems with electronic voting machines in Southern California. Here are some excerpts from the story:

------
In Orange County, poll workers unfamiliar with the new electronic voting system made mistakes Tuesday that allowed many people to vote in the wrong districts, potentially endangering the outcomes of several races, officials acknowledged.

Brett Rowley, a spokesman for the Orange County registrar of voters, said "many" voters called to complain that the wrong ballot popped up on their screen, but he said he did not know how many complaints the office had fielded.

"We've had quite a few phone calls [from voters] saying they received the wrong ballot," Rowley said. "It always concerns us if people feel they received the wrong ballot. Unfortunately, once you cast your ballot, it's the same as if you put your ballot in the box. We can never retrieve it.... That's the unfortunate thing."

-------
Assemblyman Ken Maddox, a Republican candidate for state Senate in the 35th District, said he had driven to the polls at Westminster Christian Assembly after fielding calls from voters complaining that his name wasn't on their ballot.

"I went down there to find out what was going on," Maddox said. "I got there about noon. They hadn't even bothered to notify the registrar. We called the registrar and they told us the technician had gone to lunch.... You can imagine how I'm thinking. It's called, 'You don't get lunch today. Eat in your car.' "

After several phone calls to the registrar, Maddox said, precinct workers realized they had entered the wrong district into the voting machines. As a result, the 35th Senate District race did not appear on the ballot.

"This was especially disturbing to me because this is my base," Maddox said. "A large Asian district was denied the right to vote today. Vietnamese American voters were denied the right to vote for me, as well as for [Assembly candidate] Van Tran."

--------
San Diego County's experience with its new $30-million touch-screen voting system was less than stellar.

An hour after the polls were supposed to open, the new voting machines at 10% of the county's 1,611 precincts still were not operating, according to Joe Tash, a spokesman for the county registrar-recorder's office.

Tash said poll workers saw an unfamiliar screen when the Diebold system, purchased in December, was turned on at precincts across the county. Until poll workers were given further instructions, they were unable to sign on to the system. As a result, they could not program the plastic "smart" cards that tell the touch-screen voting machines what kind of ballot a voter can cast.

(# 12:15 AM)

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Tuesday, March 2

Mechanical problems stymie voting 

Contra Costa Times, 03/02/2004

Excerpt:

Without the voter card activators that failed this morning -- the machines that encode the voting cards with party affiliation and polling location -- touch screen voting cannot proceed.

Each precinct countywide had 25 to 50 provisional ballots on hand for Democrats and Republicans combined, Clark said. He said election officials delivered additional ballots to 43 precincts around the county this morning but voters were turned away in the meanwhile.

Some machines were down for two or three hours.

When registered Republican Elizabeth Peterson arrived to vote at the fire station on Stoneridge Mall Road in Pleasanton, she was greeted with a hand-written sign that read "Voting machine broken, please return later."

Because Democratic presidential hopefuls were the stars of the primary, polling places each received only a handful of Republican provisional ballots.

George Fargis of Pleasanton, precinct inspector at the firehouse, said he and his crew turned away 50 to 100 voters because the encoder was broken.

"We couldn't tell people when or if they could come back and vote," an irritated Fargis said this afternoon.

Fargis said at least four other precincts in Pleasanton reported similar problems. He said poll workers were told expressly not to test the machines before polls opened at 7 a.m.

"Because this was what we hoped to be an all-electronic election we didn't have as many provisional ballots and envelopes at each of the polling places," said Piedmont City Clerk Ann Swift. "We had to not only get a new piece of equipment but get more provisional supplies as a back-up."

(# 10:39 PM)

Scattered e-voting problems anger computer scientists 

By Rachel Konrad, Associated Press, 03/02/04

Excerpt:

"There have been a few human errors, which you have in any election, but there have been no voting equipment problems at all," said Linda Lamone, Maryland election laws administrator.

That argument didn't placate voter advocates and computer scientists who have complained that electronic voting exposes elections to hackers and software bugs. They're upset that touchscreens don't produce paper records, making an accurate recount nearly impossible.

"The inherent fallibility of humans is precisely why we need a voter-verified paper trail," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. "Things will always go wrong in elections."

--------

Glitches in California's Alameda County and in other states involved encoders, devices inserted into voting machines that enable the screens to display different party affiliations, languages or ballot measures.

In Maryland's Howard County, a computer server could not receive electronic data over a conventional modem, forcing a 90-minute delay while poll workers hand-delivered data cards to the registrar.

Some polling places in Maryland received wrong encoders, and one Georgia county apparently forgot to program them. Poll workers in one Atlanta precinct discovered some terminals that didn't work. But voters in both states resorted to paper ballots kept as backups.

(# 8:04 PM)

Technical glitches keep some from casting ballots 

San Francisco Chronicle staff reports, 03/02/4

Excerpt:

Although most early reports said that voting appeared to be going smoothly, in some places there were technical glitches.

An equipment malfunction slowed voting at 200 precincts in Alameda County, and voters may have been turned away at some sites. At 1515 Francisco St. in Berkeley, voters who appeared at 8:10 a.m. were told the voting machines were out of order and, besides, the poll workers had run out of Democratic Party ballots.

Officials blamed the trouble on a newly installed device called a voter card encoder. The size of a laptop computer, it is programmed to make sure voters get the right ballot for their party affiliation when they sign in.

But at about 200 precincts, either it did not work properly or poll workers could not get it to display any data.

Officials were able to fix most of the problems by troubleshooting over the phone. But 25 sites had to resort to paper ballots as a backup to the county's touch-screen voting machines, and some ran out of them.

The problems were not limited to Alameda County. Voters in Maryland, Georgia and Southern California encountered scattered technical problems, largely blamed on human error, as electronic voting machines got their biggest U.S. test so far.

Dozens of machines in California's San Diego County failed to boot up properly, forcing voters to wait until they were fixed or to go to another polling spot to cast paper ballots. When some San Diego poll workers plugged in machines, a screen for the Windows operating system and not the voting program appeared. Officials spent more than two hours getting all machines operating.

The problem, which apparently was triggered by a power fluctuation, affected between 10 and 15 percent of the county's 1,611 precincts, said Mike Workman, a San Diego County spokesman.

Officials said they were unsure how many voters had to leave for work before the problem was fixed.

(# 7:50 PM)

Technical Problems Reported in E-Voting 

By Rachel Konrad, the Associated Press, 03/02/04

AP is reporting that a number of states using electronic voting systems ran into problems early into Election Day, and that paper ballots are being used in many polling places until problems are fixed.

KFI Radio in Southern California received dozens of calls this morning from voters in Orange and San Diego counties -- reportedly voters in Fallbrook, San Diego are finding that the Diebold TSx machines are freezing up. In Republican-leaning Orange County, voters in some polling places using Hart Intercivic's electronic voting system reportedly are finding they are unable to cast anything other than a Democratic party ballot.

(# 11:30 AM)

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Monday, March 1

Computer-voting critic loses poll-worker job 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group

Longtime Alameda county pollworker Doug Faunt has been prohibited from serving as a pollworker because he spoke out about his concerns over his county's use of electronic voting equipment.

Alameda assistant registrar Elaine Ginnold is quoted in the article saying, "With all the talk about sabotage and tampering, someone is making comments about touchscreens, (and) you have to wonder...It seemed like he was the type of person who might do that."

Faunt's response: "They're accusing me of being dishonest, of being a bad person...My sin was criticizing the system and for that I've been locked out. I think that's not the American way."

(# 1:43 PM)

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