E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Friday November 12, 2004

Voting Problems in Indiana

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 7:19 pm PST

From a story in the National Journal’s House Race Hotline (“How Far Reaching Is This Fidlar Flop?”):

Election equipment counted straight party votes for [Democratic] candidates as Libertarian votes, in an error “that could affect election outcomes in as many” as 9 [counties]. [Democrats] discovered the error in Franklin Co. on 11/9 after noticing a final tally they couldn’t “decipher.” Fidlar, the [county’s] election equipment vendor, then notified election officials of the error on 11/10. The Franklin Co. Elections Board held an emergency meeting 11/11 and the ballots will be counted again 11/12. GOP Chair Bob Jewell: “Hopefully (the recanvassing) won’t change the outcome of the election.” Fidlar has machines in 9 [Indiana counites], including 2 in the 9th [congressional district] where Baron Hill [D] lost by fewer than 1.4K votes to Rep. Mike Sodrel [R]. Fidlar officials have said Franklin Co. “is the only county where a database error occurred” (Howey Political Report, 11/12). (emphasis and un-abbreviations added)

This is a big deal. Many people vote straight-party tickets, and every single one of those votes that were cast by Democrats in these counties will have to be accounted for. To boot, Fidlar has touchscreen machines in 4 counties in Iowa (Clay, Clayton, Plymouth, Union) and 4 counties in North Carolina (Alleghany, Bertie, Hertford, Surry). It’s hard to believe that their “database error” only occured in Indiana. Of course, we’ll need more information from these other counties and the vendor to determine if that is the case. Also note, I count 10 counties using Fidlar machines in Indiana (Elkhart, Franklin, Fulton, LaGrange, Newton, Ripley, Scott, Steuben, Switzerland, and White).

UPDATE: It appears that this problem might only affect counties that use optical scan systems provided by Fidlar (“Recount changes one Franklin Co. race”):

A Democrat gained enough votes to bump a Republican from victory in a county commissioner’s race after a recount prompted by a computer glitch in optical-scan voting.

The glitch in the Fidlar Election Co. vote-scanning system had recorded straight-Democratic Party votes for Libertarians.

Fidlar confirmed the error on Wednesday, a day after Democrats raised questions about preliminary results that included a Libertarian candidate for Congress winning 7.7 percent of the vote in Franklin County. That was more than four times the percentage of votes he had won across the entire district.

No programming problems were found in Fidlar’s optical scan Accuvote 2000 ES system, said Dana Pittman, an account manager for the Rock Island, Ill.-based company.

However, Fidlar also is verifying programming of its optical scan equipment in Wisconsin and Michigan, which, like Indiana, have straight-party voting, Vern Paddock of Fidlar technical support told the Palladium-Item of Richmond.

The Franklin County problem does not call into question any results in Wisconsin or Michigan, Bill Barrett, national sales manager for Fidlar, told The Associated Press today.

“That was an isolated incident in a single jurisdiction,” Barrett said in a telephone interview from Detroit.

Paddock, meanwhile, said programs for the Accuvote 2000 ES have been checked for all 10 Indiana counties that use the system.

So, how the heck do we have “glitches” without “programming problems” in this situation? What is going on here?

Wednesday November 03, 2004

Some Iowa Vote-Counting Machines Break

Filed under: — Felten @ 8:12 am PST

Vote-counting equipment in two Iowa counties failed last night and will have to be repaired today, according to a Des Moines Register story by Thomas Beaumont.

Fortunately the machines are counting paper ballots, so the ballots can still be counted properly despite the malfunction.

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