E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Tuesday November 02, 2004

Machines Not Plugged In, 40 Votes Lost in Florida

Filed under: — Felten @ 10:46 pm PST

A group of nine voting machines ran out of power because they weren’t plugged in, causing about forty votes to be lost at polling place in Palm Beach County, according to an AP story. The machines operated on battery power for a while, but apparently lost their data when the batteries ran out around 9:30 AM.

Orleans Parish request denied

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 10:33 pm PST

The request to keep the polls open Orleans Parish was denied. No word on any appeals…

UPDATE (20:13 PST): I’ve just gotten a report from a lawyer in the field who says people are still trying to vote in Lousiana. People waiting in line - largely students - have been waiting since 2:30pm; that’s more than seven hours! Apparently the long wait is partially due to a particularly slow poll worker and the fact that one out of four of the AVC Advantage machines was down until about 6:30pm.

TRO Granted in Ohio

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 10:26 pm PST

A TRO has been issued in Ohio to keep the polls open… the order will be posted shortly.

Suit to Keep Polls Open in New Orleans

Filed under: — Felten @ 6:48 pm PST

A lawsuit has been filed in Louisiana, asking that the polls be kept open late in New Orleans to compensate for delays due to voting machine failures, according to a lawyer involved in the suit.

Odd Error Message in Santa Clara, CA

Filed under: — Felten @ 5:46 pm PST

BoingBoing has published a report from a voter in Santa Clara, California, that his voting machine displayed an odd error message when he tried to cast his vote. Here’s a picture he took with his phonecam (click to see a larger version):

Waiting Time

Filed under: — Felten @ 5:31 pm PST

Many polling places are reporting long waits to vote. When the wait gets long enough, some people will leave and will end up not voting.

An interesting question about today’s voting is what effect the different voting technologies might be having on waiting times. If a technology allows relatively few voters to be voting simultaneously, or if it causes voters to take longer to cast their votes, then it will tend to cause long waiting times when voter turnout is high, as it is today.

One plausible conjecture is that e-voting systems in which voters must advance through a long series of screens will tend to increase voting time and hence will increase waiting time. At this point we don’t have the enough data to evaluate such conjectures reliably, but it will be interesting to see what we can determine later.

More on Voter Distrust…

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 4:51 pm PST

As Dave Wagner points out below, a good chunk of voters seem to distrust e-voting machines… one thing that is becoming clear from today’s data from EIRS is that voters also seem to distrust paper. Specifically, when e-voting machines break down, people have to use paper ballots; that’s the back-up system (unless you are unfortunate enough to be casting your vote in New Orleans where there is no paper back-up). However, people see this as “the system’s broke” and appear to be leaving polls in droves (shoddy paper ballots could also result in people thinking things are “sketchy"). Presumably, some will try back later and some will opt not to vote. That’s my depressing story of the day…

1/3 of CA voters skeptical of touchscreen voting

Filed under: — Wagner @ 4:21 pm PST

A few California newspapers are reporting the results of a Field Poll about confidence in e-voting and the election. Some of the results are striking. 35% of registered Californian voters are not confident in the integrity of new touchscreen voting machines. (23% are very confident, and 39% are somewhat confident.) When asked about their confidence that the final election result will be fair, 30% are very confident, 42% are somewhat confident, and 18% are not confident.

That is surprisingly large degree of distrust. Of course, we should remember that this only reflects voter perception of election integrity, not the reality of the security of the election. Just as widespread confidence in e-voting among the public does not necessarily mean that e-voting is safe, so too widespread public skepticism does not necessarily mean that e-voting is unsafe. Nonetheless, perception is important. It is crucial that we have election technology that is not only trustworthy, but that is also recognized as such, and indeed is widely trusted by the overwhelming majority of the population. This survey suggests that we have not met any of these goals.

If you’d like to learn more about the survey, you can read the Sacramento Bee’s article and the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, but why not go straight to the source? The Field Poll has the survey results online here:

Scattered Problems Impede Some Voting (AP story)

Filed under: — Wallach @ 3:38 pm PST

Yahoo link.

Problems in New Orleans

Filed under: — Felten @ 2:37 pm PST

Preliminary reports indicate a big mess in New Orleans. Many e-voting machines are failing to work. Some polling places have no working machines. Voters are being given provisional ballots, but some polling places are running out of provisional ballots.

A local TV station has a list of problems called in by viewers. A sample:

  • 9th Ward 43A Osbourne School: 3 machines, 1 working; also, no machines working at 43D
  • 1949 Duels Street Run out of Provisional Ballots
  • 3411 Broadway, Terrell Mary Church magnet school: voter says only one machine working.
  • 3900 Louisiana: machines not working
  • George Mondy School - 2327 St. Phillip - machine broken and voters in precinct 0605 cannot vote.
  • Jackson School (ward 1 Precinct 1) No keys for machines

UPDATE (2:50 PM): Another local story seems to confirm the problems.

These stories are inconsistent with statements by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office that there are only two confirmed reports of failing machines (quoted in an AP story).

We can only hope that the three stories are not all true. If they are all true, then there are serious problems, and the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t know about them.

Software Problem in Indiana Forces Hand Count

Filed under: — Felten @ 2:06 pm PST

Several counties in Indiana are unable to machine-count their optical scan ballots in some local races, due to incorrect tabulation software, according to an Indianapolis Star story by John Strauss.

The problem arises in so-called “at-large” races, in which voters choose more than one candidate from a list. In an at-large race where voters choose N candidates, if a voter chooses a straight ticket for one party, and then casts some votes – but fewer than N – for the other party in the at-large race, Indiana law says that the straight-ticket vote is to be ignored for that race.

The ES&S tabulation software assigns votes differently in this case, so counties that use at-large races will have to count those races by hand. ES&S said this is a change in Indiana law from previous elections, and they were only notified of the change in late October, much too late to revise and test the software.

Fortunately the voting system in question uses paper ballots that can be counted by hand.

More on Philadelphia “Funny Business”

Filed under: — Stubblefield @ 1:13 pm PST

According to Drudge and others, elections officials are apparently claiming that the discrepancy in Philadelphia was caused by people confusing the number of votes currently stored on each machine with the number of votes ever cast on the machine. The number of votes ever cast on a device is stored as what election officials refer to as the “protective counter” and a quick check confirms that the machines used in Philadelphia are required to keep this count (see e.g. Pennsylvania election law). It’s still too early to know whether this explanation will hold up, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable at first glance.

Sequoia VeriVote

Filed under: — Jefferson @ 12:03 pm PST

Nevada isn’t the only place where Sequoia Edge machines with the VeriVote printer attachment will be used to create a voter-verified paper trail. One precinct in San Bernardino County, California will use them today, based on a one-time-only, one-place-only certification by the Secretary of State.

The VeriVote printer attachment does create a real, contemporaneous voter-verified paper trail, but it is fundamentally flawed because its reel-to-reel design preserves the order of votes cast on each machine, making it comparatively easy to reconstruct which voter cast which vote. Other major vendors are creating similar designs. For some reason there is little concern about this in the elections community, so watch for this design to be proposed for certification in your state.

Drudge: Funny Business in Philadelphia

Filed under: — Felten @ 10:01 am PST

The Drudge Report is saying that some voting machines in Philadelphia were found to have votes pre-planted on them before the polls opened. Drudge did not say whether the machines in question are electronic, but EFF documents say that Philadelphia Country uses Danaher/Shouptronic electronic machines.

(This should be treated with the usual skepticism afforded Drudge stories. But I thought readers might be interested to hear it anyway.)

UPDATE (2:15 PM): As Adam notes in a later entry, this incident now looks like a misunderstanding of the machines by some poll workers, rather than a plot to steal votes.

Report From My Polling Place

Filed under: — Felten @ 9:01 am PST

I voted at 8:15 this morning, at Littlebrook School in Princeton, New Jersey. We vote on Sequoia AVC Advantage e-voting machines. Turnout was heavy, and I had to wait in line for fifteen minutes.

One of the two machines assigned to our precinct was nonfunctional. The problem, according to a poll worker, was that the lock on the back of the machine would not operate, so that the poll workers couldn’t get the machine open to access the control panel inside and initialize the machine. She said they had called for service at 5:45 am but still had no idea when a service person might be coming.

My polling place had a fairly serious security vulnerability before the election. I came by the school at about 8:00 PM last night. The building was open due to a Boy Scout meeting, so I walked right in the main door. There in the school lobby were the four voting machines, completely unguarded. I hung around the machines for about ten minutes, looking them over carefully and taking pictures. The scouts were meeting in another room and they were coming and going via a side door, so I don’t think anybody saw me. In short, anybody who walked up had uninterrupted, private time with the machines.

Of course, I did not touch the machines. But it was clear that had somebody wanted to tamper with the machines last night, they could have done so.

(In keeping with the policy discussed yesterday, I did not disclose this vulnerability to the public until it was too late for any bad guys to exploit it.)

Optical-Scan Glitch in Florida

Filed under: — Felten @ 6:44 am PST

Florida TV station Local6 reports that about 13,000 paper ballots were miscounted when a memory card failed in an optical scanner.

In optical scan systems, voters mark their votes on paper, and the paper ballots are counted by a machine. Because the system uses paper ballots, this type of failure can be fixed by recounting the paper ballots, using another machine or by hand. Local6 reports that the paper ballots have been impounded and election authorities will decide how to recount them.

(link via EFF DeepLinks)

Alaska won’t use its touchscreen machines

Filed under: — Wagner @ 1:32 am PST

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Alaska won’t use its 100 new touchscreen voting machines, due to their lack of a paper trail.


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