E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Tuesday November 09, 2004

Lack of Paper Trail Ruins North Carolina Election

Filed under: — Felten @ 4:05 pm PST

Just in case you thought that lawsuits about pregnant chads were the worst possible election outcome, here’s a story about the consequences of e-voting without a proper paper trail.

A bug in e-voting system software caused about 13% of the votes cast in Carteret County, North Carolina in last week’s election to be lost irretrievably, according to a story by Kelcy Carlson at WRAL.

The state Board of Elections discovered on election night that 4,532 electronic ballots through early voting were not recorded.

“The bottom line that we have heard from the manufacturer is that these votes are not missing. They’re lost,” county commissioner-elect Tom Steepy said. “It’s very disheartening. It really is.”

Carteret County had one stop for early voting. Twelve electronic booths fed into one electronic system that was expected to hold just over 10,000 votes. In reality, it only held just over 3,000. Officials said anyone who voted after 11 a.m. on Oct. 22 through Oct. 30 did not get their ballot counted.

“The company has admitted now that it was its error and that it was a simple keystroke that should have been applied to the system perhaps several years ago and was not,” said Ed Pond, of the Carteret County Board of Elections.

(See also the earlier USA Today story.)

Had these machines used a voter-verified paper ballot, the problem could have been rectified by counting the paper ballots. As it is, there is no backup to protect against software problems, so Carteret County voters will have to go to the polls again to vote in a new election.

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