E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Tuesday November 02, 2004

Report From My Polling Place

Filed under: — Felten @ 9:01 am UTC

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.)


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  1. I voted this morning at the Bartlett School on Bartlett St in New Brunswick, NJ. I was voting in Ward 6, District 6. I arrived at 7:00 AM, but didn’t get to vote until 7:30 AM. Turnout wasn’t that heavy, but they were having some serious problems with the electronic voting machine for my ward/district, also an AVC Advantage system. One election official was scratching her head and flipping through an operating manual while another was on her cell phone trying to get help. I don’t know exactly what was wrong, but I did overhear some things. Apparently it was working fine, then after someone voted, it suddenly stopped working. It took them at least 30 minutes to get it operational again. This leaves me with a very uneasy feeling. Could the last voter to vote before it crashed tampered with it, causing it to crash? Were any votes lost? Will it crash again, repeatedly throughout the day? Will votes be lost every time it crashes? What had to be done to restore the system? Just the time lost, in this case at least 30 minutes, can be enough to prevent people from voting.

    Comment by Prentice — Tuesday November 02, 2004 @ 9:49 am UTC

  2. anyone know if there’s any truth to the “cell phones damage voting machines” story we’re being told?


    Comment by steven vore — Tuesday November 02, 2004 @ 11:53 am UTC

  3. It happened to me. But is was supposed to… re:

    “When the voter enters the booth, the lights are all supposed to be off. But this man says that when he entered the booth, several lights were on all over the board. And not just the lights next to the names of candidates that might be turned on in the normal course of voting, but lights elsewhere on the board. This is not supposed to be possible. … But lights elsewhere on the board are not supposed to happen, ever.”

    The above is wrong.

    The lights WERE on where you had to make a selection. e.g. not by a selected name but rather an office was lit up until you voted and then the light went to the candidate.

    It was pretty cool. And worked the way it was supposed to (of course I did not get a paper copy but those I voted for won in New Jersey)

    Comment by Tom Pierce — Thursday November 04, 2004 @ 3:38 pm UTC

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