E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Wednesday November 03, 2004

More Problems Near Princeton

Filed under: — Felten @ 1:16 pm PST

Today I asked the students in my Information Security class whether they had seen anything odd when voting. Many students voted absentee in their hometowns, so I would guess there were about twenty in-person voters present. One guy, an adult student who lives in a town a few miles from here, reported seeing something odd.

He was voting an a Sequoia AVC Advantage machine, which is computerized but interacts with the voter through a big board covered with a grid of switches and lights. The board is covered by a piece of slightly translucent paper, on which is printed the names of candidates and a box next to each candidate’s name. These boxes are aligned with switches, so that when the voter presses the box, the switch is clicked. The computer notices this and then lights up the light right next to the switch (which is also next to the candidate’s name).

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. If he had found lights next to the names of candidates, those might be the choices of a previous voter who forgot to press the “Cast Vote” button. But lights elsewhere on the board are not supposed to happen, ever.

After class, I bumped into my secretary in the hallway, and she told me that something odd had happened when she voted. She then described essentially the same experience – entering the booth and seeing lights lit up at odd positions on the board, outside the places that should normally be lit.

These two people live in different towns. They voted in different polling places (both in Mercer County, New Jersey). They have never met. And I did not tell either one about the other’s report until after they had described their experiences to me.

It seems likely that this problem was more widespread around here, since it was reported independently by two people from among the relatively small population I have asked about election experiences here. Did anybody else see something like this on a Sequoia AVC Advantage machine?

3 Comments »

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  1. Please have your student & secretary call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (yes, the hotline is still open) or visit http://voteproblem.org to report this problem, so that it can be included in our database of election-related incidents (and compared to other incidents for such trend-spotting).

    Comment by C. Scott Ananian — Wednesday November 03, 2004 @ 2:51 pm PST

  2. This sounds like what I saw when I voted in Lawrenceville. The lights (X marks) were on in the “Office Title” and “Public Questions to be Voted Upon” areas of the ballot for each choice on the ballot. Once you clicked on a candidate switch, the candidate X box lighted up. I assumed that this was to emphasize unselected choices, not something odd.

    Comment by Fred Brehm — Wednesday November 03, 2004 @ 7:48 pm PST

  3. Oh, yes. I should have mentioned that the “odd” X marks went away when the candidate box lighted up.

    Comment by Fred Brehm — Wednesday November 03, 2004 @ 7:49 pm PST

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