E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Thursday November 04, 2004

Voting machine loses 4500 votes in NC

Filed under: — Wagner @ 6:35 pm PST

A DRE-based voting system lost 4500 votes in one North Carolina counting, because the storage unit did not have capacity to store all of the votes cast on the device. Those votes are irrecoverably lost.

This is intolerable. It is imperative that votes cast be stored in permanent form. No voting technology should allow a voter to cast a vote if it cannot ensure that there is sufficient capacity to store that vote permanently.

Apparently there was supposed to be a warning message that flashes when there is no more room for storing ballots. However, this is not adequate; we all know how easy it is to overlook warning messages. A voting machine should stop accepting votes when it is out of storage capacity.

This is a good argument for some kind of voter-verified audit trail. If the voter was enlisted to check that the vote has been recorded correctly on paper before they left the voting booth, then we wouldn’t have to worry about votes being lost like this – there would always be a permanent paper record that we could refer to in case of software failure.

The good news is that hopefully this kind of problem will be easy to fix. Technology trends are rapidly reducing the cost of storage. There will be a day when there is no excuse for running out of storage, because every machine can be shipped with far more storage than it is ever likely to need. Nonetheless, in the meantime, it is important that any machine as critical as a voting device handle “out of storage” and other unexpected error conditions gracefully.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/vote2004/2004-11-04-votes-lost_x.htm

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  1. As a poll observer I had my own suspicions - not on the machines themselves but on how they were allotted. I was observing in an enconomically depressed area with a high African American population (Pleasant Ridge, Precinct 3,Gaston County NC). We had 4 Voting Machines of which one had sensor problems and another was to be carted in and out for handicapped voting. Needless to say the lines were long and by 10:00 only 188 ballots submitted. While heading home I stopped by the Stanely NC precinct where I recieved reports that they possessed 20 such machines - a decidedly Republican area. With these factors taken is there any wonder why Bush did so well?!! I forwarded my concerns to the Gaston Democrats but was this tactic used throughout this election?

    Comment by Richard S. — Friday November 05, 2004 @ 1:02 am PST

  2. Craven County, vote totals in nine of the county’s 26 precincts were electronically doubled.
    Mecklenburg County, early voting machines counted some totals twice affecting as many as 4,000 ballots
    Deputy Director of NC BOE:
    “There are always glitches”
    Guilford County early voting machine capacity problems, may affect 6,000 to 20,000 votes. Doesn’t that mean that the machines memory was full, and the votes are lost?

    Onslo county software error changed order of who finished in what place, yet not who one? How is that possible?
    Chowan county tallying corrections to results.
    North Carolina - Election day has come and gone, and three statewide races still do not have a clear winner.
    http://www.ncvoter.net/news.html

    Comment by Joyce McCloy — Friday November 05, 2004 @ 8:35 am PST

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