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.
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