Monday, March 24, 2008

More About Those Damned Voting Machines

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen now doesn't look quite so stupid for decertifying most of the state's electronic voting machines late last year (see my post here). In fact, it appears she didn't go far enough, if this article in today's Sacramento Bee is any measure.

Improper maintenance of some of Sacramento County's voting machines – and the tint of the Feb. 5 ballots – were to blame for malfunctions that sidelined vote-counting scanners and delayed results of last month's presidential primary, according to the county's top election official. ...

Because of the malfunction, all ballots had to be counted in the election department's central command in south Sacramento – instead of some being processed as usual at the precincts.

The accuracy of last month's vote was not in question, county officials said.

During its investigation, the county said that the vendor that supplies and maintains the scanners, Elections Systems & Software, conducted improper recalibration and preventive maintenance on the machines in December.

In addition, the report said that ballots printed by Consolidated Printers were too dark to allow the ballot to be correctly read by the faulty scanners.

The county said both vendors cooperated during the administrative inquiry. ESS will recalibrate the county's scanners without charge in time for the June 3 election, election officials said.

This isn't Diebold, and these are scanning machines (the ones that count the votes when the 'ink-a-blot' ballot is passed through them), but the result could have been just as disastrous. Fortunately, Sacramento County had a back-up system and the votes were counted, it just took longer. Surely we can come up with a better process. Elections are just too important (especially the one coming up in November) for these kinds of glitches.

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