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E-VOTE TRAIN WRECK 2006: Another Week, Another Wild – and Unfortunate – Ride…

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Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's talking-heads have been speaking all week about the great success the state saw in this past week's primary election.
Of course, Blackwell's office apparently ignored all of the problems across the Buckeye state or passed them off as "glitches" or "snafus" or otherwise blamed any problems on poll workers or voters. Even the media is complicit in the marginalization of the problems through the words they choose to describe them. One newspaper, on the same day had these two headlines over articles that described problems "Snafus plague new digital ballot system" and "Glitches mar Ohio's first punch-card free election".

As of May 6 a full four days after election-day -- Cuyahoga County had still not completed counting all of their ballots. Why? The county was forced to count 17,000 absentee ballots by hand because the Diebold optical-scan machines would not read them. There is some dispute over whether the machines were at fault or if it was the printer who printed the ballots who was at fault. Though it certainly seems as though they might have tested one to see if it worked before they sent out 17,000 to voters.

Also of note is that the county actually reported that at one point they could not find 70 memory cards from their DRE voting machines. As of May 5, there were still several cards that were lost. According to the Associated Press the county has used the back-up memory of the voting machines to provide the vote results in place of the memory cards. The state has promised an investigation into the problems in Cuyahoga County.

Credit needs to be given to the elections officials in Summit County. They were put in a nearly disastrous position by their vendor, ES&S, who provided them with memory cards that constantly failed during pre-election tests. Election officials predicted a disaster but they were able to overcome terrible service by ES&S and after multiple rounds of tests, they ended up with only one failed card on election-day.

No matter whether the problem is the machines, the poll workers, or decisions by elections officials, the voters are the ones who suffer when their votes are not counted. It's time that officials in Ohio begin to think about the voters.

The run-up to the primary election in Indiana was pretty much a disaster with many counties not sure if they were going to be able to meet state law because their voting machines were not programmed and ready to work until the very last minute. In fact, the problems were so severe that, as reported by The BRAD BLOG, the Secretary of State and the State Board of Elections have both announced investigations and possible fines for ES&S, or perhaps even banishment from the Hoosier state entirely! Primary day proved to be just as much of a "train wreck" in many counties.

The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal reported that Secretary of State Todd Rokita plans to send his chief counsel to Clark, Harrison, Jackson and Washington counties to investigate problems with voting systems sold and maintained by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. The paper went on to report:

"All four counties use the same combination of ES&S voting machines, including Optech Eagle machines that scan a paper ballot and iVotronic machines, which are designed to help people with disabilities cast their ballots privately.
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"According to ES&S spokesman Ken Fields, the voting machines tabulated the ballots accurately at the precinct. The problem came when county election workers tried to electronically put the individual machines' tallies into a central computer to determine totals for each candidate.

"That meant the counties had to manually enter the number of votes for each candidate in each precinct."

Now, with all of the problems running up to the primary and the problems during the primary election, we learned on Saturday that Secretary of State Rokita has postponed, with no new date set, the hearing into the actions of ES&S. As reported by the South Bend Tribune ES&S requested and was granted a continuance.

"Rokita postponed the hearing after the voting system vendor, Election Systems & Software, filed a motion for continuance Thursday, according to Rokita spokesman A.J. Feeney-Ruiz.

"Feeney-Ruiz did not say what reasons the company cited for its motion, but ES&S had questioned the scope of the hearing when it was announced April 28.
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"According to a formal complaint filed by Rokita that day, ES&S allegedly provided defective hardware, software and ballots in St. Joseph, Marion and Johnson counties.

"A company spokesman said he was only aware of service problems to counties, for which the company had already accepted some blame."

West Virginia counties have had to use paper ballots in early voting after ES&S was a no show in many places. Many of them are working through the weekend in hopes that they can get ballot programming properly installed on their ES&S provided voting machines and then get all of the required tests done satisfactorily prior to Election Day this coming Tuesday.

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John is the Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org

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