MARIETTA, GA -- March 24 -- Voting machine flaws have once again, plagued Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum results in Cobb County. The 2011 results were certified this week by the Cobb Election Board. However, a flaw that is present in all Georgia voting machines has now played a key role in $1.4 billion of SPLOST tax levies for those who live in one of Georgia's largest counties. The flaw allows totally blank voted ballots to be recorded during an election.
In a 2005 Cobb SPLOST, and again in the recent 2011 SPLOST, blank voted ballots exceeded the margins of victory. In 2005, the SPLOST appeared on its way to defeat, trailing by several percentage points with just a few precincts left to count. But then unexplained transmission problems and reporting delays were encountered. The next day the SPLOST was declared victorious by a razor thin 114 votes out of 39,780. The 2005 results show that 285 totally blank ballots were cast. In 2011, 95 blank voted ballots were recorded in a race decided by only 90 votes out of 43,109 that were cast. Adding to the 2011 unverifiable voting controversy are the verifiable mail-in ballot results that totaled to a near landslide, 60-40% point defeat for the 2011 SPLOST.
John Fortuin, co-founder of Defenders of Democracy, explained: "The voting machine vendor could have easily programmed a specific warning to voters that their ballot is totally blank when they cast it". That warning could then allow the voter to either vote in at least one of the races or void the ballot. He concluded: " Officials may try to claim that is not a defect, but ensuring entry of required data is a must for integrity of any enterprise application."
It is technically impossible to determine whether all votes were omitted by the voters or the voting machines simply lost the votes during recording. That is because the voting machines do not provide an independent audit trail that is established before the vote is cast. That type of voter verified paper ballot (VVPAT) was available when the machines were purchased in 2002 and could prove whether or not selections were actually presented to the voter when the ballot is cast. An independent audit trail was required by law at the time the machines were first brought into Georgia and tested in 2001. [O.C.G.A. 21-2-301(b)]
VoterGa has repeatedly challenged the voting machine vendors, Kennesaw State University's Center for Elections Systems and the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office to a public town hall debate. All parties have declined.
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