Saturday, November 06, 2004

Presidential Votes Miscast on E-Voting Machines Across the Country

Presidential Votes Miscast on E-Voting Machines Across the Country

Voters from at least half a dozen states reported that touch-screen voting machines had incorrectly recorded their choices, including for president.

Voters discovered the problems when checking the review screen at the end of the voting process. They found, to their surprise, that the machines indicated that they voted for one candidate when they had voted for another. When voters tried to correct the problem, the machine often made the same error several times. While in most cases the situation was reportedly resolved, many voters remain uneasy about whether the proper vote was ultimately cast. Meanwhile, voting experts are concerned that other voters are experiencing the problem, but failing to notice that the machine is indicating the wrong choice on the "summary" screen.

Election observers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) reported yesterday that the problem, which some voting officials initially attributed to "voter error," is evidently widespread and may even be relatively common with touch-screen machines. Incorrectly recorded votes make up roughly 20 percent of the e-voting problems reported through the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS), an online database in which volunteers with the Election Protection Coalition, a coalition of non-partisan election observers dedicated to preventing voter disenfranchisement, are recording and tracking voting problems.

For voters, these incidents underscore the need to carefully review ballots during the final portion of the electronic voting process. But they also point to the larger issue: using touch-screen voting systems vulnerable to this kind of error, combined with poll workers and voters unfamiliar with the new systems, substantially increases the chances of voter disenfranchisement.

EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman said: "As a short-term measure, we strongly encourage voters who use touch-screen voting machines to proof their ballots at the review stage. But while we can try to address obvious, visible problems like these, the problems we really worry about are the ones that the voters and poll watchers can't see. Often the only you catch these flaws are through audits - yet most of these machines lack even the most basic audit feature: a voter-verified paper trail."

Election Incident Reporting System: