By Ernest A. Canning and Brad Friedman
We now have yet another ominous sign of trouble that may be on the horizon for this November's election. As if we needed yet another sign. And, once again, the concerns come via failures on paper ballot-based optical-scan computer tally systems.
Election officials in Genessee County, Michigan have acknowledged failures by the county's M-100 model optical-scan system, made by Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), during its Aug. 7 primary.
According to the county's Supervisor of Elections and Vital Records, Doreen D. Fulcher, the system experienced paper jams that resulted in ballots being fed through the system more than once. Fulcher, who also noted that there were a "number of ballots cast" that "didn't initially match poll book numbers," downplayed the scope of the problem. Flint's MLive, however, reported that the County Board of Canvassers were "still unraveling" the problem ten days after the election.
It is not the first time the M-100, set to be used in 32 different states again this November, has caused headaches for election officials and voters. The systems have a documented record of failing to count the same ballots the same way twice during pre-election testing. Nor is it the only optical-scan system made by ES&S, the largest e-voting vendor in the nation, that has failed time and again during elections.
As The BRAD BLOG previously reported, ballots obtained by the New York Daily News through a public records request revealed that ES&S op-scan systems used in a South Bronx precinct in 2010 failed to count some 70% of the paper ballots correctly in that year's primary election. In November's general election that year, some 54% of the ballots were mistallied at the same precinct.
The South Bronx used the newer ES&S model DS200, which the company confirmed could overheat, causing anywhere from 30% to 70% of the votes scanned by the machines to be erroneously discarded or erroneously counted. Thus, in the case of New York, that meant that tens of thousands of perfectly valid votes went uncounted, while thousands of "phantom votes" in races that voters hadn't intended to vote in at all were counted as valid.
The confirmation of the New York failure came almost two years after the election, once the newspaper was finally able to review the paper ballots by hand, under public records laws.
While Genessee County used the earlier ES&S Model M100, as we previously reported, the unreliability of opaque optical-scan computer tallying systems are, by no means, confined to the DS200 or, for that matter, to ES&S systems. Similar systems will once again be used across the entire country this November, to tally the Presidential election and all the races below it...either accurately or not...