Pre-Election Test Results Less Bad, After Memory Cards Are Specially Provided by Company to Summit County, OH (After First Two Batches Failed 30% of the Time)
Election Director Suggest 'Product Recall' Might Be Appropriate!
By John Gideon on 3/10/2006, 4:16pm PT  

As reported yesterday by BRAD BLOG - Summit County, Ohio is testing the memory cards for their new ES&S optical scan machines. Unfortunately their first test revealed that 30% of those cards failed, and as replacements were brought in, the cards continued failing.

Such memory cards are used in electronic voting machines to store the tallied votes. Similar cards were found to be hackable in Diebold optical scan machines after a targetted "hack test" was specfically performed on them in Leon County, FL, recently.

Today, the Akron Beacon Journal reported that a new batch of cards was supplied by ES&S to Summit County for the tests. And they are failing less often! Now only 10% of the time !

Lisa A. Abraham of the Beacon Journal reports:

Through the end of the workday Thursday, 438 properly working cards had been tested --- a figure that included the original 177 [30% of those tested failed], said Marijean Donofrio, elections board deputy director.

Donofrio said ES&S representatives working on the implementation told board staffers that they have never experienced a failure rate higher than 1 percent in other counties.

Donofrio wondered whether the company should consider a recall of the product.

She also expressed concern that ES&S continues to send memory cards to Summit County from the subcontractor whose product is being questioned. ES&S has not named the subcontractor.

Donofrio said the board was expecting Thursday's shipment to include only memory cards made by the company that made the original 177 that tested successfully, but that wasn't the case.

"They've been referring to the cards as finicky," she said of ES&S. "If that's the case, if they work fine in May, will they work fine in November? I would advocate for an entire new batch of cards. We don't need any problems (in the future) that we can head off now,'' she said.

I took the opportunity to send the Beacon-Journal's Abraham an email asking a very simple question: "I would really be curious what ES&S would say if they were asked how many other counties across the country have these same memory cards, and are they warning all of their customers to be on the lookout for bad cards."

Her response: "I've been asking ES&S that very question for two days now and they either won't say or don't call back. Stay tuned..."

So... I guess we stay tuned, and hope that those same bad cards do not end up on ES&S machines all over the country.

ES&S is the largest provider of voting machine equipment in America. Between them and Diebold, the two companies tally more than 80% of America's votes. (And they may be accurate in doing so 70% to 90% of the time.)

UPDATE 3/11/06: The answers to the questions many of us have asked have been answered by the Akron Beacon Journal today. The problem with the memory cards seems to be dead or low batteries. Apparently the subcontractor for the cards, Vikant Corp., a Long Grove, Ill., company has no quality control standards and just shipped out bad cards to ES&S for use in machines that will be counting our votes. ES&S, like Vikant, apparently failed to test the cards also.

On my question to Lisa A. Abraham, the Beacon Journal reporter regarding whether ES&S is trying to locate other customers who may have bad memory cards, she got an answer. Lisa reports that Ellen Bogard, ES&S spokeswoman told her:

``We're working with customers who may have received them. We're still contacting our customers,'' she said. Bogard said the problem would affect customers who received memory cards from ES&S in recent weeks.

``We're still working to determine the exact parameters,'' she said.

Bogard said no other county in Ohio or throughout the country has complained of failing cards.

There may not have been any complaints but I wonder how many of those bad cards may have ended up in Texas and been responsible for some of the disasters reported by BRAD BLOG last Tuesday.

FOLLOWUP QUESTION FROM BRAD: A "battery problem"? Not to be overly skeptical here, but my understanding is that these memory cards are magnetic media which are slipped into the PCMCIA slots, no? Power is supplied from the computer itself via the PCMCIA slot (if I understand things correctly), and thus no "battery" is needed on PCMCIA cards which simply store data magnetically. Am I missing something here? Does anyone here have more knowledge on this sort of thing for us? Please share in comments if you do...