Also, Firmware Found to be Buggy on Their Electronic Voting Machines as Well
ES&S To Face Tough Questions From County Elections Board, Others States Need to be Notified of the Problems! [NOW UPDATED]
By John Gideon on 4/4/2006, 12:09pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org and VoteTrustUSA.Org

Summit County has recently had problems with failed memory cards as related by The BRAD BLOG on March 9 and March 10. As reported at the time, as many as 30% of the cards completely failed initial testing in the county. A few days later, corresponding tests in North Carolina found more than 1000 of the cards failed. The memory cards, amongst other things, store the vote tabulations from elections.

New tests now in Summit County have also revealed additional failures on both memory cards, and the voting machines "firmware" as well.

Today the Akron Beacon Journal has revealed that Summit County has discovered 28 more bad cards in a batch of what was supposed to be good cards as sent to them by ES&S specifically to replace the previous bad ones.

The Beacon-Journal reports:

In testing throughout March, the computer memory cards inside the scanners experienced high failure rates. The county has 525 cards, one for every precinct and 50 extras.

ES&S officials blamed faulty batteries in the cards for the problems, but even after batteries were replaced, dozens of cards continued to fail.

Eventually, continued testing resulted in the county's obtaining 525 memory cards that supposedly worked properly and that were approved by state inspectors as well. But company officials working in Summit County have since discovered 28 new problem cards.

Board of Elections officials, however, discovered the newest batch of problem memory cards by accident.

Elections Board Deputy Director Marijean Donofrio said board staff members were looking for memory cards that are used to demonstrate the new equipment for the public, and happened upon a box of cards that were banded together.

When she asked about the cards, Donofrio said she was told they had either low or dead batteries or problems reading back data that had been programmed onto them.

ES&S officials then told the county that the company would replace all 349 cards from the batch that included the 28 new problem cards. All were manufactured by the Vikant Corp., an ES&S subcontractor.

The Beacon-Journal is also now reporting that ES&S has found a problem with the firmware --- the software which is embedded into the system's hardware --- on their touch-screen machines that are used in counties across Ohio and across the country. ES&S is currently in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties.

Other states and counties who use ES&S should be made aware of the problems, since ES&S does not seem to be doing so.

On the firmware issue, the Beacon-Journal reports...

Meanwhile, ES&S has discovered a problem with the firmware in its touch-screen electronic voting machines and is planning an upgrade for the 10 Ohio counties that use the equipment before the May 2 primary. (Firmware is software embedded in a hardware device.)

Franklin County Board of Elections Director Matthew Damschroder said ES&S discovered that some of the firmware in the touch-screen machines does not properly record votes for write-in candidates. Franklin County machines are undergoing an upgrade this week to correct the problem, he said.

Damschroder stressed that ES&S discovered the problems and took preventative action to correct it. He said the new software already has received federal and state certification. ``They've only seen it happen twice, but twice is too much,'' he said.

At the last meeting of the Summit County Board of Elections the board voted to subpoena, if necessary, an ES&S official to answer questions about the problems. If necessary the county will consider legal action against ES&S. This meeting is taking place today so we may have an update later.

READERS ACTION: If you live in a state that uses ES&S voting machines, please let your state or county know about these problems. The company will not do that and there is no system in place at this time to force them to do any recalls or product warnings.

I have contacted elections officials in Indiana and South Dakota about these problems and they appreciate the information. In both cases they told me that they would never expect ES&S to let them know about problems elsewhere, even if it directly affected the state's voting machines.

UPDATE: In a report directly after today's county Board of Elections meeting with ES&S the Akron Beacon Journal reports that the vendor explained about the memory card problems:

Problems with memory cards began when the cards were switched from an Asian manufacturer to one in the United States, Janet Buchanan, director of account services for ES&S, told the board.

Once the problems were discovered, ES&S sent one of its engineers to the Vikant Corp., the Illinois contractor that makes the cards, to help correct the problem.

She said the faulty cards had a circuit board error and did not have their batteries properly charged in the manufacturing process, which caused them to have repeated low-battery or dead-battery issues.

The problems have been corrected, she said.

Buchanan told the board that 349 new memory cards would arrive in Akron today, all of which were made after the manufacturing errors were addressed. The county voting equipment includes 525 of the cards --- one for each of the county's 475 precincts and 50 extras.

An initial batch of 176 were made overseas and never had problems. ES&S had sent several batches of cards to replace the other 349, and had believed they were all working properly.

However, in additional testing Friday, more failures were discovered, resulting in the company again replacing all 349 cards.

"Those memory cards will be here today and they will work on Election Day,'' Buchanan told the board.

The company also responded to concerns about why one of their employees was conducting testing of voting equipment without any notification to county elections officials and without members of the Republican and Democratic election staff as witnesses. They promised this would not happen again.

The company also apologized for not being more open to local media and for not answering their questions. One member of the board pointed out that the elections board was a public body and that ES&S needed to be more public in their actions. The company spokeswoman assured that this problem would be taken care of. Immediately after the meeting that same spokeswoman refused to answer questions from the media and, instead, referred all questions to corporate talking-heads.

The arrogance of these companies is stunning.