Summit County, Ohio Elections Director Says He Can't Assume Anything Else
By John Gideon on 4/19/2006, 8:08am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

If you recall The BRAD BLOG has reported on the Summit County memory card failures in the recent past; most recently on April 4. Summit County's memory card (PCMCIA) failures have not gotten any better according to an article in this morning's Akron Beacon Journal...

Now, in what is clearly a show of "No Confidence" in their voting machine vendor ES&S, the county elections director is predicting failure with the system in the May 2 Ohio state primary.

Summit County Board of Elections Director Bryan Williams is predicting Election Day failures with the memory cards in the county's new optical scan voting system.

``I don't think we can assume anything else,'' Williams said at a meeting Tuesday, where the elections board reviewed the latest list of troubles.

This seems to be a complete melt-down of everything provided to the county by ES&S. The Beacon-Journal goes on to report the problems...

And with just two weeks to go before the election, the board continues to experience problems with PCMCIA cards, commonly referred to as memory cards, that are inserted into ballot scanners to record and tabulate those votes.

On Monday, 11 cards that were working properly on Saturday experienced errors or other problems as elections staff have continued practice runs with test ballots, Williams said.

``One card is physically coming apart at the seams,'' Williams said. ``We're seeing at every point of use, a little drop off.''

Williams said that based on what he has seen so far, he can only expect that some of the 475 memory cards programmed for each county voting precinct will not work on Election Day.

The main ballot tabulator, called the election reporting manager or ERM --- which is supposed to read the memory cards and report totals --- also isn't working correctly. At one point in practice runs, the tabulator was dropping off dozens of races for Republican candidates for precinct committee members.

And, the machines the county purchased to accommodate disabled voters still aren't working right, even though by law they should have been available for absentee voting that has been ongoing since the end of March.

When a blind man came to the elections board to vote absentee last week, he had to vote instead with the assistance of a bipartisan pair of board employees.

But the county does point to the one good part of this saga and that is the fact that because the tabulators are optical-scan there are paper ballots that can be hand counted when the problems crop-up.

And what about those machines for the voters with disabilities?

The AutoMARK is a machine especially designed for voters with disabilities. It includes a headset for the blind and hearing impaired, text in Braille, and a mouthpiece with a straw that voters without the use of their arms can ``sip and puff'' air into in order to mark their ballot choices.

When elections staff listened to the ballot styles that were programmed into the machine --- there are more than 1,200 this year --- they noticed that many of the candidate names were mispronounced. Other problems include the machine reading the punctuation off the ballot, not reading all of the ballot or not offering the voter the correct choices.

The Help America Vote Act requires that all counties have machines to accommodate disabled voters. Technically, the county violated HAVA when it was not able to use the machine for the blind voter last week.

Does anyone believe that all bad memory cards only went to Summit County, Ohio as if the county was a magnet for bad memory cards? Does anyone believe that the poor programming of the AutoMark voting machines is only an isolated incident?

The ES&S train is chugging down that track and they will leave chaos behind them as they gather up as much money as they can lay their hands on.