Just Published Report Condemns The Election Director and His Top Assistant
County Elections Board Decides, On a 2 To 2 Vote, To Keep The Director In His Job
By John Gideon on 7/21/2006, 8:46pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

According to an article in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer the recent Cuyahoga County primary fiasco was the result of widespread dysfunction in the county's election offices, where officials ignored specific warnings of the looming calamity, according to a report also released today that blames election chief Michael Vu and deputy chief Gwen Dillingham.

According to the paper:

In the 394-page report, a three-member panel concludes its investigation of the flawed May 2 primary with descriptions of breakdown after breakdown at every level of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. The problems included poorly trained poll workers, too few workers, the rehiring of poll workers with histories of poor performance, a lack of crucial supplies, error-filled and ambiguous manuals for poll workers, a careless or reckless disregard for security of the voting machines, and the refusal to accept help from outsiders with expertise.

The dysfunction was made worse by a rushed changeover from punch-card voting to electronic machines.

"Director Vu and [Deputy Director] Dillingham effectively ordered workers to do the impossible, or nearly impossible, with inadequate resources," the report says. "This is an across-the-board failure to plan and manage the first countywide endeavor in electronic voting."

The panel found that even when presented with 13 warnings of potential crises four months before the election, Vu forged ahead. In June, after most of the 13 predicted problems came to pass, Vu "had yet to grasp the enormity of the issues. . . . During a recent interview with panel members he said, "There's not much that I would change at all."

In a companion article the Plain Dealer reports on the 13 warnings and gives some examples:

Scanning machines might be unable to read thousands of absentee ballots.

Votng machine memory cards might not get to the election headquarters for counting.

Election workers might be unable to operate the machines.

Vu's system for counting votes might break down.

All of that came to pass.


Joe Lorenzo Hall, Polytechnologist and PhD student at UC Berkeley has read the report and broken it down into easily read "nuggets" on his blog "Not Quite A Blog 2.0". A few of Joe's "nuggets":

Here, they wanted to record absentee votes on DREs, but the OH SoS office instructed them not to produce a paper trail (and to do this, they had to load the paper rolls backwards):

6.4 Finding: Although the DRE units are designed to function only with the VVPAT printer units properly installed, and the DRE printer could have created a paper trail recording the votes, the SOS instructed the CCBOE not to permit the DREs to print the paper receipt. The CCBOE accomplished that instruction by loading the paper backwards so that the printers did not have a surface on which they could print.

The CCBOE did not agree with the SOS's decision, which it had given orally, to have the DREs set up so they were unable to create a VVPAT.

Here we see that people didn't realize they should look at the VVPAT due to the TSx's design where an opaque cover is placed over the VVPAT window.

2.70 Finding: Many voters did not know that they could check the printer display for verification of their vote because the DRE printer’s opaque cover had to be opened in order to see the VVPAT print of their votes. If voters are not well informed about the VVPAT they will not be able to use it to verify their vote. The VVPAT display was very difficult to read for some voters because of the font size/ type and the magnifying plastic cover. The CCBOE was aware that some voters might not check the VVPAT and states that “A voter is not going to know why it is even there unless they open it up. The cover should either be eliminated or in the open position all of the time.”

Here we see "testing" of the election modem pool by sending 60 DREs home with election administration staff.

5.4 Finding: Immediately prior to the May 2nd election, the CCBOE performed the final testing of the election night data transmission procedure they had designed. The CCBOE facilities did not have a sufficient number of telephone lines to test the modem transmission procedure prior to the election. Due to this limitation, approximately 60 CCBOE employees were selected to take one or more DREs home with them for the weekend before Election Day. They were to connect their home telephone lines to upload test voting data to the CCBOE computer. This testing was problematic on a number of grounds. [Interviews with CCBOE staff; IS staff; Deputy Director Dillingham; Director Vu]

Releasing DREs to employees to take home was a troubling breach of security. It created an opportunity for tampering and raises doubts about the CCBOE’s commitment to election security and to promoting public confidence.

So we have more than enough evidence to say that the primary election in Cuyahoga Co., OH was a "train wreck" thanks in large part to the incompetence of the county elections director and his assistant. So was he removed from his job? Fired? Told to return to his old job in Salt Lake City, UT? No, he gets to stay in his job.

According to the Associated Press today the county election board split 2-2 on a party line vote with the Republicans voting to let Vu keep his job.