Re-Scan Tests of 260 Initially Rejected Ballots in Disputed Palm Beach Election UN-Rejects Different Numbers of Ballots Each Time They Are Scanned
Same Failed Company Fighting Against Public Disclosure of Similar Problems Today in both Washington D.C. and New Jersey...
By Brad Friedman on 10/3/2008, 12:21pm PT  

John Gideon briefly noted what happened in Florida in yesterday's Daily Voting News, but it deserves a bit more attention. A lot more attention, actually.

A recent contested election for Circuit Judge in Palm Beach County, FL, where the initial results showed a 17 vote margin for one of the candidates, continues to reveal differing counts every time the same ballots are run through the county's new optical-scan paper ballot counters made by Sequoia Voting Systems.

Sequoia is one of America's largest private voting machine vendors, and one of its worst (even though we realize such judgements are akin to determing whether Mussolini was worse than Stalin.) Just 30-some days from America's next and likely-largest election ever, the desperate company is under fire today for recent voting system failures in Palm Beach, Washington D.C., and New Jersey.

For the moment, let's look at what was reported out of Palm Beach yesterday, where re-scans of 262 rejected ballots on Sequoia paper-ballot scanners revealed differing results each and every time they were scanned...

Palm Beach County's high-speed ballot counting machines couldn't count the same ballots the same way twice in tests performed Wednesday evening.

As part of a challenge to a disputed judicial race, elections officials tested two Sequoia 400-C counting machines to see how they handled ballots they previously rejected as either over- or under-votes.
Wednesday's tests were simple. Election workers took 262 ballots previously rejected by the machines as over- or under-votes in the judicial race and ran them through two machines. All of them should have been rejected again in the tests.

That didn't happen.

On the first two tests of 160 ballots, the machines accepted three ballots as good votes. On tests on 102 more ballots that should have been rejected, the machines first accepted 13 ballots as good votes and then 90 on a second run.

To be clear: The failed Sequoia voting systems are electronic paper-ballot scanners, made by a private company which does not allow the public election officials who use them to determine the results of public elections or any independent, public examination of the hardware or software of the systems.

The same type of proprietary voting systems are used to count ballots in every state in the nation. Results of ballots "counted" on them are typically accepted by officials, the media, and the public as accurate, and are almost never double-checked, in any way, shape or form, to determine whether the computer-reported results actually are.

Sequoia is currently in court in New Jersey fighting to keep the results of a court-ordered independent test of its failed New Jersey machines from being made public, even though --- as The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively last May --- the company doesn't even own the intellectual property rights to the voting systems, as it is claiming in that case.

"Even the Governor and the Secretary of State of New Jersey are not permitted, by the Court's order, to read this report in order to inform their policy making," wrote Andrew Appell yesterday. He was one of the Princeton University computer scientists who carried out the court-ordered analysis of the NJ Sequoia machines which misreported vote totals during this year's Super Tuesday primary in a number of counties.

Appell, an expert witness for the citizen plaintiffs in the case, and the leader of the scientific analysis team, goes on to note that despite Sequoia not even being a party to the case, and despite the team of experts unwillingness to examine the "machines under conditions that prevent public discussion of their findings," the judge in the case made a remarkable u-turn this week from her ruling last Summer that allowed for the public disclosure of all findings. Those findings, completed and turned in to the court weeks ago, are being held following oral argument in which Sequoia --- which, we'll repeat, is not a party in the case --- "grossly mischaracterized" the report of the computer scientists, according to Appell.

Meanwhile, Back in Florida...

To his candidate's and the voters' credit, following the recent tests of those ballots in Florida, the attorney for one of the candidates in the Palm Beach contest now says the machines cannot be trusted.

Attorney Gerald Richman told the Sun-Sentinel, "We have to get a new election or a hand recount."

The paper goes on to highlight the problem with relying on a few private vendors to handle every election in the United States of America...

Richman predicts problems in November. He said the voting machine manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems, which sold the county the $5.5 million optical scan system, must "immediately rectify the problem." Representatives of the company, he said, "Need to come down and correct whatever the problem is." A spokesman for the company could not be reached in time for this report.

If election officials ran their own elections, with completely transparent citizen oversight, they wouldn't have to wait for private company employees to "come down and correct whatever the problem is" (as if anybody would know if it was actually corrected after they got done with it.) They also wouldn't have to go to court, only to be told they're not allowed to see what went wrong in their very own elections.

Sequoia was otherwise very busy today anyway, with its top executives answering questions at a public meeting about similarly failed machines in Washington D.C., where thousands of "phantom votes" were added to the results of an election in last month's primary.

Sequoia has said the reason that 1,500 non-existent write-in votes were reported by their voting system, in a precinct where just 326 people cast votes, was most likely due to "static electricity."

Yeah. That's what they actually said. Feel better?

And if you're wondering, since we get the same question every time we write such an article, no, Obama and the DNC are doing absolutely nothing about any of this.

[NOTE: Will your candidate take the pledge to not concede an election until all ballots this year are known to have actually been counted and counted accurately? On tonight's Mike Malloy Show (which we are Guest Hosting this week), we'll have as one of our guests the only Presidential candidate so far who has been willing to take that pledge. It's your democracy, and therefore your responsibility, to make sure that your candidate, whoever it is, does similarly!]