A Survey of Pollworker and Voter Experience Reveals Pervasive and Recurrent Failures among Computerized Voting Systems
By John Gideon on 1/3/2007, 4:14pm PT  

A report [PDF] prepared by civic watchdog groups VotersUnite.org, VoteTrustUSA and Voter Action found the 2006 mid-term elections were marred by persistent and widespread voting machine malfunctions. In preparing the report “E-Voting Failures in the 2006 Mid-Term Elections,” the groups examined data collected from the Election Protection Coalition hotline (1-866 OUR VOTE) and the Voter Action hotline, reports submitted from Election Day pollworkers through the Pollworkers for Democracy project and local and national news accounts collected by VotersUnite.Org.

In all, 1022 accounts of machine related problems from more than 300 counties in 36 states were examined and categorized. The report summarizes and provides contextual and comparative analysis of the difficulties caused by each type of equipment problem, such as machine malfunctions that impeded polls from opening, machine failures at poll closing and vote tabulation, and votes lost or changed on the voting machine screen. It also includes first hand accounts from voters and pollworkers describing the machine difficulties they encountered on Election Day and how the machines hampered the voting process.

The report recounts incidents of voters leaving without casting a vote because the machines would not start or broke down during Election Day. Machines often failed to record the voter’s correct choice on the ballot or summary screen and caused voters to question if their vote was recorded. Several pollworker accounts described problems closing the machines, retrieving vote totals from the computerized systems, and aggregating the totals with software, sometimes counting votes multiple times or failing to count them at all. The report suggests that in some cases votes were lost.

“By studying the experiences of voters and pollworkers we saw a different view of the 2006 election than has been widely accepted. In report after report voters and pollworkers were repeatedly frustrated in their effort to vote or have the votes recorded and counted correctly by recurring machine malfunctions,” said Joan Krawitz, executive director of VoteTrustUSA and co-director for the Pollworkers for Democracy project. “In too many instances voting machines failed our voters and our democracy, confirming that our present system is not adequate for the tremendous responsibility of counting our votes.”

“Since the Help America Vote Act was implemented in 2002, we have spent over $3 billion in tax dollars on new electronic voting equipment yet the experience of the 2006 mid-term elections shows that we have traded one set of problems for another. To ensure the health of our democracy we need to acknowledge the failures of computerized voting and recognize that they will not fix themselves,” said John Gideon, executive director of VotersUnite. “We urgently need corrective and constructive action from election administrators and legislators.”

The report stated there were many polling locations where machine malfunctions were not reported but concluded that the problems reported were too widespread and pervasive to be considered anomalies.

"Our volunteer attorneys took call after call from real people who were prevented from exercising their most fundamental democratic right; to cast a vote and have confidence that vote would be counted accurately. We heard from voters around the country who simply could not vote because the machines failed; how much more proof is needed that this idea of electronic voting, which has been very profitable for the vendors, is failing in the field? "said Holly Jacobson, co-founder of Voter Action.

“The first hand accounts from distressed and frustrated voters unable to make their voices heard because of machine failures is both upsetting and compelling,” said Warren Stewart, policy director for VoteTrustUSA. “It’s impossible to read these reports and not see that it is crucial that we improve these machines immediately.”

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