County GOP Chair: The ES&S machines 'ain't worth a damn, we ought to go back to paper ballots'
One voter says: 'I pressed confirm and screen went totally black'...
By Brad Friedman on 10/23/2010, 9:47pm PT  

[Now UPDATED with additional reports of additional vote-flipping and touch-screen failure from other NC counties at bottom of article.]

Aaand the touch-screen voting machines continue to flip votes during the early voting period. Right on schedule. Just as always. But, for the second time this week we have the unusual occurrence of votes reportedly flipping away from the GOP.

Yesterday our report was of a touch-screen in Dallas, TX, caught on video flipping an attempted vote for Republican Gov. Rick Perry to straight-ticket Green Party selections in Dallas, TX.

Today's report, where the local election official is also misleading voters by downplaying the incident, comes from the same type of 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machine, but it took place in Craven County, NC, according to P. Christine Smith of the Sun Journal...

A Craven County voter says he had a near miss at the polls on Thursday when an electronic voting machine completed his straight-party ticket for the opposite of what he intended.

Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern said he pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked. He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result, he said. Then he asked for and received help from election staff.

"They pushed it twice and the same thing happened," Laughinghouse said. "That was four times in a row. The fifth time they pushed it and the Republicans came up and I voted."
"Something is not right here," [Craven County GOP Chair Chuck] Tyson told the Sun Journal. He said he "got two or three calls" from people describing the same problem while they were voting.

Tyson also went on to report there were long lines reported as voters waited to use the two touch-screen voting machines available at one location (paper ballots don't cause that problem) and, even more disturbingly, "machines reporting 250 ballots cast where 400 voters had signed in to vote."

Well that's a problem, isn't it?...

In our report on the video of the vote-flipping out of Dallas yesterday, we offered a great deal of background on the historic --- and monumental --- failures of the ES&S iVotronic machines which notoriously fail to register not only straight-ticket votes accurately on the screen, but pretty much any vote, in many cases. Most notoriously, perhaps, the ES&S iVotronic lost some 18,000 votes in a 2006 special election for the U.S. House in Florida (in which the Republican candidate was declared the "winner" by just 369 votes), leading to the state getting rid of virtually all of their touch-screen systems. The same ES&S iVotronics were used when Alvin Greene, the unemployed South Carolina veteran who failed to campaign or even have a campaign web site, inexplicably defeated four-term state Senator and former Circuit Court Judge Vic Rawl for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination. (See the previous article for more such examples of ES&S iVotronic failures.)

Yet, in North Carolina and Texas and 16 other states (also listed in the previous article), election officials still force voters to use these 100% unverifiable, oft-failed, easily manipulated voting systems. It's a disgrace. But how many different ways, and over how many different years can we make that point over and again?

We also explained yesterday how the usual "solution" to the problem of touch-screen vote-flipping is for election officials or voting machine company employees to "re-calibrate" the systems in the middle of the election --- at the time they are absolutely most vulnerable to tampering and other malfeasance --- rather than simply take them out of service and securely quarantine them for inspection later.

To that end, the Sun Journal's coverage offers some startling news that ought to send the county Republican and Democratic Parties alike straight to a court house to demand the practice be stopped! According to the paper, when Laughinghouse tried to report the incident an unidentified "man said the machine likely needed to be calibrated...and set about the method to do so."

But the next graf is even more startling [emphasis ours]...

"Each morning every voting unit is calibrated as per manufacturer instructions by trained election rovers," [Craven County Board of elections chairman M. Ray] Wood’s statement said. "These individuals are also working throughout the county each day to assist one-stop officials with any issues that arise during the course of voting."

So there you have it, people of Craven County. Want to game your election? Become a "trained election rover" and you can have complete and unfettered access to every machine in the county each and every morning. If you'd like instructions on how to game that machine, they are available all over the Internet.

In the meantime, poor Mr. Laughinghouse has been so bamboozled by GOP propaganda about the virtually non-existent problem of "voter fraud" (rather than election fraud which can be carried out by a single election insider, say, a "rover" for example, allowing just one of them to flip the results of an entire election without detection), that he's now completely confused.

"He has become suspicious of voter fraud because of news reports he has heard," says the paper.

"I’m all for our country and we know there has been voter fraud before and it continues even today," Laughinghouse is quoted as saying. "So you get suspicious when something like this happens."

He's suspicious of "voter fraud" as he's been misinformed by Fox "News" and friends, the same folks who, for years, have been repeating the Republican mantra that concerns about voting machines are little more than "Democrat conspiracy theories."

Mr. Laughinghouse must be suspicious of himself, since he was the voter here. The truth, of course, is that the voters are doing fine and need to be left alone, rather than hassled and intimidated and suppressed at the polling place.

Laughinghouse's real concerns were under his very nose when he went to vote yesterday, and he still seems not to have noticed, as the paper reports...

Laughinghouse advises voters to carefully check their ballots before confirming to ensure that the machine is logging each vote as intended.

As this may be the first time Mr. Laughinghouse has heard this, hopefully he'll read this carefully and it will stick with him (and every other voter perhaps hearing this for the first time): It doesn't matter what your "ballot" says on the screen. It is 100% scientifically impossible to "ensure that the machine is logging each vote as intended." In fact, it's 100% impossible ensure that even one vote has been recorded as intended on such a voting system. And impossible to prove that any vote ever cast on such a machine in any election for any candidate or initiative on the ballot has ever been recorded as the voter intended.

But you folks can go ahead and keep looking for phantom "voter fraud" if you prefer, rather than where the real threat to (small "d") democratic elections exists.

The upside here: Craven County GOP chair Tyson actually seems to get it. He told the paper about his county's touch-screen voting machines: "They never work, they’re late reporting, they screw up, they ain’t worth a damn and we ought to go back to paper ballots."

Bravo, sir.

[Hat-tip to Joyce McCloy, publisher of the indispensable Voting News and founder of North Carolina's]

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UPDATE 10:36pm PT: And just after posting the above, we get word from McCloy of more reported vote flipping in a different North Carolina county, also charging that votes are flipping, repeatedly from Republican to Democratic on ES&S iVotronic touch-screen systems...

The first day of early voting in New Hanover County ended with Board of Election members calling an emergency meeting.

Some people complained that when they voted for certain candidates the electronic voting machines would pick another candidate.

"I was going through county commissioners and made my selection, it went from Republican candidates to Democrat. It did it three different times," said Dean Lambeth, Mayor of Kure Beach.

One of the affected candidates, Republican Ilario Pantano, who is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre in the 7th Congressional district, issued this alert for voters after reports of votes flipping from Pantano to McIntyre.

The campaign's "warning" is to "DOUBLECHECK your ballot before casting it." Instead, they ought to be heading to court to get those machines removed from service and require election officials to provide voters with verifiable paper ballots instead at every voting location. Or otherwise wait to vote on Election Day, when NC allows voters to use paper ballots at the precinct.

This is just another reason why (even though political parties love it) early voting in places where you're forced to use 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems is a terrible idea.

UPDATE 11:00pm PT: Another voter reports the same problems of R to D vote-flipping in Craven County, but adds an additionally troubling twist: "I pressed confirm and the screen went totally black." Brilliant.

UPDATE 10/28/10: NC GOP threatens lawsuit against State Board of Elections over reported "widespread" vote-flipping. Details now here...

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