Friday, July 9, 2004

Not Again…

From the Miami Herald:

TALLAHASSEE – As state and Miami-Dade County election officials work to approve software that will clear up a nagging problem with touch-screen voting machines, a Herald review of internal election department documents has found that there are a host of other flaws that have never been publicly acknowledged and are not expected to be fixed by the new programming.

The situation has led to a fractious relationship between Miami-Dade, the state and the touch-screen machine maker, Electronic Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb. At one point, a state Division of Elections e-mail shows, Miami-Dade Assistant County Attorney Murray Greenberg threatened to sue the company — and make it “close up shop nationally” — if more problems were discovered with the equipment that was certified as working two years ago.

In a June 3 letter to ES&S, obtained by The Herald in a public records request, Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Constance Kaplan demanded answers to three problems with the iVotronic equipment that she said could take “labor intensive and costly” actions to fix. She asked ES&S to resolve these issues “expeditiously:”

• The central database machines used to tabulate votes are incapable of holding all the audit data at once, requiring a “labor intensive and costly” solution that could complicate a recount in a close race. Audit data is used to back up the system.

• The optical scanners used to read absentee ballots have problems when information is merged from the three machines the county uses.

• And the county could potentially mix up votes if it were to try to use phone lines to transmit data from the polling places to the election center, which it doesn’t plan to do.

That reminds me of the story about the thousands of dollars NASA spent to develop a pen that could write in zero gravity. The Russians solved the problem by using a pencil. Perhaps we’d be better off going back to paper ballots and pencils. At least you can recount those ballots.