Carolyn Crnich likes to be second-guessed: The registrar of voters in Humboldt County, Calif., scans every ballot and makes the election results available, online or on disk, so that anyone, anywhere, can count them. Community activists do just that. The result: 100 percent audits of the supervisor’s results, a sharp contrast to Florida, which limits vote counts to a small number of ballots in a single race. “I don’t like saying to my constituents, ‘Hey, just trust me,’ ” Crnich said. “Now, I don’t have to. Count them yourself, and if you find anything out of the ordinary, I want to know.” In 2008, the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project did find something out of the ordinary: 197 ballots dropped by machines. That led to an examination of the elections software used in Humboldt, about 200 miles north of San Francisco. So many problems were found, the system was decertified for use in California. It continues counting ballots in two Florida counties without incident, although a state Division of Elections advisory urged counties to get an upgrade. But elections supervisors shouldn’t get too comfortable with any system, experts say.
“You don’t want to be dependent on software or machines, really,” said Ronald Rivest, a pioneering MIT computer science professor. “You need some process that avoids that necessity. Because machines can have errors or bugs in them.”
There are solutions to high-tech trouble. But first people have to get past the notion that elections systems are somehow safer and more reliable than any other technology, said Douglas W. Jones, professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and co-author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? Even Google got hacked, Jones pointed out. “Why would you expect cash-strapped county elections officers to be able to afford expertise to stand up to those kinds of threats?” he asked.
Full Article: Simple steps could catch technical failures in vote counting.