In an era that increasingly relies on paperless technology, Maryland is about to revert to using old-fashioned pen and paper to elect its leaders. The Board of Public Works is expected to approve a $28 million contract Wednesday to replace Maryland’s touch-screen voting system with machines that scan paper ballots, which voters will mark with a pen or pencil. The contract comes more than seven years after the legislature decided the state should replace tens of thousands of touch screens deemed unreliable and susceptible to fraud. Since then, arguments and tough budget times have repeatedly delayed efforts to replace the machines with a system that has a verifiable paper record. “We, for a generation of elections, have had no paper trail,” said Del. Jon Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat and a leading proponent of scrapping the touch-screen system. The new system is expected to be in place for the 2016 presidential election.
One of the top election leaders in the state told 16 WAPT News that the ballot rules need to be thrown out. Gary Knight, the head of the Election Commissioners Association of Mississippi, said the group has worked for years to change legislation that requires precincts to print ballots for 75 percent of their voter population. “It is my opinion that statute is generally a little behind technology,” Knight said. Knight said he has heard about problems with ballots in Hinds County during the Nov. 4 general election. Some voters had to wait for ballots, even after the polls closed, because several precincts ran out.
Residents of Fairfax County will be able to use a new voting machines in this upcoming November election, the first such comprehensive equipment replacement in more than a decade. The Fairfax County Office of Elections purchased 1,125 voting machines from Election Systems and Software, which includes 525 paper ballot scanning machines and 600 paper ballot generating machines, with the initial price at approximately $6.4 million. The new equipment will provide and scan paper ballots for voters, and will also let voters know if their ballot is blank or they voted for more candidates than allowed in any race.
When it comes to elections, the pendulum just keeps swinging. With electronic voting equipment nearing the end of this life expectancy, Barton County Election Officer Donna Zimmerman is eyeing the future and sees a need for a change. This change could include a return to the old-school paper ballots. With such an evolution on the horizon, Zimmerman hosted a voting equipment demonstration in the Barton County Courthouse Thursday morning. Kansas county clerks and election officials joined her staff for the presentations. Participants witnessed demonstrations from multiple voting system manufacturers. ElectionSource of Grand Rapids, Mich., presented Dominion Voting Systems and Henry M. Adkins & Son of Clinton, Mo., presented Unisyn Voting Solutions. “It appears that the trend is to return to paper ballots with equipment only for used by those with disabilities,” Zimmerman said. “This is the yo-yo in elections. It seems really weird that we’re going back to paper ballots,” said Darin DeWitt, Barton County voter registration clerk. “It’s like two steps backward.” DeWitt and Zimmerman were among the handful of election officials huddled around the pricey new equipment in the Barton County Commission chambers to hear the sales pitch for from ElectionSource.
The dutiful Washington County voter, having chosen candidates and issues after a few moments of intense concentration in the election booth, steps to the counting machine with ballot in hand only to find a problem. But what? Did the voter “overwrite” the ballot by marking more than one candidate for a race? Or stray across party lines in a primary election? Or fail to mark the vote inside the oval spaces provided, circling them instead? A color screen on the county’s new voting machine indicates an error. Once the nature of the error pops up, the screen gives the voter a simple choice: return the ballot or cast it. In the first instance, the voter could ask an elections judge to destroy the ballot and provide a new one. If the voter chooses to cast the ballot, it would enter the machine and become official, with the part in error discarded.
Lake County Elections Board officials are preparing for the day — in the not-too-distant future — when the county will have to purchase new voting machine equipment. The county last purchased 864 iVotronic electronic voting machines from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software in December 2005 for a total price of $2,749,194, said Janet F. Clair of the Elections Board. Federal funding paid $2,330,770 of that cost through the federal Help America Vote Act and Lake County paid $418,423 toward the purchase, Clair said. That purchase was required to ensure the county was compliant with a new state requirement at the time that voting equipment provide a voter-verified paper audit trail.
New York: Broken voting machines, mistranslated ballot measures plague low-turnout election | New York Daily News
The modest number of New Yorkers who bothered to vote Tuesday encountered short lines and a good number of busted voting machines, officials said. The problem hit Brooklyn’s 52nd Assembly District hard, where 70 machines at 21 poll sites were out of commission all morning. Voters had to fill out emergency affidavits. Michael Ryan, executive director of the city Board of Elections, said the machines in these neighborhoods — including Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Prospect Heights — were improperly set up. “We traced the issue back to a technician who improperly set up the backup memory device,” Ryan said, noting that all the machines were back up and running by 11 a.m. Ballots in Chinese were mistranslated, swapping text for one proposition measure with another.
It’s voting 2.0. This Election Day, Maine will roll out 428 new voting machines with digital scanners and stepped-up tech in 228 municipalities. Most voters will still exit their polling booths and head toward the ballot clerks, but now they’ll insert their paper ballot into a slot below a digital screen, pause, then get the machine’s OK to walk away. The devices are smart enough to detect too many votes — such as voting yes and no on Question 1 — as well as detecting questions with no responses. The machines will offer to kick those ballots back for do-overs. Seventeen new machines arrived in Lewiston in August inside locked, black cases that looked like something out of James Bond. Staff joked about needing launch codes. They’ve been tested and retested with dummy ballots. City Clerk Kathy Montejo anticipates a smooth day Tuesday. Lewiston is using machines to tally both state and local results. “The beauty of the machine is that it can be programmed to ignore other write-ins (that aren’t for pre-approved candidates),” she said. “Sometimes that would add an hour or two at the end of election night. The workers are extremely happy.”
For the first time in eight years, the State Election Commission is expected to certify a new voting system for use in state elections when it meets Friday afternoon. Commissioners will be asked to certify the EVS 188.8.131.52 system manufactured by Elections Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., for use in elections statewide. Jake Glance, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said a key advance in the new system is that it incorporates a high-speed digital scan central ballot counter, which can record and tabulate ballots faster than optical-scan ballot counters currently in use. “It will make the counting process faster,” he said Thursday. “It’s all about speed and accuracy.”
With help from Dane County, Waunakee could be one of many municipalities replacing their vote tabulating machines by next year. Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell announced that the county would pay half of the cost to replace the machines, in a press release recently. The press release cites “reports of vote-counting machines smoking, sparking and breaking down during the last election” and urges municipalities to upgrade the equipment. While Waunakee Clerk Julee Helt has never witnessed such dramatic breakdowns in Waunakee’s machines, she does remember one snafu, she said. “We had one situation midday when we were off a number,” she said. “Sometimes, people get a ballot then decide they don’t want to vote for anybody.” But the clerks have to be accountable for each number they give out for a ballot.
Brevard County voters will be using new equipment starting in November. The County Commission this week unanimously approved the $1.5 million purchase. Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott said Brevard currently has among the oldest election equipment in the state, dating back to 1999. Brevard was one of the early adopters that year of “optical scan technology” to read the ballots. She says that equipment now is “aging and outdated,” and the vendor that made it is out of business, so spare parts are difficult to come by. “We can’t continue to limp through like that,” Scott said. With the new equipment, voters will continue to mark a paper ballot. But the new equipment that will collect and tabulate those ballots will make it easier for election workers to spot any problems with improperly completed ballots. “This is a much more user-friendly unit,” Scott said.
Faster, more reliable voting machines are arriving just in time to help handle an expansion of absentee voting in Minnesota and a high-profile test of Minneapolis’ ranked-choice voting in this fall’s mayoral election. Six of the seven metro-area counties are spending millions to replace hundreds of 13-year-old optical-scan ballot-counting machines, taking advantage of federal grants and the recent certification of new voting technology. Ballots cast by Minneapolis residents will be fed into the machines during the mayoral election in November, which will be the most high-profile test yet of the city’s system that allows voters to pick a first, second and third choice. The new equipment will eliminate the hand counting that took 15 days in 2009.
New York: NYC Board Of Elections Finds Nearly 1,600 Brooklyn Ballots Never Counted In Nov. 2012 | New York Daily News
The city Board of Elections just re-certified the results of the race — including an additional 1,579 ballots finally counted last week. Exactly 238 days elapsed between the Nov. 6 election and the beleaguered Board’s Tuesday sign-off on the latest update — raising serious questions about how quickly and reliably the agency can make a call in the upcoming Sept. 10 primary. “There’s three weeks between the primary and the runoff election, and the Board is going to have to perform at a optimal level,” said Alex Camarda, public policy director for the Citizens Union good-government group. “The fact that they’re discovering these uncounted votes [only now] casts doubt on their ability to do that,” he said. “It diminishes public confidence in the integrity of the election system.” Under a bill awaiting Gov. Cuomo’s signature, the Board could haul out its old lever voting machines for the primary and a widely anticipated subsequent runoff that would be triggered if no candidate captures 40% of the vote.
New voting machines will be in place for fall elections. The Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of a new stand alone central scanner, for counting absentee ballots, and 45 precinct vote scanners. The equipment will be purchased from Election Systems and Software at a cost of $322,750. The company demonstrated their latest equipment for the board June 18. Representatives of the company told the board the new equipment takes a lot of the stress away from poll workers, because it is so easy to use. The new central scanner, a DS850, is supposed to make counting absentee ballots easier. The current M650 scanner can scan equally as fast, if there were no voting variables, but the problem with the machine is that it stops every time there is an anomaly, such as an over vote – voting for more than one candidate in a given position – or write-in vote.
The Anoka County Board has awarded a contract for new election equipment that will be in place in time for the 2013 election Nov. 5. The new equipment plus election services from Election Systems & Software will cost up to $1,530,251.30 and replace the existing equipment, which is obsolete. A 10-year joint powers agreement was approved last year by the county, school districts and cities in the county that spells out a cost-sharing formula to pay for the new equipment, its maintenance and operations. According to Cindy Reichert, Anoka County elections manager, the software associated with the new equipment will begin arriving the week of June 24. But delivery of the 140 ballot counters that the county is purchasing under the contract won’t be delivered until August, Reichert said.
New York: ES&S says it can prevent disaster during city’s upcoming mayoral election — for a fee | NY Daily News
The company that made the city’s controversial new voting machines claims it has a solution to the city’s looming election crisis: Pay the company more money. The city Board of Elections has warned that the mayoral primary election this fall could turn disastrous if no candidate wins at least 40 percent of the vote. State law requires the city to hold a runoff election two weeks after the primary but the board says it needs more time to reset the new ballot scanners. The company that made the scanners, Elections Systems & Software, has now stepped up with an offer to save the day — and get a big check. It offered to send a team of its own consultants and technicians to help pull off the two-week turnaround.
The Jackson Free Press is hearing about a number of Election Day issues that seem to be associated with the use of new voting machines. This morning, the Jackson Free Press received a tip about issues at Ward 7’s Precinct 97 in south Jackson, located at the Wahabi Shriners, 4123 Interstate 55 S. The precinct is supposed to have one voting machine to read hand-marked ballots and count the votes. The machine, which poll workers said was scheduled for delivery at 6:15 a.m., didn’t show up until 8:43 a.m., nearly two hours after the polls opened. And then it didn’t work. In April, after a months-long process, the Hinds County Board of Supervisors agreed to a $1.2 million five-year contract with Electronic Systems and Software for new voting machines. Headquartered in Omaha, Neb., ES&S also holds a contract with the Mississippi secretary of state to facilitate overseas and military voting.
Voting Blogs: Maine towns continue to count ballots by hand – State offer of free vote-counting equipment rejected by some | electionlineWeekly
When you think of Maine you think of lobsters and blueberries and quaint, picturesque towns. For years, ballot clerks in hundreds of these small towns have spent election night painstakingly hand-counting ballots. Depending on the size of the town and the size of the election, this process could last well into the morning hours. In early 2012, there were approximately 500 towns throughout Maine still hand-counting ballots. The Secretary of State’s Office, in an effort to speed up the process and get results to Augusta more quickly, offered the towns with more than 1,100 registered voters access to 225 vote tabulators (ES&S DS 200) free of charge under the state’s contract with the vendor. “We are providing 225 tabulators free of charge,” explained Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state. “The majority of the municipalities with more than 1,100 registered voters accepted the tabulators.” Only Greenville, Litchfield and Winterport declined two offers from the state and continue to count their ballots by hand.
Mississippi: Hinds County voters to use new optical screening machines this fall | The Clarion-Ledger
Hinds County this fall will use a digital voting system in which residents mark a paper ballot, but officials say that’s not a step backward. The optical scanner machines made by Omaha-based Election Systems and Software, used by the state’s 81 other counties, will replace Hinds County’s decade-old, touch-screen system. County leaders say it will make precinct check-in and voting quicker and more foolproof. But just as importantly, they say, the new process will restore confidence to a Hinds County system plagued in recent years by machine malfunctions and accusations that absentee and affidavit ballots were lost or mishandled. The machines will be delivered by July 1, not quite in time for spring municipal primaries and the June general election, but in time for any special elections in August. Jackson residents, though, will use the system via leased equipment in municipal elections this spring. “This will put you with a state-of-the-art system that exceeds many counties,” Frank Jackson, the county’s consultant for procurement and master agent with Electronic Option Services Inc., said of the $1.2 million system. “Our hope is that this project will be modeled throughout the state.
Maine: Litchfield says ‘no’ a second time to state-sponsored ballot counting machines | The Morning Sentinel
The town of Litchfield has rejected a second state offer of a machine to tabulate state and federal election ballots in favor of continuing to count votes by hand. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, left, and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap give a demonstration of one of the the new, state-leased DS 200 tabulators on Thursday in the Cross Building in Augusta. Litchfield recently rejected a second offer by the state for a machine to tabulate state and federal election ballots, in favor of continuing hand-counting. Litchfield’s rejection was signed Tuesday by Rayna Leibowitz, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, following an earlier vote. “When the ballot clerks were asked their opinions, nobody, nobody wanted the machines,” said Leibowitz, who serves as a ballot clerk when she’s not a candidate for office. “We just feel it’s too important a process to rely on the machines, and we’d miss out on the social opportunities here. It’s very much a team effort. We have some people doing it for years and years and years, and they absolutely love the process.” In contrast, officials in Belgrade are enthusiastically cheering the benefits of that town’s new tabulator, which saved nine hours of counting time in the last election.
More than 200 new electronic voting machines in Nassau County jammed on Election Day, forcing voters to cast some 20,000 paper ballots and delaying final tabulations in some close races, election officials said. About 4 percent of the 463,000 Nassau voters who went to the polls Tuesday had to place paper ballots into emergency ballot boxes when the machines malfunctioned, said Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte. In 2010 and 2011, such breakdowns affected less than 1 percent of voters, he said. Similar problems were reported in New York City. Suffolk Republican Deputy Elections Commissioner Bill Ellis said the county experienced only minor issues “that were easily corrected.” Suffolk uses a different vendor than Nassau and the city.
Imagine going to the polls November 6th and casting your vote for President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney and somehow the machine thinks you voted for both candidates. That’s called an overvote, and your vote may be thrown out. Sound impossible? It isn’t. “You are getting to the crux of the problem with this technology. We are supposed to trust what goes on back there blindly,” voting rights advocate and attorney Lida Rodriguez-Taseff told CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen. Rodriguez-Taseff has spent a decade battling to pull back the curtain on election transparency. She helped get the touch screen machines tossed in Florida in favor of getting voters a paper ballot and paper trail – only to learn that the variety of optical scan machines now in use now across America and Florida may have flaws no one could have predicted. Or could they have?
New York: Voting machines in the primary between Charlie Rangel and Adriano Espaillat didn’t count hundreds of votes | NY Daily News
More than 500 votes in the controversial Democratic primary contest between Charlie Rangel and Adriano Espaillat were never counted for any of the candidates. A Daily News review of official precinct-by-precint results for the 13th Congressional District shows that electronic vote scanning machines the Board of Elections has used for the past two years failed to record any voter choice on 436 ballots. Those nullified ballots represent 1% of all votes cast in the race — a significant figure, given that Rangel won by only a 2% margin. The Board of Elections discarded another 78 write-in votes as “unattributable” to any candidate, The News’ review found. It defies logic that 514 people went to the polls in this hotly-contested race and voted for no one. The biggest number of both “unrecorded” votes (104) and “unattributable” write-ins (20) came in the 72nd Assembly District in Washington Heights/Inwood, where insurgent candidate Espaillat had the most support.
Almost half of Florida’s voters will have their ballots counted this November by machines that can malfunction in as little as two hours and start adding votes. A New York study found that the precinct-based vote counter added votes in some races on a ballot, which can invalidate some or all of the votes. Although not used in Palm Beach County, Election Systems & Software’s DS200 scanner will count votes in some of the most populous counties in Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange. State elections officials stand behind the scanner, which they say has been thoroughly tested. Even so, the manufacturer issued a nationwide bulletin warning that the scanner needs to be carefully cleaned to avoid adding “phantom” votes.
New York: We told you so: DS200 voting machine screwed up – NY Board of Elections must be more vigilant about testing equipment | NY Daily News
You know those new electronic vote-scanning machines that are supposed to be foolproof in reading and counting every ballot in an election? Well, they’re anything but foolproof. In fact, they can screw up voter tallies to a fare-thee-well even after technicians carefully calibrate and test them. So state and city election officials have discovered, along with the machine’s manufacturer, thanks to insistent prodding by this page. Their learning experience began at a polling place at Public School 65 in the Bronx, where official tallies for 2010 primary and general elections showed that as many as 70% of the voters had cast invalid ballots, disqualifying them. The Brennan Center at NYU Law School brought the obviously impossible discrepancy to the attention of the city Board of Elections. The board responded, in essence, “Who cares?”
The voting machine that cast between 50,000 and 60,000 extra votes for New York gubernatorial candidates in November has a bug that causes it to misread some ballots and add additional votes to others when the machine itself overheats, according to a review by the state Board of Election. All of the so-called “over-votes” were thrown out after election workers reported an unrealistic spike in the number of votes from the machine, from manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which apparently overheated during the hour or so the polling location was closed for lunch. In 2010 NYC’s City Board of Elections decided to replace its old lever-driven voting machines, that required voters to flip a lever to register their choices with a newer model from ES&S. Rather than flipping a lever, voters fill in oval spaces on paper ballots, then scan the ballots into the voting machine to register their choices. The machine counts votes automatically; the stored paper ballots remain serve as the source for recounts or backups for lost votes.
An e-voting machine expected for use in the 2012 presidential election is experiencing anomalies, increasing scrutiny on the system’s reliability as elections loom. The Electronic Assistance Commission’s formal investigative report revealed the DS200 machine, used only in Ohio and Wisconsin, failed to record votes, logged in the wrong vote, and often froze up, jeopardizing voting accuracy. Testing protocol included powering off the machine between votes and inserting ballots at various angles.
The government group, which certifies electronic voting, reportedly won’t decertify the machines because manufacturer, Electronic Systems & Software, said it fixed the issues.
National: ES&S DS200 digital scanning device for presidential vote has bugs, report confirms | CNET News
An e-voting machine that is to be used for the presidential election this year has been found to have “anomalies” such as failing to record votes or logging the wrong vote and freezing, according to a government report.
The Formal Investigative Report issued late last month by the Electronic Assistance Commission (EAC), which certifies electronic voting equipment, issued a notice of noncompliance for the DS200 optical scanning device manufactured by Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), but did not decertify the machine.
The report found three anomalies:
Intermittent screen freezes, system lockups, and shutdowns that prevent the voting system from operating in the manner in which it was designed
Failure to log all normal and abnormal voting system events
Skewing of the ballot, resulting in a negative effect on system accuracy
Specifically, the DS200 failed in some cases to record when the touch screen was calibrated or the system was powered on or off, failed to read votes correctly when a ballot was inserted at an angle, and accepted a voted ballot without recording the ballot on its internal counter and without recording the marks, according to the report.
An electronic ballot scanning device slated for use in the upcoming presidential elections, misreads ballots, fails to log critical events and is prone to freezes and sudden lockups, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has found. The little noticed EAC report on the DS200 Precinct Count Optical Scanner in the Unity 184.108.40.206 voting system built by Election Systems & Software (ES&S) was released late last month.
The 141-page Formal Investigative Report ( download pdf ) highlights multiple “substantial anomalies” in the DS200: intermittent screen freezes; system lockups and shutdowns; and failure to log all normal and abnormal system event. For example, the DS200 in some cases failed to log events such as a vote being cast, when its touch-screen is calibrated or when the system is powered on or off, the EAC said. In addition, the EAC report said the system failed to read votes correctly when a 17-inch ballot was inserted at an angle. The voter’s intended mark was either registered as a different selection or the vote was not registered at all, the EAC noted.
The federal agency responsible for inspecting voting equipment said Thursday that a ballot scanner used in several key battleground states can freeze up without warning, fail to log errors and misread ballots.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission said the ballot reader, made by Omaha-based ES&S, is not in compliance with federal standards. And while it’s the first time the 8-year-old agency has taken such a step, it falls just short of decertification — a move that could force election officials to abandon the machines on the eve of the 2012 presidential primaries.
The DS200 optical-scan system is designed to read paper ballots fed into the machines by voters themselves at their precincts. It’s used in all or part of Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin.