Voters in Montgomery County will be the first to use some of the latest high-tech voting machines. The black box sitting near the front office looks like a big trash can, but it’s a high tech voting tool and Montgomery County registar Randy Wertz, says Montgomery County is one of the first statewide to have it, “Well all you have to do after you plug it in is then you just turn it on. You push the little button back here.” The electronic guts of the Unisyn OVO optical scanner sit right on top. Montgomery County will test out this 6 thousand dollar machine during the Democratic primary next month.
Malfunctioning precinct count optical scanners (PCOS) yesterday compounded the usual concerns of missing voter names, ballot switching, vote buying and violent incidents on election day. Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, agreed that the conduct of elections in the Visayas yesterday was generally peaceful. In Western Visayas, PCOS machines in some precincts in at least 10 areas in Negros Occidental malfunctioned and delayed the voting process, said provincial elections supervisor Wil Arceño. In precincts where the machines were inoperable, the Board of Election Inspectors kept the ballots in a secured envelope to be counted by another machine. Affected were the towns of Pulupandan, Manapla, Ilog, Isabela, and La Castellana as well as the cities of Kabankalan, Cadiz, Silay, Bago and Bacolod. The machines either had defective memory cards or LCD (liquid crystal display) screens. Some did not accept the ballots and others overheated, said Mr. Arceño.
Maryland: Contractor salaries questioned as state moves to paper ballot voting system | Maryland Reporter
State election officials are planning to spend up to $1.2 million to hire just five contractors working for nine months, a high-dollar figure that has shocked key lawmakers and voter advocacy groups watching as the state transitions from touch-screen voting to paper ballots. The transition, which is scheduled for the 2016 presidential elections, will move the state from computerized voting without a paper trail to optical scan paper ballots. Under the recommendation of State Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, the state budgeted $1.2 million for the five positions handling the initial transition. The elections budget calls for the senior project manager position to receive up to $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each and a technical writer $170,000. The budget figures are estimates, since the elections board has not yet selected contractors. … State Election Board Deputy Administrator Ross Goldstein defended the expenses. In an email, he stated that the state estimated the cost using an existing state agency master contract for consulting and technical services. In that contract, vendors stated how much they will charge for a given service. “We used an average from different vendors under the master contract to come up with our estimates for each of the labor categories we need,” Goldstein stated.
Last November, some Fairfax County residents reported long lines and wait times of more than three hours to cast their vote at the polls; some abandoned voting all together. But some 50 recommendations from Fairfax County’s new election commission — many of them focused on technology that will speed up parts of the voting process — could solve the problem. How quickly changes are made, though, depends on how much room officials can find in this year’s budget to implement new programs in time for the next presidential election. … The commission, which Chairman Sharon Bulova formed in December 2012, also recommended officials make electronic scanning voting machines – which scan paper ballots – available countywide. The commission argued the optical scanning machines were both faster and more reliable than the county’s touch-screen voting machines. Virginia’s General Assembly placed restrictions on the touch-screen voting machines in 2007 because of performance issues, and the commission noted in ots report that vendor has since gone under. “The [touch screen machines] are old and sometimes unreliable, taking time to reboot frequently or to get a replacement machine,” the report reads. Read the Report
Sen. Richard Madaleno said Thursday on the floor of the Senate he was shocked by the news that Maryland will not be replacing old touchscreen voting machines with more advanced technology before the 2014 election. “I was under the impression that we were going to have new voting machines in place by then,” Madaleno said during debate on a bill to make voting easier. He added he was concerned that an amendment on that bill calling for the State Board of Elections to research voters’ wait times would distract the board from the urgent task of purchasing modern voting machines. “I’m worried that we’re inadvertently giving the State Board of Elections an excuse to say that they’re not able to get the new voting system,” said Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat. The amendment was later passed.
Tennessee: Sevier County’s voting machines to stay in place for liquor measure | Knoxville News Sentinel
Same issue. Same voting machines. For the second time, the Sevier County Election Commission has effectively decided to retain the current voting machines for a March 14 re-vote on the question of offering liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge. Commissioner John Huff said Thursday he favors keeping the machines for two reasons. “The people who vote are already familiar with them, and our poll workers are familiar with them,” he said. The March 14 vote was set after a judge voided a Nov. 6 due to ballot errors. Huff said those errors were because of human error, not because of a problem with the machines.
St. Charles County is just about to close a deal to purchase hundreds of new, state-of-the-art voting machines. But don’t worry taxpayers — the cost won’t be passed on to you. Like a squirrel storing nuts for the approaching winter, St. Charles county elections director Rich Chrismer has been salting away money raised by leasing out his machines to other election authorities throughout the county. He says that means he’s now been able to save up the million dollars or so needed to purchase 260 voting machines, split evenly between optical scan and ADA-compliant versions.
A political analyst in Manila has defended the use of optical-scan voting machines in the upcoming Philippine elections after a migrant-rights group questioned their reliability. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are among five Middle East cities where the automated system will be used by the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (Comelec). The others are Kuwait, Riyadh and Jeddah. Overseas voters have one month to cast their votes from April 13, while those in the Philippines will vote on election day, May 13. Precinct Count Optical Scan machines were first used in the May 2010 national elections.
Ion Sancho is a man on a mission. Just weeks from the presidential election, one of the most veteran election supervisors in the state of Florida, thinks there’s plenty for him and his colleagues to lose sleep over. What keeps him awake at night? Whether you can trust the machine you will be voting on. “We still have not secured the process to ensure that that machine has read that ballot correctly and it is 100 percent accurate. Because it is wrong to assume that the machines are always right. They’re not, ” Sancho tells CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen. “I think the citizens should be screaming from the rooftops,” he punctuates with the candor and directness he is known for. For many voters Sancho’s words hold weight. He was the first elections supervisor in America to dare a “look under the hood” of a voting machine, to see if the machines were recording votes properly and if they could be hacked. ” I sanctioned the first investigation of a voting system without the vendor’s authorization,” Sancho recalls.
Connecticut’s Republican Party asked the state’s highest court on Wednesday to give GOP candidates the top line on the state’s November ballot, a challenge that could affect voting in the closely watched contest for an open U.S. Senate seat. The outcome of the governor’s race determines which party holds the first line. But state Republicans argued the secretary of the state was wrong to list Democrats first because their candidate, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, relied on votes from a third party to put him over the top in the 2010 election. Since lever voting machines have been replaced with optical scan machines, both sides in dispute say it matters less which party is on the top line of ballots. But academics say recent studies have demonstrated ballot order can make a small yet significant difference.
Florida: Florida falls flat when it comes to rules for tracking paper ballots after elections | TCPalm.com
As the white-hot presidential contest heats up in this battleground state, a newly released national voting equipment study gives Florida passing marks — except for one glaring exception. Aside from using paper ballots, the ability to recount those ballots is the single most important means to ensure a fair election, many experts say, and Florida falls flat. At stake are the ballots of 11.4 million Florida voters and 29 electoral votes, more than enough to decide a tight election. After all, the 326-page report written by nonprofit advocacy groups Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation, as well as Rutgers Law School’s Constitutional Litigation Clinic, points out that George W. Bush won Florida in 2000 by a mere 537 votes. Florida’s myriad voting systems are ranked “generally good” by the report — the rough equivalent of a “C” — in part because the state mandates the use of paper ballots for everyone except some disabled voters. Martin County’s touch screen equipment and St. Lucie and Indian River county’s optical scan machines all produce paper ballots, officials confirmed. But Florida’s rules for tracking those paper ballots after an election come up short, the report concluded, and that’s key, given the fact that virtually all elections systems have demonstrated some type of technological failure. “We all know computers crash,” said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s Voter Integrity Campaign. “Voting machines are no different.”
Philippines: Comelec plans to create special body on precinct count optical scan machines | The Philippine Star
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) plans to create a special committee to hear and address the concerns of critics of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said yesterday the Comelec would have a continuing dialogue with those questioning the decision to purchase and use the PCOS machines in next year’s elections.
Though turnout in Tuesday’s election was light, the unofficial results couldn’t be released until nearly 1 a.m. because of a technological issue, Pitkin County elections manager Dwight Shellman III said Wednesday. The polls for the election, which featured a four-man open primary for the District 4 seat on the Board of County Commissioners, closed at 7 p.m. Nearly six hours later, after Shellman worked around the technology problem, the unofficial results were released, showing that Capitol Creek rancher Steve Child and former Snowmass Village Town Manager John B. Young were the two top vote-getters in the race, pulling 666 and 524 votes respectively. … Shellman said he discovered the problem at around 10:30 p.m. after most of the mail-in and Election Day precinct votes had already been tabulated. Turnout in the election — which also featured party primaries for congressional District 3, the District 61 state representative and district attorney for the 9th Judicial District — was 21.4 percent, or 1,789 ballots cast out of 8,356 active registered voters. “Everything was going just great,” Shellman said. “We had two, as we customarily do, optical scan machines programmed for the mail-in ballots, and the first one I uploaded had the majority, 621 ballots. It uploaded without a problem. And then I went to upload the second one, 319 mail-in ballots, and our tabulation software was giving me an error saying, ‘You’ve already uploaded this memory card.’ I’ve never encountered this before.” Shellman said he’s not exactly sure why he got the error message.
In the next several years, new voting equipment will need to be begged, borrowed or bought in most of the nation’s jurisdictions. This raises at least two questions: In an age of galloping technological advancement, what should we buy? And, who’s going to pay for it? … When levers and punch cards went out, what came in? Two systems, one based on electronics (often with a touch screen) and the other based on optical scanners that “score” hand-marked paper ballots in the same way that standardized tests are scored. The electronic machines (aka DREs, short for “direct recording electronic” voting machines) dominated the market in the early part of the 2000s; but by 2008, optical scanning equipment had become more common. (See the map provided by Verified Voting.org for details.) A debate still rages between advocates of the two systems. Those who distrust electronic machines say they make votes hard to recount when an election is contested. Additionally, “there should be a way that a voter can check on a hard copy—independent from the software—that their vote was captured as they intended it to be,” says Pam Smith of Verified Voting.org, an organization that advocates for a voter-verifiable paper trail for elections.
Many questions hang over the 2012 election. What will the unemployment rate be, and will it hurt Barack Obama’s prospects? How will Mitt Romney hold up in one-on-one debates? How will both candidates bridge the enthusiasm gaps in their parties’ bases? Who’ll control Congress? Will Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren carry the day in Massachusetts? Here’s one Democrats are asking: Will new state actions requiring photo IDs for voters, purging voter rolls and restricting voter registration drives hurt their candidates? And here’s one almost no one wants to think about: Will the private companies who build and handle voting machines steal the election?
An optical scan vote tallying system, now used by some 300 U.S. municipalities, misreported the results of a Palm Beach County, Florida, municipal election last month. Dominion Voting Inc.’s Sequoia Voting Systems device mistakenly awarded two Wellington Village Council seats to candidates who were found in a post-election audit to have lost their races. The results were officially changed last weekend after a court-sanctioned public hand count of the votes. According to a story in the Palm Beach Sun Sentinel , the Sequoia vote counting software was set up in a way that didn’t correspond to the Wellington County ballot distributed to voters. As a result, votes meant for one candidate were credited to a different candidate. In a product advisory notice issued last Friday, Dominion warned customers that problems could arise if the contest order on a paper ballot does not match the ballot order programmed into Sequoia machine. “The contest order on the ballots in the database can become out of sync with the contest order shown on the corresponding paper ballots,” the company noted. If the issue is not identified during pre-election tests, “election results will show the correct number of votes, but assigns them to the wrong candidate” the company said in the advisory.
Philippines: Comelec to reuse Precinct Count Optical Scan machines for 2013 Philippines polls | Inquirer News
The Commission on Elections will reuse Smartmatic’s automated voting machines for the 2013 midterm elections despite strong opposition from various election watchdogs and reform advocates. Voting 5-2, the Comelec on Thursday decided to exercise the “option to purchase” over 80,000 precinct count optical scan machines (PCOS), saying that Smartmatic, its technology provider during the May 2010 elections, has already corrected glitches in the system. “We decided, 5-2, in the (commission) en banc that we just go with exercising the option to purchase these Smartmatic machines,” Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters in a phone interview Friday.
Los Angeles County is by far the biggest election jurisdiction in the U.S., but if dealing with 4.5 million voters isn’t enough, the county is also hampered by an outdated voting system. The registrar says it’s due for a major facelift, and he’s looking to the public for answers. Logan says a countywide election can mean organizing up to 5,000 polling places and 25,000 poll workers on election day. “Election day is equivalent to a military operation. We literally have helicopters bringing the ballots back to our headquarters, we have people deployed all over the county — it’s a mega operation,” Logan says.
Philippines: Don’t use Smartmatic Precinct Count Optical Scan machines in 2013 polls, Comelec urged | Inquirer
A poll watchdog group has warned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against reusing the controversial Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines or hire the services of its manufacturer, Smartmatic Corp., in the 2013 elections. The Automated Election System Watch, in a March 5 letter to the Comelec, strongly opposed the Comelec’s plan to exercise its option to purchase the machines under its 2009 contract with Smartmatic and its erstwhile partner, Total Information Management Inc. The group also objected to Smartmatic’s participation in any bidding for a new poll automation contract, citing the unresolved “errors and bugs” in the PCOS machines and the firm’s alleged failure to comply with certain provisions of its contract.
Counties across Ohio could save millions of dollars by requiring voters to use paper ballots instead of touch-screen voting machines, a Dayton Daily News analysis of a state audit has found. A recent state audit of Butler County contends that the county could save more than $4.5 million over five years by making the switch. Butler, the state’s eighth largest county, is one of 52 counties that uses touch-screen, ATM-like machines. Others include Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Darke. Following the same math used for the Butler County audit, Montgomery County possibly could save $5.5 million over five years, and Greene County nearly $1.4 million.
Philippines: Comelec advisors pick optical scan technology for 2013 Philippines elections | GMA News
The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) has officially recommended to the country’s elections body the adoption of Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology in the 2013 elections.In an exclusive interview with Louis Napoleon Casambre, executive director of the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and chair of the CAC, said the council has already sent two resolutions to the Comelec recommending the use of OMR technology. It is now up to the Comelec to decide whether or not it would adopt the recommendation of the CAC. If the poll body decides to stick with the CAC recommendation, its next step would be to pick the type of OMR technology that will be used in the elections. The country also used OMR technology, specifically PCOS (precinct count optical scan), in the 2010 national elections.
Weston has been randomly picked by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill as one of the 73 polling precincts to be audited from the Nov. 8 election — and no one in Town Hall is happy about it. “Am I happy about this? Of course I am not happy about it. This is ridiculous, it’s an unfunded mandate,” said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein.
The audit, which is a hand counting of votes, is required under Connecticut General Statutes and is done at random. A total of 726 polling precincts were open across the state election night, and 10 percent of those places were chosen for the audit.
An official of the Commission on Elections on Thursday called on the House and Senate to convene the joint congressional oversight committee (JCOC) on poll automation to help the Comelec find the best voting technology for the 2013 midterm polls. Commissioner Augusto Lagman said the committee’s input was needed by the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) which is mandated by law to evaluate and recommend the appropriate election automation technology to the poll agency.
“I think the committee should convene. It has not met since the 2010 elections. There should have been an assessment of those elections. This is important because we want to learn what lessons we can from the 2010 elections,” Lagman told reporters.
When Bloomington residents vote in municipal elections on Tuesday, they’ll be making marks on paper ballots, which they’ll slip into a box. At the end of the day, the votes will be tallied by hand. That’s the same system local voters used more than 100 years ago.
In the November 2010 general election, Monroe County voters used electronic voting machines that automated tallying. Even in the May 2011 primary election, the votes — on paper ballots — were tallied using a high-speed optical scanner. Monroe County voters have been using voting machines, mechanical or electric, since the ’60s, but on Nov. 8, 2011, they will use the same system used by America’s founding fathers.
What happened? ES&S contract In December 2010, Monroe County signed a contract with Elections Systems and Software, of Omaha, Neb., for the purchase of digital scanners that would read paper ballots and tally votes. Such a system allowed verifiability: paper ballots, or a sample of them, could be compared to the machine’s tally to ensure accuracy.
Eleven years after the disputed 2000 presidential election thrust the subject of electoral integrity into the spotlight, many of the challenges that jeopardized that election remain unresolved, voting experts said at an MIT-hosted conference held Saturday.
The conference, “Election Integrity: Past, Present, and Future,” convened by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP), brought together election administrators, academics and technology professionals from around the country, and commemorated the 25th anniversary of the First National Symposium on Security and Reliability of Computers in the Electoral Process, held in Boston in 1986. A central theme of Saturday’s conference was election integrity: assuring that votes are both recorded and counted as they were cast.
… Of particular concern, said Pamela Smith, president of VerifiedVoting.org, is the use of Internet voting systems that cannot be audited. Another issue, which she illustrated with a map identifying the current equipment used by each state, is the inability of DREs to recount ballots in a close election. And many key swing states, she said, continue to use unreliable DREs.
Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza is asking the Commission on Elections to decide on the case he filed against Alfredo Lim, who was proclaimed the winner in the 2010 mayoral polls. In a statement, Atienza’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said they will be filing their appeal to the Comelec en banc next week to reverse the decision of the poll body’s First Division that dismissed Atienza’s election protest case.
“A full recount and revision of all the precincts should have been conducted by the First Division,” Macalintal added, saying Atienza believes the protest case should not have been limited to the 200 pilot precincts but also to unrevised 1,221 precincts.
Atienza had earlier said in March that he was willing to withdraw his election protest if he were not able to gain a “substantial recovery” in the first 20 percent of the ballot boxes under protest.
The Maldives Election Commission announced plans to introduce electronic voting for the first time at the 2013 presidential election. The commission said the members unanimously agreed on the matter and necessary amendment to the election laws will now be made.
Electronic voting technology can vary from punched cards, optical scan voting systems and specialised voting kiosks. It can also involve transmission of ballots and votes via telephones, private computer networks or the internet. On previous occasions, the Commission planned to introduce e-voting although it did not materialize.
Voting Blogs: Mahoning County’s Voting Machine Switch and the Growing Buyer’s Market in Voting Technology | PEEA
Mahoning County, OH (Youngstown) recently announced that it will be switching to optical scan voting machines for the November 2012 general election. The decision means County voters will no longer rely on touchscreen machines as the primary method of casting ballots, as they have since they were purchased in 2002.
The Mahoning story is a perfect example how the market for voting technology has changed in the years since passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), enacted by Congress in 2002 in response to the controversial 2000 Presidential election.
HAVA authorized almost $4 billion in federal funds for election improvements at the state and local level – much of which were earmarked for voting machine upgrades. Those funds – and the various mandates included in HAVA – made election offices motivated buyers and created a huge sellers’ market as vendors rushed to help states and localities spend their newfound dollars. In this environment Mahoning County’s $2.95 million purchase of 1100 touchscreen machines was typical.
The Maldives is to introduce the electronic voting technology for the first time for the presidential election to be held in 2013, Elections Commission announced today.
In a statement, the commission said its members unanimously made the decision at a meeting held today. The commission said it would make necessary amendments to the election laws and submit the amended legislations to relevant authorities in order to introduce the electronic voting technology for the 2013 election.
Cumberland County recently replaced computer chips in all its voting machines and completed background checks on five technicians who service them as a safeguard against tampering and inaccuracy.
But those upgrades, which are part of a statewide initiative, don’t sufficiently address flaws in the system used to cast votes, according to a woman who says an electronic machine cheated her and her husband in a recent election in Fairfield.
The recent upgrades to county voting machines were not related to the Fairfield case. Activists say, however, the Fairfield case just adds ammunition to their argument that New Jersey needs a paper record of election results.