Palm Beach County was plagued by broken machines and missed deadlines this midterm election, putting them once again in the national spotlight. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher blamed the problems on the machines, which at one point during the machine recount overheated, causing them to have to recount thousands of votes that had already been counted. Bucher said she has repeatedly asked for new machines for the past 10 years, but has been stuck using the eight machines already there when she took office in 2009. The problem is those machines use a software that only allow each individual race to be scanned at a time. Bucher said and the county confirmed there is money in the budget to the tune of $11.1 million set aside to pay for new counting equipment, but it hasn’t been purchased yet.
A bill that would pay to replace all of Nevada’s electronic voting machines was introduced in the Assembly on Thursday. Assembly Bill 519 would provide a total of $8 million to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. County elections officials have repeatedly told lawmakers the Sequoia machines are now so old they’re failing, causing numerous problems for poll workers in early voting as well as on election day. Those machines are now more than a decade old and were the state’s first electronic voting system, replacing the old punch card voting machines.
Six days after Memphis voters went to the polls last October to elect a mayor and other city officials, a local computer programmer named Bennie Smith sat on his couch after work to catch up on e-mail. The vote had gone off about as well as elections usually do in Memphis, which means not well at all. The proceedings were full of the technical mishaps that have plagued Shelby County, where Memphis is the seat, since officials switched to electronic voting machines in 2006. Servers froze, and the results were hours late. But experts at the county election commission assured both candidates and voters that the problems were minor and the final tabulation wasn’t affected. … Shelby County uses a GEMS tabulator—for Global Election Management System—which is a personal computer installed with Diebold software that sits in a windowless room in the county’s election headquarters. The tabulator is the brains of the system. It monitors the voting machines, sorts out which machines have delivered data and which haven’t, and tallies the results. As voting machines check in and their votes are included in the official count, each machine’s status turns green on the GEMS master panel. A red light means the upload has failed. At the end of Memphis’s election night in October 2015, there was no indication from the technician running Shelby County’s GEMS tabulator that any voting machine hadn’t checked in or that any votes had gone missing, according to election commission e-mails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek. Yet as county technicians followed up on the evidence from Smith’s poll-tape photo, they discovered more votes that never made it into the election night count, all from precincts with large concentrations of black voters.
“New Jersey’s definitely vulnerable,” said former FBI agent Manny Gomez. He means the statewide system of 11,000 computerized voting machines, where New Jerseyans will close the curtains and pick a president this November. It’s a network that hackers could break into, without even breaking a sweat, because these systems were designed for efficiency, not security, according to Gomez. “Jersey’s very vulnerable from foreign attacks or just some goofball sitting in his basement that has the skill set. It’s not that complicated to hack into a government entity these days,” he said. … “Election results can be altered through a hack and they can also be altered through human error. The problem with New Jersey’s voting machines is, there’s no way to check,” said RutgersProfessor Penny Venetis. Venetis says the AVCs contain no paper backup to verify votes cast, although that’s required by New Jersey law. She sued the state — which refused to replace the machines — but agreed not to connect them to the internet.
For the second time in two elections, a “technical glitch” stalled the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s Office in completing election returns Saturday night. Over 50 minutes elapsed before election results were updated on the Secretary of State’s website at about 10:15 p.m. At the time, less than 10 precincts remained out across three local elections. Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Louise Bond said equipment including laptops and readers are brought in from the Secretary of State’s office for the election. “We have a computer that has a reader and sometimes they don’t read, and we had a glitch in it,” she said. Cartridges that register votes from each precinct are brought to the clerk’s office where they are electronically read. Bond said the reader was unable to extract information from a cartridge that came from western Ouachita Parish.
Nevada is set to figure big in the 2016 election. Not only might we be the deciding state in the presidential election, but who we elect in the Senate race to replace Sen. Harry Reid may determine the balance of power in Congress. And two ballot measures – on legalized marijuana and firearms background checks – will bring people to the polls in droves. Are we ready for this? Is our election system set to handle the influx of voters? On machines that were built more than 15 years ago? Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria is certain he can keep the voting machines healthy through the 2016 election, but he’s not sure how much magic he and his staff can work after this. “We definitely need to start that conversation and the time to plan is now,” Gloria told KNPR’s State of Nevada, “Nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan.”
It won’t be available during this election, but Secretary of State Tom Schedler wants to bring iPad voting to Louisiana in the next two or three years. If reelected this fall, Schedler said he would look to transition Louisiana from its traditional voting machines to iPads. The shift would cost a fair amount of money – a rough estimate puts it somewhere between $45 million and $60 million. So Schedler might first look to lease the equipment to bring the cost down initially. iPad voting would also run as a pilot program in select locations before consideration was given to launching it statewide, according to Schedler’s office.
The Callaway County Commission and County Clerk Denise Hubbard met with sales associates from Springfield-based Elkins-Swyers Company to learn about options for new voting machines. Hubbard said the current voting machines are at least 10 years old, and the most common glitch is with the piece that rolls ballots into the machine’s hub for storage. She added that piece of equipment can sometimes be fixed internally, but when the issue is more complex, the machine has to be shipped to Springfield for repairs. Clerk employees use Windows 98 on election nights. Cory Nibert, a sales associate with Elkins-Swyers, said the current machines have not yet been phased out, but parts are becoming more expensive. He and his co-worker, Steve Byers, brought a new voting machine inside the Commission’s office Thursday for demonstration. Hubbard told the commission she wanted to give them an idea of what’s available. “(The system) is very similar to what we use now. It’s just a little more computerized, maybe,” Hubbard said. “It’s a little easier, a little smoother. It’s going to cut down on man hours.”
Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines. “I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.” Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent that’s been investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”
Voting in the state of Louisiana could be changing in the next three to five years. The machines that are in use now are becoming a thing of the past. Officials are having to use parts from older machines to keep some of the current machines running. The Secretary of State’s office said that Louisiana needs to move to voting via tablets in the near future. Technology is on their radar, but so is addressing problems with the current voting system. “The participation of voters is weak,” Schedler said Wednesday before a house committee. He said registering voters is no issue, but getting people back to take part in the process is a problem, particularly among the 18-26 year old crowd. He added the more opportunities people have to vote, be it early voting or by absentee, the turnout has decreased.
Montgomery County officials are exploring the possibility of purchasing new voting machines. “We just want to be proactive,” said Commissioner Leslie Richards, who is chairman of the county’s election board. “We are always looking to make our voter experience better.” Richards pointed out that only two counties in the state, Montgomery and Northampton, use Sequoia Pacific electronic voting machines. Chief Financial Officer Uri Z. Monson said that, while there are no problems with the current machines, “many are reaching the end of their useful life” and the county does not want to have to scramble if many of them start failing at the same time. The county, which has 425 voting precincts, purchased 1,050 Sequoia machines in 1996 at an approximate cost of some $4 million. Today, the county has 1,133 Sequoia machines, with 10 used as “demos” and another 15 considered out of service while they undergo repairs.
Monmouth County Republican chairman Shaun Golden called the computer glitch that delayed the Nov. 4 election results until the next morning “unacceptable” for local residents and “an embarrassment” to the county itself. “We’ve had problems in the past as well,” said Golden, who is also the county’s sheriff, to the Board of Chosen Freeholders Thursday night. “If there is any time for accountability in government, it is now.” Nineteen of 21 New Jersey counties use elections equipment from Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. of Denver. No other county had the widespread problems that Monmouth faced.
The election results reporting glitch in Monmouth County was caused by four laptops that were used to create the voting machine cartridges, authorities said. Hours after the polls closed on election night, results were not displaying online. The county said software issues were to blame and they were working to determine the root of the problem. “The…
This Election Day, I was in a new polling place in a largely rural township in Central New Jersey. Elections out here are usually sedate affairs, with friends and neighbors chatting, and the same poll workers year after year. Almost boring. Except when a local election heats up. This year, the election hotspot was the 2 seats on the Township Committee. Here’s the background. The township is the center of a long-running dispute over a general aviation airport which might – or might not – want to expand. It’s probably cost both sides millions in land studies, lawyers, and campaign sign. The election should have been easy: there were only 2 candidates on the ballot from one party. None from the other. No nominations by petition. But there was the usual write-in option. And the losers in the June primary were running a write-in campaign. Here’s the other twist. We still vote on old full-face electronic voting systems. So “write-in” really means “type-in” on a clunky, modal interface. That makes a write-in campaign doubly daunting. The candidates need to not only get the word out, but make sure their supporters know how to cast their votes. And, of course, it takes more time than just touching a few buttons for candidates on the ballot.
A glitch triggered by the failure to remove a previous program from computers during an upgrade in September delayed the results from the Monmouth County election on Nov. 4, County Clerk M. Claire French said. Four laptops used to create 916 cartridges that tallied the results in the voting machines were the source of the problem, French said. The previous system was not uninstalled from those four computers, she said. French said it was not the fault of the vendor, Dominion Voting Systems Inc. of Denver, nor did the blame fall on any one individual. “We let the public down on this, and I am personally disappointed,” French said. “It shouldn’t have happened, and it will not happen again.”
The state will reimburse Racine County municipalities about $42,000 for costs related to touch-screen voting machines. The Racine County Board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the reimbursement in its meeting Tuesday. The money will extend maintenance agreements on the machines by three years and four months, County Clerk Wendy Christensen said. The county will apply for the reimbursement and then distribute the money to each of the 17 municipalities, Christensen said.
Nevada: Clark County registrar confident voting cartridges left behind weren’t compromised | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Clark County election officials scrambled late Tuesday to retrieve the electronic ballots of 127 voters left behind when polls closed at the Las Vegas Academy. Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria said Wednesday the cartridges where the data was stored were retrieved but not before delaying by several hours the release of vote totals for races in the primary election. He said that all of the votes were counted and he was confident that the cartridges were not tampered with between the voting station’s closure and their recovery. “At no time was there any chance those votes could have been in jeopardy,” Gloria said. He said that federal law requires redundancy paths, or backups, to be in place to ensure votes can be retrieved if cartridges are lost or damaged.
National: Sequoia v. Dominion: Former Election Firm With ‘Hanging Chad’ Ties Sues New Owner | Wall Street Journal
The voting machine maker that was partly blamed for Florida’s infamous hanging chads in 2000 was taken over by a competitor years ago, but the lawyers who are handling the company’s unfinished business are suing its new owner for money. Lawyers in charge of Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., now basically a litigation vehicle, are accusing Dominion Voting Systems Inc. of paying too little for Sequoia Voting’s operations in 2010. The dispute led Sequoia Voting to file for bankruptcy last month as its lawyers push Denver-based Dominion Voting for money. But back to hanging chads: Sequoia Voting sent punch-card ballots to parts of Florida for the 2000 presidential election, when some machines left behind stuck or hanging chads and led some ballots to be thrown out, according to press reports.
Last week a long-simmering battle between Passaic County’s superintendent of elections, Sherine El-Abd — a Republican appointed by the state — and the locally elected all-Democratic freeholder board was renewed when El-Abd decided to cut ties with Election Graphics, a private contractor that had been hired in 2009 to maintain the county’s 650 electronic voting machines. El-Abd has characterized the decision not to renew Election Graphics’ contract as a cost-cutting strategy that will save the county about $280,000 annually. El-Abd said the termination of the contract would also help limit some of the financial damage done when her predecessor, Laura Freytes, tried to fire four county union workers responsible for the machines at about the same time the county elected to enter into contract with Election Graphics. Those workers challenged the firings as union-busting, and after a protracted legal battle, they were ordered reinstated last August. Any scenario where county taxpayers might see a $280,000 savings would seem an obvious win-win, but some on the freeholder board aren’t so sure.
Blind voters in California can advance claims that the voting machines meant for them in Alameda County malfunctioned and violated their rights, a federal judge ruled. The California Council of the Blind and five individual voters sued Alameda County because the accessible voting machines for the blind failed to work properly, forcing them to vote with the help of another person. The county has Sequoia AVC Edge voting machines at each of its polling places. Using voice prompts, headphones and a tactile keypad, a blind person can vote independently. But the machines allegedly malfunctioned several times on Election Day, and the plaintiffs say they endured long delays as poll workers failed to get the machines working. More than one plaintiff said they were shuttled to another voting site, only to discover that the machine there did not work either.
A state appeals court on Monday upheld New Jersey’s use of electronic voting machines, but the judges expressed serious concerns about possible human error and ordered further review of the state’s safeguards. Monday’s ruling, which upheld a lower court decision, is the latest in a legal battle dating back to 2004 when state Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and others sued over the state’s use of the machines. The lawsuit claimed the touch-screen systems, called direct recording electronic voting machines, were unreliable because they didn’t produce a paper backup and were susceptible to hacking. Then-Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation in 2005 that would have required all machines to be retrofitted with a paper backup system by January 2008, but that deadline wasn’t met and in 2009 lawmakers suspended it indefinitely over a lack of funding.
In the years since Bush vs. Gore highlighted the inconsistent, patchwork and sometimes tenuous nature of the nation’s voting system, election officials throughout the country have taken steps to improve the process. But variety still abounds since that disputed 2000 presidential race, in part because the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment allocates power to the states, generally barring federal officials from imposing a single ballot design standard. Some voters still darken circles on ballots next to their choices. Others use an iPad-like device. In Oregon and Washington, elections are done through the mail. In New Jersey, voters cast their ballot on a grid that opponents of the design say gives an unfair advantage to established powers.
Critics of Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to have a special election Oct. 16 to choose a U.S. senator contend that it will create a lot of unnecessary difficulties for voters and county election officials. By opting not to have the event 20 days later, as part of the general election for state and local offices, they say, Christie has created conditions for a perfect storm: voter turnouts even smaller than the embarrassing numbers in the high 40s that are normal in New Jersey, shortages of equipment and trained personnel, and, finally, contested results. And all that on top of the extra $12 million the decision not to combine the two elections will cost the state. The governor and his circle dismiss these complaints. He had full legal authority to schedule the election when he did, they say, and he did it lawfully and for appropriate reasons. That doesn’t diminish the potential for problems, which are substantial. One factor is what the Somerset County Democrats, in a lawsuit to overturn Christie’s decision, called “a confusing patchwork of registration and voting dates, including the highly irregular placement of an election on a Wednesday.” The lawsuit was rejected last week by the Appellate Division.
Using New Jersey Office of Legislative Services estimates, Assembly Democrats say that a special primary election and a special general election, as ordered by Gov. Chris Christie, will cost a total of $23.8 million. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said Christie could have saved $11.9 million in taxpayer money by having the special election on the same date as the Nov. 5 general election. The cost estimate is based on two main components: the expenses of the counties and municipalities in administering the election and the salaries of poll workers conducting the election. According to the Division of Elections in the Department of State, the costs for items such as ballot printing and postage, processing, legal advertising, polling place rental and voting machine delivery for a special election would be approximately $6.5 million.
Jose Sandoval, one of four defeated candidates in Tuesday’s mayoral race, said he plans to legally challenge the election’s results because the paperless machines on which voters cast their ballots cannot verify votes. Sandoval went to a county warehouse Friday morning accompanied by defeated candidate Pablo Plaza and Passaic County elections officials to retrieve a printout from each of the machines used in the election. Mayor Alex D. Blanco crushed Sandoval, his closest contender in the election, by a margin of 4,377 to 1,880. Plaza ended up with just hundreds of votes. The printouts collected by county officials on Friday seemed to confirm those election results, Sandoval said. “This does not prove those machines had not been tampered with,” Sandoval said about the voting printouts.
New Jersey: Losing challenger in Passaic mayoral race says machines rigged, wants recount | NorthJersey.com
A day after Mayor Alex D. Blanco and his ticket of four City Council incumbents cruised to victory, challenger Jose Sandoval contends the electronic voting machines were rigged against him and he’s demanding a recount. Sandoval said he had 500 get-out-the-vote volunteers Tuesday and had expected to get at least 3,000 votes. But he polled just 1,880 and was crushed by Blanco, who received 4,377 votes and carried all 30 polling districts. “I had 3,000 votes in the bank,” Sandoval said Wednesday. “They stole this election from me. The machines must have been tampered with.” Sandoval wants to hire his own expert to check the electronic Sequoia brand voting machines used on Tuesday. And he plans to go to Superior Court this week to ask for a recount.
New Jersey: Rutgers–Newark Law Professor to Argue Case Against Flawed Electronic Voting Machines | Rutgers Today
On Tuesday March 5, 2013, Professor Penny Venetis of the Rutgers School of Law–Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic will argue before the New Jersey Appellate Division and ask the court to decertify New Jersey’s insecure computerized voting machines. The case, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Stephanie Harris, Coalition for Peace Action, etc. vs. Gov. Chris Christie, will be heard in Trenton beginning at 11:30 am. The clinic filed a lawsuit in 2004 charging that the voting machines violated the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, as well as voting rights statutes. New Jersey passed “gold standard” legislation in 2005 and 2008 to require computerized voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper ballot. However, the State has yet to implement these statutes, leaving more than 5.5 million voters unprotected each Election Day. New Jersey is one of only six states that use computerized voting machines which cannot be audited.
Republicans and Democrats have long been concerned about how the vote will shake out in Arapahoe County — one of the key swing counties in an undecided state — and now they have one more thing to fear: an “I Voted” sticker. More than 230,000 ballots last week were mailed to Arapahoe County’s voters in envelopes that possibly contained a participation sticker that rubbed up against the ballot and in some cases left a faint, near-linear mark that appeared exactly where voters draw a line to select their candidates.
It’s a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000. About 27,000 absentee ballots can’t be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. Elections workers began Monday duplicating the markings from bad ballots to new ones so that the votes could be recorded, an effort that has led some to question the accuracy of results. And it’s all happening in Palm Beach County. “By now, questions can be asked about why these type of problems keep happening in this one county,” said Ed Foley, an Ohio State University law professor and expert on election law.
Al Paglia yearned to hear that he had won the Wellington, Florida city council election. “It was ecstasy I had 50 people at my house at 11:00 at night it finally came across the TV screen.” Paglia recalled. “On the election website Al Paglia upsets incumbent – it was wonderful.” The supposed win took place earlier this year in March. Even in the world of politics – his honeymoon was shorter than anyone could have imagined. Just days after being declared the victor in a city councilman race, he got a call saying he was indeed… a loser. It was Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher, and her team who discovered the mistake. In two races, winners including Paglia were announced and certified… when they were actually the losers. Bucher said Palm Beach’s optical scan election system had – unbeknownst to anyone-mixed up the race results. As a result, the wrong winners and losers were called. When asked by CBS4 Investigative reporter, Michele Gillen, what is was like to declare the wrong winners? Bucher said, “It humiliating. It was awful. It was never our intent.” Bucher is one of several election supervisors we’ve met, who are taking aim at Florida’s audit process — the review of the paper ballots– only a sampling is done, and only after elections are certified.