July 12, 2004

Fraudida: Analysis reveals flaws in voting by touch-screen

More disturbing news from Fraudida...There is an
Electoral Uprising coming in November 2004...And yes,
the Bush cabal and the "vast reich wing conspiracy"
will try to steal it again, and if they cannot steal
it again, they will try to deep-six the whole process
with an insane assist from Al Qaeda...IF the margin of
victory is large enough, they will not be abale to
steal it, and IF they cancel it, well, then UNcivil
war will be perilously close...Be vigilant, be vocal,
be vociferous...Either you understand the nature of
this threat to the Republic, or you will lose this
Republic...

Jeremy Milarsky and Buddy Nevins, Sun-Sentinel:
Florida's relatively new touch-screen voting machines,
touted as a solution to the state's 2000 presidential
election meltdown, didn't perform as well as machines
that use an older technology during a statewide
election earlier this year, according to a South
Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis.
Records from the March 9 Democratic presidential
primary show that votes were not recorded for one out
of 100 voters using the new ATM-style machines. That's
at least eight times more than the number of flawed
votes cast in the same election with pencil marks on
paper ballots tallied by an optical scanner.
Experts blame Florida's political leaders for
embracing the relatively sophisticated touch-screen
machines before they were perfected and made more
user-friendly.

Thwart the Theft of a Second Presidential Election,
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http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-touchscreens11jul11,0,305144.story

Analysis reveals flaws in voting by touch-screen

By Jeremy Milarsky and Buddy Nevins
Staff Writers
Posted July 11 2004

Florida's relatively new touch-screen voting machines,
touted as a solution to the state's 2000 presidential
election meltdown, didn't perform as well as machines
that use an older technology during a statewide
election earlier this year, according to a South
Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis.

Records from the March 9 Democratic presidential
primary show that votes were not recorded for one out
of 100 voters using the new ATM-style machines. That's
at least eight times more than the number of flawed
votes cast in the same election with pencil marks on
paper ballots tallied by an optical scanner.

Experts blame Florida's political leaders for
embracing the relatively sophisticated touch-screen
machines before they were perfected and made more
user-friendly.

Fifteen Florida counties now use touch-screen
machines, including Palm Beach, Broward and
Miami-Dade.

In December 2001, Broward County chose a $17.2 million
touch-screen system over a pencil-and-paper system
priced at no more than $5 million. Earlier that year,
in May, Palm Beach County agreed to pay $14 million
for touch-screens, compared to $3 million for the
simpler system.

"Would I have bought them? No," Broward County
Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said about the
touch-screens. She started as supervisor after the
machines were in use. "Were we too fast? Yes."

Costly and confusing

In 2000, the nation watched as Florida's arcane voting
system became the catalyst for a bitter post-election
struggle between Al Gore and George W. Bush over who
would become the next president. Butterfly ballots,
hanging chads, recounts and court fights to dispute
one of the closest elections in state history kept
Americans waiting five weeks to learn who would lead
the nation. An embarrassment for the state, the battle
raged from Tallahassee to Washington.

Pushed into service in the aftermath of the 2000
election, the ATM-like machines have been assailed by
politicians, experts and watchdogs as too expensive,
confusing to a large segment of voters and packed with
flawed software.

If the March undervote rate repeats in the November
presidential election and the turnout is the same as
in 2000, Broward and Palm Beach counties alone could
generate 7,800 flawed votes, a number that worries
political leaders who remember the 537 votes by which
George W. Bush beat Al Gore.

"That's frightening," Broward County Democratic Party
Chairman Mitch Ceasar said. "I thought these machines
would correct the incredible situation we had four
years ago. I'm angry and disturbed."

The presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee,
John Kerry, already has plans to legally challenge the
election based on the questionable reliability of the
touch-screen voting systems.

"And you know those machines all those election
officials are working on to make them ready on time?"
Kerry said at a Fort Lauderdale rally Thursday. "I'll
make a deal with them: They fix those machines and
we'll fix America."

Primary votes studied

The Sun-Sentinel analysis of the March 9 election
reviewed a sampling of nearly 350,000 ballots
statewide in which only one choice appeared on the
ballot, selection of a Democratic Party presidential
nominee. Ballots were not included in the study if
they contained other races, referendums or questions.

The study looked for instances in which voters went to
the polls and chose no one -- results known in
election parlance as "undervotes." The study then
looked at which types of voting machines registered
the most undervotes.

The results show:

Undervotes occurred 1.09 percent of the time in
counties with touch-screen machines and 0.12 percent
of the time in counties that use optical scanning.
Optical scan machines counted 12 overvotes (0.01
percent) in the March sample, where voters chose more
than one candidate for the party presidential nominee.
Overvotes are impossible to cast on touch-screen
machines.

Pinellas County registered the highest undervote rate,
at 2.87 percent, among touch-screen counties, with 756
undervotes. Only three of the 39 counties using
optical scanners performed worse than the best of the
touch-screen counties.

Broward County showed a 0.9 percent undervote rate
among 18,766 voters, while Palm Beach showed a 0.54
percent undervote rate among 53,059 ballots reviewed,
with a combination of 458 undervotes in precincts
where there was only once choice on the ballot.

The numbers did not surprise officials of Sequoia
Voting Systems and Elections Systems & Software, two
companies manufacturing touch-screen machines sold in
Florida.

"The most important thing to take from the
[Sun-Sentinel] survey findings is that both electronic
systems and precinct-based optical scan systems
dramatically reduce voter error. ... The Florida
numbers demonstrate a substantive improvement over the
2000 presidential election," said Alfie Charles, vice
president of business development for Sequoia. Palm
Beach County uses machines from that company.

Charles' point was bolstered by a report on the Oct.
7, 2003, California recall election by Henry Brady, a
political scientist at the University of California,
Berkeley. Brady found that more than 7 percent of the
voters using punch card machines cast flawed ballots,
such as undervotes and overvotes. About 1.3 percent of
those using touch-screen machines cast defective
ballots in that California election.

Fiasco elicits changes

The punch card system used in the disputed Florida
presidential vote four years ago generated most of the
175,000 disputed ballots.

Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature wanted to make sure
the chaos didn't occur again.

Just months after that election, Florida outlawed the
punch card system. Counties were given two choices of
new systems to buy before 2002: the older optical scan
-- where voters use a pencil to fill in a bubble on a
page of paper next to their choice, similar to a
standardized test in schoolor the new touch-screen
machines. The state certified specific systems and
machine makers that could be used.

Some counties, such as Orange and Leon, already had
optical scan machines and kept them, choosing not to
spend tens of millions of tax dollars on the newer
devices. Many of the other counties that use punch
cards, including a majority of the most populous in
Florida, chose the touch-screen technology.

Lobbyists pushed for the sale of the more expensive
machines, and county commissions agreed to make the
purchases, spending nearly $57 million combined in
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

Broward bought its 5,000 machines before the state had
even certified them. Purchase contracts in Broward,
Miami-Dade and Palm Beach spell out machine standards
and require vendors to fix problems. The contracts do
not specifically mention undervotes, however.

Election experts now say the purchases of the
touch-screens were rushed.

"It was like Florida was trying to change a tire on a
car going 100 miles an hour," said Kurt Browning,
elections supervisor of Pasco County.

The machines were widely touted by vendors and their
representatives for having advantages over the optical
scan devices. The sales pitch said ballots on
touch-screen machines could be easily converted into
multiple languages, an important feature in diverse
South Florida. Many organizations representing the
blind also pushed for these machines because they come
with an audio feature that can read a ballot aloud.

Lobbyists said little about how complicated the
machines were.

"The information about the machines was all coming
from the vendors. There was no independent study about
the efficacy of these machines. Every supervisor who
purchased one was taking the vendors' word for it on
how well the machine worked. And what did the vendors
say? `Trust us. Trust us.'" said Ion Sancho, elections
supervisor in Leon County.

Sancho stuck with his older optical scan machines.
Leon County reported zero undervotes in the March
sample.

South Florida counties' first big test of the
touch-screen machines was in September 2002. From the
outset, glitches occurred where voters complained of
wrong ballots and other mistakes that were attributed
to training and the setting up of machines.

In January, 137 undervotes surfaced in the House
District 91 special election covering coastal areas of
Broward and Palm Beach. The victor, now state Rep.
Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Boca Raton, won by 12 votes over
Mayor Oliver Parker of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Some political insiders suggested voters deliberately
cast undervotes. However the District 91 outcome has
led to demands by U. S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca
Raton, that the machines have a paper record of the
votes. Several states and Palm Beach have announced
plans to buy printers, which are under development --
but state officials and manufacturers say it is
unlikely they will be ready for the Nov. 2
presidential election.

Seniors find difficulty

Meanwhile, some segments of the voting population seem
to struggle with touch-screen devices.

In Broward's March election, the Sun-Sentinel
identified precincts where the most undervotes
occurred, generally in senior communities.

Seniors can have trouble with touch-screens, said
Douglas W. Jones, a University of Iowa computer
scientist and an electronic voting machine consultant
to several governments, including Miami-Dade.

He recounted a story told to him of an elderly voter
at a touch-screen machine in Iowa.

"She mistakenly cast her ballot prematurely and grew
increasingly frustrated in the voting booth, trying to
fix the situation. She was a victim of not knowing how
to use the machines," Jones said.

"These machines need to be studied by human behavior
specialists. They need to be designed to make voting
as easy as putting an X in a box," Jones said.

He also said, "All this was jumped into too quickly. I
don't believe this change to new machines needed to be
done as if it was an emergency."

Meghan McCormick, spokeswoman for ES & S, whose
machines are used in Miami-Dade and Broward, said
voters are given reminders that they failed to cast a
vote on a touch-screen machine and some simply choose
to cast blank ballots.

"We have safeguards in place. In our experience, some
people choose not to vote," McCormick said.

Pasco Supervisor Browning, who wrote the Florida State
Association of Supervisors of Elections' white paper a
year ago supporting touch-screen voting, said the
machines bought in 2001 have been improved with
updated software and possibly printers in the near
future.

"Was the [ES&S touch-screen] ready? Who knows? But I
do know that the system I bought in 2001 is not the
same system we are using today," Browning said. "Its
better, and it will continue to get better."

A recent issue has emerged concerning the software
used in the ES&S machines used in Miami-Dade and
Broward. Officials are scrambling to resolve a
software error that hinders efforts to audit and
double-check the accuracy of vote totals. Nicole de
Lara, a spokeswoman for Florida State Secretary Glenda
Hood, described the problem as minor and said Friday
she expects it to be fixed within a week.

Theresa LePore, the Palm Beach elections supervisor,
said the only way to cut down on the number of
undervotes would be to give voters the choice of
casting a ballot for "none of the above." The
Legislature would have to approve that change.

Short of that, LePore said it is impossible to
eliminate undervotes because some people will choose
not to vote for any candidate or will make mistakes.

"There is only one perfect voting system," LePore
said. "That's the one that doesn't involve humans."

Staff Writers Kathy Bushouse and Christy McKerney
contributed to this report. Email story
Print story
PHOTO

After the 2000 election, 15 Florida counties replaced
punch card voting systems
See larger image
(Sun-Sentinel/Scott Fisher)

STORIES
How we gathered our data
Jul 11, 2004

Voting In Florida

NEW VOTING SYSTEM

Give touch-screen voting a try in this animated
demonstration of touch-screen voting. Similar systems
will be used in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.
INTERACTIVE

ELECTORAL TRACKER: Calculate a winning electoral
strategy for your candidate, and revisit elections
past.



Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Posted by richard at July 12, 2004 01:18 PM