Sequoia's Optical Scan Vote Counting Machines Giving Different Results Every Time

from the well-that's-reassuring dept

Remember the election mess in Palm Beach, Florida from last month? The one where votes seemed to be randomly disappearing, and each recount came up with different results? Originally the blame was put on the fact that different scanning machines from e-voting firm Sequoia, would somehow count the votes differently. That seemed scary enough, and Sequoia protested, insisting that it was all human error. However, when human errors happen every time the machines are used, it's time to suggest that the real problem is with the machines.

Wired is running a long, and somewhat scary, report about the ongoing situation in Palm Beach, where every time the votes are counted, a different vote count comes out. A test was set up by the local newspaper to scan a sampling of ballots, and every time the results of those tests were different -- sometimes in extreme ways. Quite often, the machines seemed to count perfectly marked ballots as invalid, while at other times it accepted votes from invalid ballots. In other words, the machines basically don't work. And we're relying on them in many areas for the election coming up in a month. Isn't that comforting?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ferin (profile), Oct 8th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Damn...

    I'd say at least the machines leave a paper trai, but it seems like the election officials can't even manage to keep those in order. How the hell is it that IRaq can conduct an election that the world certifies as free and fair using lockboxes, ink, and paper, and these idiots can't manage to deal with a primary with all the high tech gizmos in the world at their disposal?

     

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  2.  
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    Overcast, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 9:43am

    Oh it's just numbers, how big of a deal can that be? So it can't exactly count right, like my old VIC20.

    Just a small 'technicality'.

    I mean, seriously, how hard it is to make a program to tally something?

     

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  3.  
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    Paul, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 9:49am

    lrn2rdgud

    The error doesn't appear in the tallying portion of the equipment, but instead the optical scanning portion.

    The optical scanner has problems reading valid ballots AS WELL AS problems accepting invalid ballots as valid. AFATAIC the equipment is tallying the results after the optical scan correctly.

    If we're having this much trouble in the optical scanning of ballots, it makes me wonder if my uni tests are properly scanned!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 9:50am

    Pentium?

    Perhaps these machines are using the early Pentium FPUs

     

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  5.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 10:02am

    We are all screwed

    I think what bothers me the most isn't that these machines can't count, they're just broken machines, but these people knew they were missing over 3,000 votes and wanted to use that result anyways.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    I honestly think we should be more concerned about ACORN registering fake voters. Who cares about voting machines if they are just going to be stuffed by fake voters?

     

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  7.  
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    John Doe, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 10:12am

    I guess the Dems might actually have a valid complaint in this election.

     

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  8.  
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    Jake, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 10:31am

    Hey, at least you guys get to go through the motions. How much say do we citizens of the vassal states get?

     

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  9.  
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    WarOtter (profile), Oct 8th, 2008 @ 10:32am

    Re:

    I honestly think you are an asshat.

    While the ACORN scandal deserves intense scrutiny, so does this. The nearly criminal handling of the extreme failures by Sequoia should be making national headlines right along side the election. But because so many people so high up have screwed up, there is no real accountability. Many areas will be voting on these flawed pieces of crap that actually have a very significant chance of adversely affecting the election, and very few people will actually be aware.

     

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  10.  
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    Simon, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:10am

    Makes me wonder about those grade school tests....

    Because of all the uproar from the various voting machine issues that are now coming to light, how accurate are those tests that we had to take in school. You remember the Iowa test, and such. Makes me wonder how accurate they were. I mean if filling in a little circle on a ballad is so difficult to get accurate readings what about this scholastic test, hell, even the SATs and ACTs and such. If there is such a margin of error why are they used for testing? If they are accurate, why aren't they used for voting.

    There is one answer....MONEY and who can get more of it.

     

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  11.  
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    Valkor, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    Yeah, maybe Jimmy Carter, Savior of Humanity (TM), and the UN need to come to Florida to supervise the elections!

    Why can't we just go back to punch cards?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:35am

    Re: Re:

    I am trying to remember who has worked for ACORN in the past. It was McCain. No, that isn't right. It was Obama. It must have been after Obama left that ACORN turn to their illegal ways.

    You fail to remember the hanging chads and "dents" on ballots that were involved in the 2000 election.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:36am

    Oh, Obama great savior of our world, please save us from the evil maverick and liberate our flawed voting machines.

     

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  14.  
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    eleete, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:41am

    Bailout Bill

    What ? Nothing in the bailout bill insures voters rights ? Shocking. All those additional pages added to that bill and none insure that the voters voice is heard accurately ? Sequoia needs to go the way of the 'toxic' debt and our 'representatives' need to be added to the unemployment figures.

     

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  15.  
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    Shhhhh!, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:47am

    Oh no!

    Take this off your site, puh-leeze! I am from the Philippines and if this news ever reaches us, our cheat of a president might buy all of these machines for next year's elections. She will then scrap the digital counting and revert to manual where they can again switch the city and town tallies on the way to the provincial capitols and then again on the way to Manila.

    For those who don't know, she was bugged by intel officers who leaked the tapes to media. "Will I still lead by one million?" she said. The Election commissioner on the other end replied, "We will try, ma'm". That was one of about fifteen calls she made.

     

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  16.  
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    NeoConBushSupporter, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:47am

    I thought DIEBOLD was cheating?

    Hey wasnt it DIEBOLD all you hippies said was in the tank for Bush? What say you now? Looks like Pat Buchannon may have actually had alot of support among elderly Hebrews in Palm Beach after all. Two national elections, countless recounts and even a Supreme Court decision and you guys still cant face that you got spanked fair and square. Americans dont want your big government, complicated plans full of numbers and hard to pronounce words . . . we want to stop gays from getting married (and tax cuts, those always go over big)!

    VOTE McCain 2008 - Just incase the machines are actually working this time!

     

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  17.  
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    Didn't Count, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 11:57am

    I wonder how the election officials would feel about it if it was one of their votes that someone cavalierly threw out because it was too much trouble to count it properly. Many of us go to great extents to research the candidates, understand the issues and cast our votes with thought and diligence. Why? It may be miscounted, thrown out because the pen I used skipped or because some programmer dweeb was to lazy to run the calibrations. 3000 ballots out of 100K isn't many statistically but if it is one of yours it is 100%

    What if the banks worked that way .... oh wait ... maybe they do!

     

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  18.  
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    Kevin C., Oct 8th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

    NeoConBushSupporter - Is this a joke? I HONESTLY can't tell if you're just hyperbolically expressing the right, extreme view or you're just a stupid d*ck. "hard to pronounce words??" 'Me think you dumb and redneck'. I can dumb that sentence down for you a LITTLE more if need be but not much.
    "we want to stop gays from getting married." It is pointless to explain to you why this position is wrong-headed and I will never be able to change your mind but from one heterosexual to another, you are truly a bad person. I know you'll just shrug it off and espouse more hateful crap but I just wanted you to know that there is one more person in the world that KNOWS you're kinda evil. So go on, don't think about it, don't think that maybe you're been self-righteous or that you're trying to dictate how people, that are not you, should live. Tell everyone why those d*mn gays should all stop wanting 'special rights'. It wouldn't hurt if you threw in a little 'god hates fags' rhetoric.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    The Technology is Sound

    Optical scanning technology is sound. It seems we just purchased it from the wrong company. I've never heard a complaint when I get stuck behind some douche casting their lotto ballot.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 12:32pm

    What are you looking at?

    NeoConBushSupporter - You can vote your little heart and small mind out to try to prevent The Gays from having equal rights. What you can't do is stop them from ogling your junk and we all know that's what really keeps you up at night.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    Re: lrn2rdgud

    I want a recount of every test I took in college using a scantron.

     

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  22.  
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    Mark Regan, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    It's as simple as 1,2,3

    How complicated can it be? Simply add the votes! One for Obama, Two for McCain, Three for Obama, Four for McCain. Etc.

    No matter how many votes Obama gets, McCain will get more using the rigged machines. They have a "built in racism factor." Similar to the Bushmatics that Gored Al.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    McCain and Tits McGee, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 1:55pm

    Re:

    Oh, Obama great savior of our world, please save us from the evil maverick and liberate our flawed voting machines.

    How can you say something like that when McCain walks onstage today and addresses the Masses as
    "My fellow Prisoners"?

    Hah! They are now sourcing from Tina Fey, and Loren Michaels! How much longer before there's a remake of the timeless Wolves Ad of 2004?

    The wheels have fallen off of the straight talk express.
    Prisoners? Bah!

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 2:32pm

    Thoughts and considerations

    Optical scanners seem to work well enough in the areas of education- Consider SAT/ACT tests, among other standardized tests. They have been used for over 20 years.

    Being a College Teaching Aide years ago with some time on my hands, I decided to play around with one of the "academic" versions of these machines, manufactured by ScanTron and was quite surprised at the accuracy-- a small pin-sized pencil dot made with 7mm mechanical pencil would be picked up by one of these machines.

    This runs absolutely opposite of the accepted reliability in academia of these machines. But if ScanTron can make these machines so reliable, how can we have 3rd parties doing it and failing so badly?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    LBD, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Bailout Bill

    Let's give them a message. SENATE SHUFFLE!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2008 @ 7:19pm

    Re: I thought DIEBOLD was cheating?

    Your sarcastic trolling is a bit difficult for the robust intelligences of the tech-dirt community

    I think that would be an Epic Win for you, and an epic FAIL for us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    nicotinix, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    what I would REALLY like to know is how...

    you can create a machine to actually give you a different result every time. That has got to be harder to do than actually counting correct.

    And the other thing, when will finally someone go to prison for vote tampering?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    dm, Nov 3rd, 2008 @ 4:18am

    Re: The Technology is Sound

    That is an excellent point. For some reason we don't hear complaints from people gambling - those machines seem to work flawlessly.

    Mind you - each gambling machine produces $$$ for its operator, while voting machines are brought out once every few years.

    Seems to me that when there's money involved, in ATMs or gambling machines, everyone gets their shit together.

    Perhaps if we charged $2 for every vote, then there would be some attention paid to security etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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